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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > El Maten > Freikeh

Ameen Rihani Museum 1876-1940 - Freikeh -

In Arabic:
متحف أمين الريحاني - تأسس سنة 1953 - الفريكة المتن

Born in Freike, Lebanon, on November 24, 1876, Ameen Rihani was one of six children and the oldest son of a Lebanese Maronite raw silk manufacturer, then a flourishing local industry. His father had commercial ambitions which beckoned him to America. In the summer of 1888, Ferris Rihani, the father, sent his brother and eldest son, Ameen, to the United States and followed a year later.

The young immigrant, then twelve years old, was placed in a school outside the city of New York, a few months after his arrival. There, he learned the rudiments of English. His father and uncle, having established themselves as merchants in a small cellar in lower Manhattan, soon felt the need for an assistant who could read and write English. Therefore, the boy was taken away from school to become the chief clerk, interpreter and bookkeeper of the business. The family continued in this trade for four years (A graphic account of this period is given in the "Book of Khalid").

During this period of time, Ameen made the acquaintance of two poets, William Shakespeare and Victor Hugo whose writings became his first readings in the cellar. He developed a genuine love for reading and, in time, became familiar with the writings of Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, Whitman, Tolstoy, Voltaire, Thoreau, Emerson and Byron, to name a few. Ameen had a natural talent in eloquent speaking, and in 1895, the teenager became carried away by stage fever and joined a touring stock company headed by Henry Jewet (who later had his theatre in Boston). During the summer of the same year, the troupe became stranded in Kansas City, Missouri and so the prodigal son returned to his father. However, he returned not to rejoin the business, but to insist that his father give him a regular education for a professional career. They agreed that he should study law. To that end, he attended night school for a year, passed the Regents Exam, and in 1897 entered the New York Law School. A lung infection interrupted his studies, and at the end of his first year, his father had to send him back to Lebanon to recover.

Once back in his homeland, he began teaching English in a clerical school in return for being taught his native Arabic language. At a later point in his life, he was once asked from which school he had graduated. He replied that he had been "a vagabond on the highway of education."

Ameen Rihani first became familiar with Arab and other Eastern poets in 1897. Among these poets were Abul-Ala, whom Ameen discovered to be the forerunner of Omar Khayyam. In 1899 he returned to New York having decided to translate some of the quatrains of Abul-Ala into English. He managed to do this while he was still giving much of his time to the family business. The first version of the translation was published in 1903. During this period, he joined several literary and artistic societies in New York, such as the Poetry Society of America and the Pleiades Club, and also became a regular contributor to an Arabic weekly, "Al-Huda" published in New York. He wrote about social traditions, religion, national politics and philosophy. Thus, he began his extensive literary career, bridging two worlds. He published his first two books in Arabic in 1902 and 1903.

In 1904 he returned to his native mountains. During an ensuing five year period of solitude, he published, in Arabic, two volumes of essays, a book of allegories and a few short stories and plays. He additionally lectured at the Syrian Protestant College (The College is now the American University of Beirut.), and in a few institutions in Lebanon, as well as in the most ancient Lebanese and Syrian cities of Sidon and Damascus. The "Book of Khalid" was written during this period of mountain solitude and was later published in 1911 when, for the third time, he returned to New York.


In 1916 Ameen married Miss Bertha Case. Bertha, an American artist, was part of the Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Derain group who frequently worked together in Paris and the Midi and exhibited their works at the Salons de Mai.

Bertha visited Lebanon in 1953, staying with the Rihanis in Freike during the summer of that year. While in Freike, she expressed the wish that she be buried next to her husband, Ameen. On July 29, 1970, Bertha passed away in New York at the age of 91. She had requested that her body been burned and that her ashes be sent to Freike to be buried next to her husband. Her wish was fulfilled.


In 1922 Ameen travelled in Arabia, meeting and interviewing all its rulers. He, the only traveler past or present, European or Arab, to have covered that whole territory in one voyage.

Although Arabic was his mother tongue, he was equally at home in English. He became an author and lecturer of great popularity in both languages. In his spiritual and intellectual evolution as a poet, a writer and a philosopher, Ameen Rihani became anti-nothing and pro-everything that would make life in the East and West mutually harmonious, beautiful and meaningful. He could and did, in his life and writings, bring the best of the East and the West together to the enrichment of both.


In 1904 he was entertained, honored and crowned by laurels by the American Pleiades Club in New York, in 1910 by a number of distinguished men of Letters in Beirut, in 1922 by men of letters and diplomats in Cairo. One of the many receptions in his honor, held in the desert in the shade of the Pyramids, was attended by nearly five thousand guests. The report was cabled on the event to the New York Times, by its owner, Mr. Ochs, who was then in Cairo. Ameen was also entertained as guest of honor by diplomats and men of letters in various cities of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Morocco, England, Mexico, and by the Lebanese and Syrian people in New York and Boston. An honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy was awarded to him by the University of Illinois.

Who's who and Club Memberships:

In the early 1930's (1931-2), Ameen Rihani's name was included in the "Who's Who in America'' and in the English ''Who's Who in Literature.'' After his death, his name was also included in ''The Arabic Encyclopedia'', 1955, and in Al-Monjed, Beirut, published by the Jesuits. He was elected to life honorary membership in the Italian Art Club of New York. In addition, Ameen was a member of the Pleiades Club, the Authors Club, the New York Press Club, the Poetry Society of America, and the Arab Academy of Damascus. In 1932 he was elected Honorary President of the Arab institute of Studies in Spanish Morocco.


Ameen was decorated after death with the Lebanese Gold Medal, the Irani's and Spanish Moroccan Orders of Merit for Learning. King Husein I, bestowed upon him the title of Prince and presented him with the royal dagger and a piece of the Holy Moslem Kaaba cover. This presentation may perhaps be the only such gift that has been made to a Christian. It is on display in the Freike Museum along with the royal gifts from King Abdul-Aziz Saoud, from Imam Yahya Ben Hamid Uddin of Yeman and other gifts from Arab rulers.


Ameen Rihani passed at 1p.m. on September 13, 1940, in the place of his birth, Freike. The news of his death was broadcast to many parts of the world. Representatives of Arab Kings and Rulers and of foreign diplomatic missions attended his funeral ceremony. He was laid to rest in the Rihani family burial ground.

Perpetuation of his Memory:

A portrait of Ameen Rihani has been hung in his honor by the Lebanese Government in the National Public Library in Beirut. The Beirut Municipality has named a city street after him. In 1965 the Matn Cultural Council in Lebanon held a festival week (October, 24-30), commemorating the 25th anniversary of his death. Twenty representatives of different countries from the East and from the West contributed honour to Rihani. The Matn Cultural Council had on oil painting of him hung in its Hall and also had his bust erected in the Unesco Grounds in Beirut. The different cultural missions that attended the festival closed in visiting his museum and mausoleum. In Syria two streets, one in Aleppo and another in Homs, a school in Hama, another in Mahrdy, were all named after him. Irbid, Jordan, in addition has named one of the main streets Rihani.


Ameen Rihani contributed to a number of magazines and newspapers in English including: Bookman, Forum, Atlantic Monthly, International Studio, Asia, The Time Magazine, Current History, Travel, New York Evening Post, The Annals, The Print Connoisseur, The Outlook, The Evening Star, Survay Graphic, Harper Magazine, New York Herald Tribune, The Eagel, American, Murcury, Open Court, The World, The Statesman, The Sun, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Review, The Globe, The Worlds' Work, Modern Theater, The Dance Magazine, The Index of Post-War Treaties, A Treaty between Yaman and Russia, Nation, U.S.A.; The Time, The News, Truth Magazine, Time and Tide London; Vogue, Le Temps, Paris; La Presse, Montreal Herald, Montreal; Europaische Gesprache, Hamburg; The Aryan Path, Bombay; and many others. In Arabic he contributed at one time or on other to most magazines and news papers.


Books in English

The Quatrains of Abu'l-Ala rendered into English.
Myrtle and Myrrh.
The Luzumiyat of Abu'l-Ala, a book of poetry rendered into English.
The Book of Khalid.
A Chant of Mystics.
The Path of Vision.
The Descent of Bolchevism.
Around the Coasts of Arabia.
Arabian Peak and Desert.
The Fate of Palestine.

Books in Arabic

A Short History of the French Revolution.
The Muleteer and the Priest.
A Book of Allegories.
Ar-Rihaniyat, 2 volumes.
The Lily of Al-Ghor, (novel).
Out of the Harim, (novel).
Al-Kawmiyat, 2 volumes.
Literature and Art.
Eastern and Western faces.
An-Nakabat, (a short history of Syria).
At-Tatarof Wal-Islah (Radicalism and Reform).
Ye Poets.
The Call of Valleys.
The Kings of Arabia, 2 volumes.
History of Modern Najd.
The Heart of Iraq.
The Record of Repent, (short stories).
The Heart of Lebanon.
The Far Maghrib.
Wafaou Uz-Zaman, (a play).
Faisal The First.
The Light of Andolusia.
The Letters of Ameen Rihani.
Seeds for Sowers.
Rihani and his Contemporaneous.

English Books to be published

Critics in Art.
Wajdah, (a drama in four acts).
The White Way of the Desert.
A Book of Poetry.
Arabia's Contribution to Civilization.
The Lore of the Arabian Nights.
In the Land of the Mayas.
Jahan (novel).
Letters to Uncle Sam.
Turkey and Islam in the War.
The Green Flag, (short stories).
Dr. Della Valle, (novel).
Faisal the First.
The Pan Arab Movement.
Letters of Ameen Rihani.
Love Letters of Ameen Rihani.
Letters to Ameen Rihani.
A Book of Essays.

Arabic Books to be published

Writings of Early Days.
May's Case.
Our Press.
Rihani's Will.
Rihani's Political Letters with King Abdul-Aziz Saoud.

Translation of his writings:

Rihani's writings were translated into twenty five languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hebrew, Slave, Urdu, Armenian, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hindu, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian and seven languages of the Soviet Union.


The Rihani family erected a private museum in their home where one will find what Rihani left of his work English and Arabic manuscripts and letters and also of tableaux of art presented to him by his artist friends: Oberhard, S.J. Woolf, Albert Stanly, Will Simons, Troy Kenny, Helen Peale, Marrdue Hartley. W.H. Nelson, M. Farrouk, A.Bert, Margeret, T.C. White, Lorford Brown and Bertha Case, his wife and others. Three Busts were made for him by Joseph Houaik, G.Mollazy the Italian sculptor and Joseph Ghassoub. Also a bronze disk of his profile presented by the friends of Rihani and set over the entrance of the museum in Freike. One will also find statuettes; one of Bayron's head on a marble stone: An altimeter he used in the desert. A collection of Christmas cards etched and sent to him by artist friends. 16 large volumes of newspaper clippings in different world languages written for and against him. His coffeepot, his unique passport, visaed by rulers and kings of Arabia personally. His stick, his Arab and European clothes and his watch. Rihani's typewriter, pens, compass, glasses, and his personal paraphernalia, and other gifts and letters which date since 1902.
Press Comments

The Luzumiyat:

Selected from the poems of Abu'l-Ala, the fore-runner of Omar Khaiyam.

"Mr. Rihani's translation of the quatrains of the Syrian poet-philosopher is an excellent piece of literary work."
Atlanta Journal.

"Of the two men (Omar and Abu'l-Ala) the Syrian is the deeper thinker and the much more courageous. Well may the brilliant translator speak of him as the Voltaire of the East. In some respects he is even more modern than the sage of Ferney."
San Francisco Bulletin.

The Path of Vision

"Scholarly and fine they are, and though strongly tinged with Oriental moods and methods of thought yet suggestive of the best minds and evincing brotherhood with our own Thoreau, Emerson and others of our gods in literature. Nowhere, so far as we are aware, is there a better description of the wide difference between the Oriental and the Occidental mindů There is a freshness in both the thought and philosophy of this book that makes it worth a careful reading."
Columbus Dispatch

The Book of Khalid

"With the Book of Khalid the Eastern element takes its place in the rich and inclusive body of English literature."
Boston Herald

"What a beautiful, real, rich book, so full of wisdom, youth and generally speaking guts: I wish Rihani had half-a-dozen more such books to give - but such books don't come in half dozens. They take a long time growing, deep-rooted branching to the stars".
Richard Le Gallienne

A Chant of Mystics

"It is a delight to turn the pages of "A Chant of Mystics", so fragrant and melodious with the noble poems of Rihani's mind. Here are writing shadows and winding ways; here are deep canyons musical with moving waters: here are mountain-tops lighted by the stars. I rejoice in the growing powers of Rihani's poetry."
Edwin Markham

The Maker of Modern Arabia

"The book contains additional rich material, staring accounts of caravan marches and great cities in the Southern desert. The description of flora and fauna, and of the topography will give it a place on permanent shelves beside Doughty, Burkhart and Burton."
W.B. Seabrook New York Herald Tribune

Around the coasts of Arabia

"Ameen Rihani is a rare individual. He is one of the world's foremost authorities on Arabia. He writes beautiful English prose and what is perhaps most important of all, he is delightfully human. "Around the Coasts of Arabia" is important and authentic because it is the work of a scholar and a Man who thoroughly understands his subject matter. It is a fascinating volume because the author never forgets that he is a human being as well as a scholar." A.G. Barone


"His beautiful English and his interesting presentation won the admiration of those who heard him. I am sure that I am expressing the sentiment of the University when I say that Mr. Rihani is extremely well qualified to discuss the Near East."
University of Louisville

Books written about Ameen Rihani

1. Abou Ali, Najah, Ameen Rihani The Man and His Impression, thesis, B.C.W. Beirut, 1963.
2. Aboud, Maroun, Ameen Rihani, Dar Al Ma'arif, Cairo, 1952.
3. Al-Ahdab, Abdul Khalique, God and Rihani, thesis, Lebanese University, Beirut, 1971.
4. Al-Kashef Al-Ghata, Muhamad Hussein, The Rihani Studies, two volumes, Al-Urfan Press, Sidon, 1913- reprint Baghdad, 1926.
5. Ayoub, Francois, The Philosophy of Ameen Rihani, thesis, Lebanese University, Beirut, 1968.
.6. Baki, Wassef, Ameen Rihani, and His Role in Modern Literary, Renaissance, Nouri Library, Damascus, 1968.
7. Batti, Rafael, Ameen Rihani in Iraq, Dar Assalam Press, Baghdad, 1923.
8. Kratchkovski, Inias, With Arabic Manuscripts, Moscow, 1943 9. Deeb, Wadih, Ameen Rihani, Beirut, 1942.
10. Fontaine, Jean, Le Desaveu Chez Les Ecrivains Libanais Chrétiens de 1825 a 1940, thèse, Sorbonne, Paris, 1970.
11. Hajj, Kamal, Yusuf, The Philosophy of Ameen Rihani, Beirut, 1963.
12. Hussein, Husni, Mahmud, The Rihani Literature of Traveling, thesis, Cairo, University 1969.
13. Jabre, Jamil, Ameen Rihani The Man and The Writer, Fadel and Gemayel Press, Beirut, 1947, reprinted Al-Maktaba Al-Asriya, Beirut, 1964.
14. Kayali, Sami, Ameen Rihani Biography and Works, College of Higher Arabic Studies, The Arab League, Cairo, 1960.
15. Kan'an, Muhamad Najib, The Rihani Concept of Revolution, thesis, Lebanese University, Beirut, 1971.
16. Khatib, Hikmat Sabbagh, Ameen Rihani The Traveler of The Arabs, Beit Al-Hikma, Beirut, 1970.
17. Khoury, Raif, Rihani and the Truth of American Democracy, Dar Al-Kari' Al-Arabi, Beirut, 1948.
18. Khoury, Rashid Salim (Al-Kourawi) Ameen Rihani in His Memory, Sao Paulo, 1941.
19. Leivin, Z.E., The Philosopher of Freike, The Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1965.
20. Moussa, Mouhamad Ali, Ameen Rihani, A'lam Al-Fikr Al'Arabi, Dar Ashark Al-Jadid, Beirut, 1961.
21. Oueisse, Hommage a Amin Rihani, Conseil Culturel du Matn Nord, a l'occasion du vingt-cinquième anniversaire de sa mort, Beirut, 1965.
22. Rafi'i, Toufik, Ameen Rihani in Egypt, The Introducer of the Philosophy of the East to the West, Dar Al-Hilal, Cairo, 1922.
23. Rassafi, Ma'rouf, In Honor of Ameen Rihani, Baghdad, 1922.
24. Rawi, Hareth Taha, Ameen Rihani, Features of His Personality and His Role in The Arab Renaissance, The Rihani House, Beirut, 1958.
25. Rihani, Albert, Ameen Rihani, Biography, Works and Selections of his Writings, The Rihani House, Beirut, 1941.
26. Rihani and His Contemporaries, Letters to him from his friends, The Rihani House, Beirut, 1965.
27. Saba, Issa Mikhael, Ameen Rihani, Nawabegh Al-Fikr Al-Arabi, Dar Al-Ma'arif, Cairo, 1968.
28. Sheikh Ali, Anass, Rihani and Emerson, thesis, American University of Beirut, 1972.
29. Zahawi, Jamil Sidki, In Honor of Ameen Rihani, Baghdad, 1922,
30. Arabic Prose, Moscow, 1956
31. Ar-Risala, on Ameen Rihani, Beirut, 1956.
32. Modern Arabic Prose, Selections, Moscow, 1961.
33. Rihani After Quarter of a Century, The Cultural Council of Matn, North Beirut, 1965.
34. Rihani and Events of His Time, Beirut, 1965.
35. Selections From Ameen Rihani, Al-Manahel, Dar Sader, Beirut, No date.

Arabic Newspapers and magazines published special issues commemorating Rihani.

- Ameen Rihani Museum
: >> View Movie << (2013-03-15)
- Ameen Rihani Museum - Room
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- Ameen Rihani Museum - Entrance: >> View Movie << (2013-03-15)



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