The name Eddeh may well be derived from Syriac or
Aramaic and indicate a laurel bush, in view of the
large number of laurels that grow in the district.
Alternatively, it might indicate force, resistance,
defiance or toughness. Eddo appears as a proper
name in the Bible (Esdras 8/17), where it indicates
either power or a thick mist.
The village of Eddeh is twenty-five miles north
from Beirut and three miles north of Byblos (Jbeil).
It stretches over a long hill rising between two
valleys that open down at the sea. An asphalt road
winds from a height of nearly one thousand feet
down to the highway along the coast.
But apart from all this, in Lebanon the name Eddeh
has become a sort of “ icon”, a myth, like the place-names
The Cedars, Sassine, Beit ed-Deen, Harissa, Heliopolis
(Baalbek), Tyre, Byblos, and several others. Who
in Lebanon has not heard Eddeh spoken about or at
For some it is the name of supermen, powerful people,
while many are unaware that there is another village
bearing the same name quite close to Batroun. For
some again, it is a name standing for politicians,
that is to say “gas bags”, who are many, while for
yet others it is the family name of real statesmen,
that is to say those who can foresee future developments
un advance and propose concrete measures to deal
I personally am an admirer of two members of this
family, ones who were the only two real statesmen
that Lebanon has known. May I make myself clear:
after the First World War, and again during the
second half of the twentieth century, Europe and
the West in general knew very few real statesmen,
among whom one may cite Churchill, De Gaulle and
McArthur. The fact is that true statesmen are born
every millennium, while mere politicians are born
every day by the thousands, like rabbits. It is
impossible for me to mention Eddeh without recalling
its sons. For me, the men of Eddeh have stood for
my ideal of sovereignty, liberty and true democracy.
As for the picturesque village of Eddeh, I discovered
it strangely enough in 1961 when in Paris, in the
Louvre to be exact, in the galleries of oriental
antiquities. When I was studying in the University
of Madrid I went in the summer to Paris in order
to prepare another thesis, and there I stayed a
long time. I hardly ever slept, for I was working
night and day. In a city like Paris it is impossible
to find time for sleep, for one must make the most
of every second. To cut a long story short, in one
of the above-mentioned galleries I stopped in front
of a door lintel inscribed with the name of the
church of Saint George of Eddeh, above which was
a winged globe and two uraeus, that is to say an
ancient Egyptian symbol. I understood that this
lintel had been unearthed by the illustrious Ernest
Renan, who had embarked on excavations in Phoenicia
and studied the land along all the coast and elsewhere
in Lebanon. This was my first contact with the village.
The second was in 1964 when I finally returned from
Spain for good.
I happened to know the then bishop of Byblos and
other priests and friends there. I went to see the
church or chapel of Saint George that Renan had
discovered and then taken its doorway. I recognized
it as standing on ancient ruins; here there had
passed the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Byzantines,
the Crusaders and others, for the place was only
a short ride from Byblos. Eddeh is a group of agreeable
hills, dips and valleys, dotted with a number of
churches, Mar Jerjes the parish church, Mar Elisha
(Eliseus), Mar Yuhanna, Mar Tadros, Mar Mikhaïl,
Our Lady of Douka (Duchess), Mar Elias, and others
of recent construction. In fact there are at Eddeh
as many churches as houses, for every house harbors
an altar dedicated to Our Lord and to the Virgin
Mary, for prayer runs deep in our traditions.
Eddeh is an agricultural area, with terraces rising
up tier upon tier from the depths of the valley
until they spread out into broad fields on the hilltop.
An elderly peasant recalled for me that the plots
used to be planted with cereals, vines, olive groves,
carob trees and orchards of figs. There still exists
an old olive press now transformed into a hall next
to the parish church reserved for special occasions.
One old inhabitant told me how more than fifty years
ago his father used to till the fields and sow cereals
while his children helped him to dig, weed, and
remove the big stones. Then, when this work was
done, they would use pointed sticks to make furrows
in the corners where there was rich soil between
the rocks out of reach of the plowing oxen. Then
they made small holes into which they placed a grain
or two of wheat in order to increase the yield.
All the work was by hand and a matter of trial and
error. Wells were dug to collect rainwater for household
use and for watering.
Starting from 1961, the wave of town planning has
spread its tentacles, following along the new coastal
highway. Functional modern houses have been put
up around tarred avenues, each with a pleasant garden
and trees giving shade or fruit. But this has also
meant uncontrolled destruction and in the name of
modern planning a thousand-year-old heritage has
been destroyed from down by the coast up to the
upper slopes of the mountains.
In Eddeh itself dynamite has been used to turn a
whole hillside into a quarry, making an unsightly
gash in a site of considerable charm. The whole
ecology, the environment, the customs, the heritage,
all have suffered to give place to pollution, ugliness
and disorder. With the comparatively recent events
of 1975 to 1990, illegal activity without respect
for the law and civilized norms, each person acting
in his own interest, together with other evils,
have had irreparable consequences, even though well-off
people have built luxurious residences surrounded
by broad roads and well-cared-for gardens bright
with flowers of every color.
A village is not made up of infrastructure alone.
Eddeh and the other villages of the area have been
connected with Byblos by roads, electrical power
cables and telephone services, with schools and
sports and cultural activities, in a way harmonizing
with the surroundings and bringing the habitations
The people here are peace-loving, friendly and welcoming
and all have a concern for their ancestral background,
their remoter ancestors, grandparents and parents.
Certain names such as Ibrahim, Yusuf, Emile, Paul,
Roger, Pierre and George are handed down. As the
French are necessarily from France and the Germans
from Germany, so the children of Eddeh wish to be
known as “Eddeans” first and foremost. The families
of the village, the Khourys, the Doumits, the Rizks,
the Merhis, and the Fayads, all from the same ancestral
stock, have retaken the name Eddeh, which they are
proud to bear.
The people here are active and very open to modern
realities, adapting themselves to the tendencies
of the moment. While the young of the locality are
moving with the times, a certain chauvinism is to
be discerned despite the general kind-heartedness.
Lebanon has a reputation for goodness, affection
and hospitality – perhaps too much of the latter
for its own good! It has a message for all mankind
and can never change its aspect or its mission.
Here I feel I must pause to consider one branch
of the Eddeh family tree, that of Badawi, Yusuf,
Emile, Raymond and Pierre. The first Raymond had
no offspring, but the whole free nation considered
him a father to whom it was indebted. From this
branch two statesmen emerged, Emile and Raymond,
and a great and incomparable financier by the name
The first, Emile, wished to assure the independence
of his country, one that would be solid and durable.
The second stood for a democracy that was just,
with citizenship implying freedom, social justice,
respect for values, and development in every field,
for which the nation should be governed with honesty,
intelligence and courage.
Unfortunately things did not turn out this way.
After the departure of the French forces and the
proclamation of independence, official corruption
dominated every field with results that we suffer
from even now. Who is responsible for this mess?
Let each one consider for himself.
Raymond Eddeh, the “Amid”, who was never mistaken,
said to me once: “It is the Holy Virgin and our
saints who protect Lebanon. The state is noticeable
by its absence, it is nonexistent.” This little
village of Eddeh has produced high-minded men of
the greatest distinction.
Eddeh is to Lebanon what the little rocky islands
of the Aegean Sea were to Greece when they produced
the greatest thinkers of Antiquity and when their
thought shone brilliantly in the face of an Asia
Minor, Anatolia, part of an immense continent overshadowed
by disorder and intellectual inertia.
Another characteristic of the people of Eddeh is
their attachment to the great Maronite nation, it
being understood that the greatness of a nation
depends not on a population of millions or thousands
of millions but on the message that it bears for
the world. Several other Lebanese towns and villages,
many of them obscure, have sent a message to mankind,
such as Beqaa Kafra with its holy hermit Sharbel,
Hardeen with its saint Hardini, Bsharri at the foot
of the Cedars celebrated for Gebran, Tyre, Sidon
and Byblos, known for Europa, Cadmus and the alphabet,
and Heliopolis-Baalbek with its grandiose temples.
I think I can say that I know personally nearly
all the present inhabitants of Eddeh, fine people
who as I said before are hospitable, courageous,
honest and exemplary responsible citizens. Eddeh
also enjoys the honor of having among its children
many priests, monks, religious and nuns. Almost
every family includes university professionals.
Because of Eddeh’s proximity to Byblos, it has no
tourist facilities properly speaking but all is
possible, for it can offer centers of attraction
in many fields. The young have their club and organize
a festival, a dinner, competitions, conferences
and outings. The largest tourist complex in Byblos,
where it stretches along the shore, bears the name
of Edde Sands.
But Eddeh does have an industrial zone, a school,
and a hostel, and much of its ancient prosperity,
the existence of which is born out by ruins from
the past, remains to be rediscovered. With its equable
climate, most of the people born in Eddeh are to
be found there during both summer and winter.
Translation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer
I am going to talk about a place, a site, which
I leave rather vague, an anonymous Lebanese village
with its houses, its memories, its customs, and
its old remains, all going back to a time which
belongs to the past. I shall talk of odd nooks where
we loved to go during our childhood but which modern
trends have completely wiped out once and for all.
In these places we used to live and carry on our
traditions of births, baptisms, feast days, dances,
internments, folklore, games, family visits, love
and friendship, the four seasons, and harvest time.
“In 1936 two French archeologists, Mr. and Mrs.
Dunand, were finishing an exhaustive dig at Byblos,
when they made an important discovery: under the
last levels where the ashes of twenty civilizations
lay on top of one another, they were surprised to
find the most ancient dwellings of stone blocks
known in the world, dating from a time when Egypt
and Chaldea knew to build only with brooks of baked
earth. Here in Lebanon man dared to attack the hard
rock.” (Charles Corm)
What was unusual about these ancient houses in Byblos
was that each one in addition to hewn stone walls
had seven pillars, of which three were enclosed
on the right-hand wall and three n the left-hand
wall, with the seventh standing in the middle of
the dwelling in order to hold up the roof and consolidate
the pillars in the walls by means of beams of wood
which it bore horizontally. From the plan of such
houses the emblem of the seven pillars of wisdom
For my paintings I have done a great deal of research
and work on the theme of “the house and the village
in Lebanon “.
The house and its inmates have a very intimate relationship,
bearing on hospitality, respect for values. friendships,
mutual confidence, patience, help to one another,
generosity and customs, all of which is reflected
in the simplicity of the environment of the dwelling.
The concept of a house is simple but functional,
with a cellar, a terrace and an “upper room”. The
traditional house was occupied only in the evening,
for in the morning and throughout the day its inhabitants
were out in the fields working.
The terrace of the main room was held up by a stone
column or by the large trunk of a tree, while the
terrace itself was of puddled earth spread over
boards and branches and well packed by a heavy roller
so as not to let through the rain. Sometimes the
houses had two or three rooms, including a large
Built into one of the inner walls of the large room
was the famous youk (a Turkish word). This was a
large space inset in the wall like a doorless cupboard
where were stacked mattresses and blankets, which
in the evening were spread over the floor as bedding.
In the entrance or on the terrace was a stand for
the water jars, with two large holes in which were
stood the jars, with beside them a jug with a spout
and perhaps a couple of cups so one could serve
oneself with drinking water.. In the place where
people ate there would be a small rectangular wooden
table six to twelve inches high which would be placed
in the middle for mealtimes. Everybody would sit
around it cross-legged on the floor, stretching
out their hands to serve themselves.
The fire was not lit indoors because of the smoke,
but in a corner out of the wind, the sun and the
rain. Bread was kneaded and baked in the cellar
or some such convenient place.
In the Lebanese household work was distributed according
to the seasons, most of it coming in August, September
and October, with the harvests, the cleaning and
the chopping of wood for cooking and heating. Above
all there was the preparation of the mouneh, that
is to say the winter provisions for man and beast;
this comprised burghol (wheat crush and then dried
in the sun), cereals, jams, tomato purée,
sun-dried fruits, kishk (dried labneh – curds ground
up with fine borghol), butter products, cheese,
labneh, oil, distillations, and so on. Most important
was peace of mind, understanding, a happy family
One such traditional house is still occupied on
the north-east side of the village of Eddeh. The
interior is formed of several arches, making it
very picturesque. One can still see the youk. The
main room is separated by a diwan where one can
sit down or go to sleep. The house is simply furnished
with the bare needs, nothing superfluous. One notices
the serviettes hung on the walls and the carpets
spread on the floor. The house gives an impression
of cleanliness, of welcoming warmth and of repose,
with delightful cheerfulness.
Another old house, on the south side of Eddeh, is
no more than an empty ruin. But over the terrace
there is still a vine laden with bunches of succulent
grapes. Here also the interior is in the form of
arches. One finds only one window left and that
has broken glass, while the wood of the doors has
all rotted. One feels that people just like ourselves
have in the past lived here and loved the place.
There is the ghost of a hearth where there are some
ashes and fragments of wood. There is a broken jug
and a reservoir into which water drips from the
ceiling, in all of which memories linger. Yes, nostalgia
lies heavy in the air and even the garden is abandoned
and weeds push up everywhere.
One particular day, I went for a walk, going from
Annaya to Ehmej, and found myself a little lower
down at Kfaar
Baal, a village opening on to
a wide horizon. A valley stretched to where I saw
a couple of isolated houses. The first one was occupied,
furnished, and clean, with carpets on the floor,
looking very agreeable. There was a large room divided
into two halves. There was one corner for use in
the evenings and another with a large table for
receiving guests and for use as a dining room. The
two parts of the room wee separated by a wooden
cupboard behind which lay the kitchen.
In the interior were four columns, thick whitewashed
tree-trunks, which supported the terrace. This also
was composed of tree-trunks with branches and puddled
earth compressed by a stone roller. I guessed this
house to be a hundred years old but still habitable
and breathing nostalgia. Such houses nowadays are
not often to be found but in this case there was
still life and movement with a feeling of warmth,
so its occupants could consider themselves favored
The second house was in good condition but more
or less abandoned. It was occupied by an elderly
peasant who did not wish to adapt himself to modern
times. The main room was used as a store room, a
dump. Were it to be restored, cleaned up and repainted,
this house could be made as pleasant as the other
In both houses the emplacements of the youk and
the divan were both visible. Our forefathers were
not very demanding. The four houses I have spoken
of are very rare examples and show that before the
age of reinforced concrete and the new techniques
people knew how to enjoy life and be happy.
Now the old relationship between the home and its
occupants have been lost. Can this rich jewel be
got back? Yes, surely it can! I remember how some
fifty years ago I was offered tea on the terrace
of this house which then was so clean and so full
of life and movement.
Translation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer
- The Village of Edde: >> View
Movie << (2013-05-01)
- House in Kfarmashoun - Edde: >> View
Movie << (2017-10-01)
- House near Saint Elie Church - Kfarhata: >>