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.
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").
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and Club Memberships:
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.
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
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
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.
Quatrains of Abu'l-Ala rendered into English.
Myrtle and Myrrh.
The Luzumiyat of Abu'l-Ala, a book of poetry rendered
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.
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).
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.
Books to be published
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.
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.
Books to be published
of Early Days.
Rihani's Political Letters with King Abdul-Aziz
of his writings:
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.
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.
from the poems of Abu'l-Ala, the fore-runner of
Rihani's translation of the quatrains of the Syrian
poet-philosopher is an excellent piece of literary
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.
Path of Vision
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."
Book of Khalid
the Book of Khalid the Eastern element takes its
place in the rich and inclusive body of English
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
Chant of Mystics
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."
Maker of Modern Arabia
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
W.B. Seabrook New York Herald Tribune
the coasts of Arabia
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."
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
written about Ameen Rihani
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,
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,
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,
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,
15. Kan'an, Muhamad Najib, The Rihani Concept of
Revolution, thesis, Lebanese University, Beirut,
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,
23. Rassafi, Ma'rouf, In Honor of Ameen Rihani,
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,
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,
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.
Newspapers and magazines published special issues
- Ameen Rihani Museum:
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- Ameen Rihani Museum - Room:
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Ameen Rihani Museum - Entrance:
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