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 least
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 with
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
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 together.
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 of Pierre.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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