of the Ottoman Sultans in Ghadir, Lebanon
In my birthplace Ghadir, a town nestling on the
western slope of the mountain and overlooking the
bay of Jounieh, there are two large dwellings, markedly
different to the other houses around by reason both
of their architecture and their size.
When as small children we passed in front of these
buildings we were told that they had been the residences
of important Ottoman personalities during the time
of the administrators called Mutassarefs, the governors
of Mount Lebanon. Their image and memories of them
as important people persisted in our childhood minds
seventy years ago.
When I was asked about the history of these fine
houses, I started some research and sought documentation
so as to get as close as possible to the historical
truth. In particular I consulted what had been written
by those Turkish historians who had come to Lebanon
in order to shed light on the history of the time
covering the beginning of the First World War up
to and including the nineteen-thirties.
The Ottoman Turkish Empire entered the war as an
ally of Germany in the hope that victory would mean
it would get back its former dominant position,
restoring the power of the Sultanate. The Ottoman
Turks has been governing a vast empire for 450 years.
Some well-off Turkish families foresaw the likely
defeat and fall of the Sublime Porte and fled their
country and their home towns to seek refuge elsewhere
with their friends and former high officials scattered
about the Empire, including Mount Lebanon.
It is not easy to know how many children the Sultans
had, for there were often a very large number of
women in their harem. I would even dare to say that
the Sultan himself would not recognize all his progeny
beyond those of one, two or three privileged women.
The boys would be counted as in the family, whereas
the girls were forgotten, left out, the most beautiful
among them being married off to high officials in
the Empire or to high-ranking army officers. But
we may consider just some of the very many descendents
of the Sultans, those whom we know about.
To Ghadir came the princes Seleem and Abdul Kareem
and one of their sisters as well as others, all
children of Sultan Abdul Hameed, accompanied by
their secretaries, servants and general household.
Once they had reached Jounieh in Kessrouan they
asked the address of their friends the Hobaish family
of Ghazir, for these had been important officials
under the Turkish administration. Among the arrivals
were Sheikh Taleb, “Yaoun” secretary of the Sultan,
Sheikh Naaman and some distinguished ambassadors.
They settled in these two large residences that
now formed the “Quarter of the Sultan”. Certainly,
other notables related to the former Sultan established
Emir Bassem and his wife accompanied Emir Saleem
and occupied the house of the Boueri family in Ghadir.
They ended their days in an old people’s home in
Beirut during the nineteen-fifties in a state of
Emir Saleem died in Ghadir in 1937. Emir Abdul Kareem
married Isabel Kawaark, a very beautiful Christian.
They left Lebanon for Damascus in Syria, where the
Syrian government granted them a monthly allowance.
From there they emigrated to India. They had two
sons, Doumaydan and Haroun. One of the sisters got
married in Tripoli and her descendents still live
in North Lebanon, forming the family Ibrahim Jour.
In 1918 the Great War ended and an amnesty was declared,
leaving conqueror and conquered. The victory of
the Franco-British alliance and the defeat of the
German and Turkish side meant that there were great
changes in the world, and notably in the Middle
East, including Lebanon.
In due course Turkish historians came to Lebanon
in order to inform themselves and to document details
about this little-known aspect of the family of
the last Sultan and Caliph of the Ottomans.
The house of the Azzi family, occupied by the Sultan’s
grandson, was sold to the Abbouds, a very rich family
who had amassed wealth in Africa; these restored
the house, making it more modern and functional.
This dwelling and that of the Boueris are just a
hundred yards from each other. The Boueri house
is a spacious two-storey building of hewn stone.
The first floor (ground floor, by Lebanese and Anglo-European
counting) was partly occupied by the Obeid family,
but has long been empty and abandoned to fall slowly
into a state of ruin. This ground floor has a ceiling
of cross-vaults, while on the floor above it are
several sitting-rooms, bedrooms, corridors, balconies,
and a beautiful interior patio. With its red-tiled
roof the house is beautiful and picturesque to look
at but at the same time not very practical; at the
time it was built rooms with water, toilets, baths
and often even the kitchens were made outside the
When I saw it, the entrance reminded me of my old
house in Jounieh, standard for its time; one enters
the Boueri house through a spacious hall which is
surrounded by rooms. The ceiling is painted with
various motifs in attractive colors and the floor
is tiled. The wooden doors and windows are very
fine. The house needs a savior to restore it, failing
which it is doomed, for it has not yet been classified.
‘Objects without life, do you have a soul?” The
outside forms, the arcades, the columns and the
walls surpass the inside in beauty and in simplicity.
These remains over a hundred years old most certainly
have a soul. The stones are vibrant with life and
recall for us past times, full of charm, emotion
As for the house of the Azzi family once occupied
by the Sultan’s grandson as we have said, this is
a very beautiful house in stone which is still full
of activity. Brought up-to-date and occupied by
modern people, namely the Abbouds, their children,
and their grandchildren, the house has plenty of
From the very first sight, one is struck by the
“presence” of this dwelling, like the buildings
of Andalusia, for it rises suddenly among greenery
and trees of great beauty. It is a house planned
with two tall stories and a red-tiled roof. The
ground (first) floor has cross-vaults and the upper
floor is extensive with several sitting-rooms, bedrooms,
corridors and balconies. As the house is still occupied,
it has been considerably restored and is therefore
adapted to modern living. The ceilings are decorated
with images of angels and a friendly human warmth
pervades the edifice.
The venerable stones have the sheen of time. The
outside masses are varied and harmonious. The flights
of stairs, verandas, and façades, and the
verdant surroundings all contribute to the life
and animation of this beautiful dwelling. The silvery
cypresses, the orange trees and the avocado trees
give yet more splendor to this charming and dreamlike
These two houses are an integral part of the Lebanese
heritage and they should be protected by the DGA,
the APSAAD, or the Town Council of Jounieh.
Translation from the French : Kenneth J. Mortimer
- Large House: Gabriel Abboud - 1:
Movie << (2016-11-17)
- Large House: Gabriel Abboud - 2:
Movie << (2016-11-17)
- Large House: Boueiri: >> View
Movie << (2016-11-15)