Amongst beautiful olive groves and gardens, discover
the secrets of silk at The Silk Museum - Bsous - caza
The Museum evokes images of scented spice routes,
the famous ‘Silk Road’ and the ancient exchanges of
silk between the Land of the Cedar and the East and
the West. It is also a gentle reminder of the interaction
between humans, insects and plants and the rewards
that this brought to Lebanon for hundreds of years.
Silk production in Lebanon goes back to the middle
Ages and in the 19th century it became the main activity
for a large section of the population, creating great
social and economic change in the lives of the Lebanese.
The Silk Museum has become an important reference
of ecological, cultural and economic history.
The Silk Museum is owned by George and Alexandra Asseily.
In 1966, whilst driving via Wadi Chahrour to Aley,
we stopped to look over the fence at a large abandoned
house, silk factory, various ruined cottages and surrounding
terraces. We immediately fell in love with the charm
of the land and the crumbling buildings, which were
totally overgrown and occupied only by sheep and goats.
On the very first day of our marriage in April 1969,
we chose to return to picnic together under the olive
trees of this place.
In 1973 we bought the property from the Fayad family,
who had owned and run the silk spinning factory for
about 50 years until 1945 and who had lived in the
big house at the top of the land. It was our dream
to restore the house and garden and to bring up our
children in this place.
The Silk factory space and surrounds were for many
years left to a livestock merchant. The concrete pens,
he had built inside and outside to house his sheep
and goats, remained until we started renovation in
2000. Every stone was thick with manure.
In 1974 we planted hundreds of trees, especially the
traditional apricots of Bsous. (Of all these, only
a few survived the war). We also started to re-build
the house. In late 1975 we were due to move in to
the big house, but the war began and we had to abandon
this plan, amongst many others. (It is now our grandchildren,
rather than our children, who play under the olive
In 1990 the Silk Factory and the grounds were occupied
by the Syrian army for a short time.
In 1998 we started, bit by bit, to repair the terraces
to take care of the trees, which had survived the
war, and to attempt to put the land back to itself
after so many years of war, neglect and fires. What
started as a very humble attempt to look after the
property has developed into what you see today. It
is as though we have been ‘asked’ to be the guardians
of this place.
Independently of our own dreams, Thierry Huau and
Francoise Le Noble Predine from Paris, and who in
the late nineties were working on a landscaping project
in the Solidere area, visited and also fell in love
with this place without our knowledge. They made a
sketch plan for a large public garden project and
children’s play area, which they later presented to
us in London. Their enthusiasm at that time, for what
might be done here, helped us to find the courage
to begin our own project.
Francoise Le Noble’s energy and love for helping the
Silk Museum during the first years was invaluable.
She also brought and organized the wild silk from
Madagascar and together with Mona Sader Issa helped
us to establish aMED, the Association of Memory and
Development. Their active support made a vital contribution
to the Silk Museum’s exhibitions and the school visits…
Along the years, and with the help of the students
of the Lycée Agricole et Horticole of Saint
Germain en Laye in France, the Association carried
out ecological projects in the village of Bsous and
the pine forest of Beirut devastated during the war.
Francoise Le Noble still visits occasionally and Mona
Sader Issa generously continues to provide invaluable
help for the ongoing success of the Silk Museum.
The big work on our own terraces around the Museum,
the first plantations and the creation of our plant
nursery were taken in charge by head gardener Guillaume
Maurin (1999-2003), who also helped the French students
to find their feet in Lebanon. The garden has evolved
with time and we regularly run gardening schools for
children to encourage more garden lovers.
The Museum as you can see it today was renovated and
refurbished with some new practical additions by architect
Jacques Abou Khaled and project-managed by Sami Feghali.
In 2001 our first activity was a symposium called
“Ainsi-soie-t-elle”, which recounted the development
of sericulture in Lebanon and its strong connection
with Lyon and France. Since then, we have held yearly
exhibitions, from May to October. (Except for closing
down during the Israeli attack in July 2006). Since
2002, Jean Louis Mainguy has tirelessly and generously
shared his talent and his time to creating the scenography
of each exhibition.
In the Eco Museum we show different themes connected
with the production of silk to the finished product.
The exhibitions offer a wide display of modern and
antique items from the ‘Silk Route’. >The Same text