A remarkable museum only 15 minutes from Beirut in Beit Mery shows Lebanon’s history through the eras
Few people are aware of the existence of the Lebanese Heritage Museum, but its vast collection that covers the history of Lebanon makes it an essential visit. Founded in 2003 in Jounieh it later reopened in 2013 at the General Secretariat of Catholic Schools in Lebanon in Ain Najm, Beit Mery. Its 14 sections cover every era of Lebanese history: the Phoenician times, Romans, the Byzantine and Islamic eras to Lebanon under Ottoman rule. Halls are also dedicated to important figures in Lebanese history, such as Youssef Bey Karam – the Lebanese maronite who fought in the 19th Century civil war and started a rebellion against the Ottomans in Mount Lebanon; the scholar, historian and judge Semaan Khazen Al Ehdeny; statesman and historian Jawad Boulos’ Patriarch Arida and a collection of the works of renowned Lebanese artist Saliba Douaihy. The collection is extensive and includes Roman sarcophagi, ancient drinking vessels, Byzantine columns, decorative Islamic tiles and Ottoman weapons. A walk around the museum, leads you on a timeline through Lebanese history, giving insight into the civilizations that have left their impact on the country.
The collection started in early 1900 by historian and writer Samer el Khazen; growing in size when his son, Joseph Semaan Khazen, began collecting archeology and antiques. His son Simon el Khazen set up the Samer el Khazen Association in 2000 and opened the museum a few years later with the aim to preserve Lebanese heritage and make it accessible to the public – continuing the work of his father and grandfather before. “I was born in this ambiance so it was attractive to me. I continued the work of my grandfather and father by establishing a museum,” Simon says. “The museum highlights all the cultures that passed through history on Lebanese land.”
Though the museum’s collection shows a wider scope of the country’s heritage, it also reflects a more personal history of the El Khazen’s, a prominent aristocratic family in Lebanon. Artist Saliba Douaihy was a family friend and within the museum’s collection of his works is a charcoal portrait of the young Simon and his brother Fouad.
Alongside the museum, El Khazen started the foundation with the aim to reprint books on Lebanese history, particularly the works authored by his grandfather who published three books on Youssef Bey Karam; another nine were never released. “We are re-printing these 12 books in a very modern way,” Simon says. “We also just finished a book on the artist Saliba Douaihy – an active artist in Lebanon who exhibited all over the world.”
Lebanese Heritage Museum
03 850800, lebaneseheritagemuseum.org