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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Amchit

The history of Bassam Lahoudís house in Amsheet (Amchit) by Bassam Lahoud

The Lahoud house in Amsheet has been built over remains left by thirteen civilizations.

The oldest relic is a cave hewn out of the rock probably around the 3rd century, one where the first Christians use to hide and pray.

The next remains are from 760 A.D. (the 8th century) and represent a Jewish settlement composed of a synagogue, a cistern for water and a graveyard. The Jews were the bankers of the Abbasids and remained here till 960 A.D..

The next layer marks the arrival of the present three oldest families of Amsheet, the Karams, the Kallabs, and the Obeids, who came from the north and settled permanently in this area. They built the church of Saydet al-Bayader, which stands in front of the Bassam Lahoud house.

The Shiite Hamadeh family ruled over this area from the 15th century till 1730, when they were driven out by Prince Youssef Shehab. Part of the Lahoud house was built at the end of the 17th century and has slits in the eastern and southern walls through which arrows or guns could be fired for defense against the invaders.

From that time the Maronite families began to trade and became some of the most powerful merchants in Lebanon. Among these enterprising individuals was Lahoud Mansour Obeid, born at the beginning of the 18th century, the ancestor of the Lahoud family. He began to buy a great deal of land, including the plot around the church and around the house, to create the Lahoud quarter.

His eldest son, Fares Lahoud, became one of the three most powerful traders in Lebanon, the other two being Michael Toubia and Beshir Junblatt. He enlarged the upper part of the house at the beginning of the 19th century, making the shape of the house a U.

His son Michael Fares Lahoud in the second half of the 19th century added another part to the house, so that now there was an enclosed courtyard and a gallery with fifteen arches in lace pattern giving on to the east and the south. At the same time parts of the caves were incorporated into the newly built parts.

The house was hit by two major earthquakes, one in 1860 and the other in 1918. The part added by Michael Fares Lahoud was particularly affected, resulting in large cracks in the added section and in the gallery.

During the Second World War, in 1940 his son Fares Bey Lahoud decided to restore the house, but unfortunately instead of keeping its basic structure he pulled down most of the walls and built two houses in place of the old one, using the same stones. He had four sons and had thought of leaving two of them one house each, although this project was not finally realized. His eldest son, Judge Michael Fares Lahoud, inherited the two houses that you can see today.

Since 1988 his son Bassam Michael Lahoud, architect and restorer, has restored the 800m2 caves and transformed them into an art studio, Atelier Bel.

In 1998, he founded the Lebanese House of Photography and established in the Atelier Bel an exhibition area and a museum of photography.

The next project is to be the restoration of the old house as it was before 1940 by joining the two houses up again to become one, and to transform the property into a public ground (Inshallah!)

- Bassam Lahoud's house: >> View Movie << (2013-10-15)



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