Stories of Abandoned Places in Lebanon

Clara Rayes

Lebanon is an old country holding secrets of a life before the gruesome civil war. Due to the war, many of its buildings still have bullet holes, broken glass, or have even been demolished.

Some of them have become abandoned, leaving behind untold stories that can only be narrated by the ruins and relics found inside. Here are the stories of three of them

Farid Serhal Palace

Beginning construction in 1967, this majestic palace in Jezzine is straight out of a history book. The architecture of Dr. Farid Serhal’s Palace is a reflection of different civilizations and eras.

According to photographer Clara Rayes, who has been searching for abandoned places all over Lebanon and learning their history, Dr. Serhal was collecting books on art history, ranging from the epoch of the Byzantines, to the Italian, French, and Spanish renaissances.

This was the inspiration for the palace.

“Each section, each arch of this palace reflected a different civilization, a different era. Walking through different rooms felt like a time-traveling experience, visiting the infamous landmarks of various cultures and empires,” Rayes told The961.

Every room in the palace told a special story. One room was built as half a church and half a mosque. This was a big symbol of co-existence.

Another symbol put forward a history of co-existence: a combination of all monotheist religious symbols.

“A series of quotes in Arabic calligraphy [is] also shown above a multitude of windows,” noted Rayes.

After the start of the Lebanese Civil War, construction was slowed down, until it was completely halted in 1996 when Dr. Farid Serhal passed away.

The Rose House

Dating back to the 19th century, The Rose House is one of Ras Beirut’s oldest houses still standing. It was built in 1882 by Mohammad Ardati

Overlooking the lighthouse in Manara, this iconic magenta-colored abandoned mansion was once a place for family gatherings.

“The traces of these gatherings can be seen from the large living spaces with what’s left of sofas, fridges, and fireplaces,” Rayes said.

According to Rayes, who visited the site, the kitchen still held plates and cups with traces of coffee.

“When visiting the rooms, and looking into the closets, a heartwarming feeling of being welcomed into the lives of those who left submerged us,” she expressed.

She reported seeing pictures of the family, hung on the walls and “hangers in closets, personal stuff left in bathrooms, books, newspapers, and magazines everywhere.”

Jbeily Hotel (Aley Grand Hotel)

Once very famous, Jbeily is a large hotel in Aley that was built in 1926. Numerous parties and weddings were held here, in a vast room near the entrance.

Rayes said that when she last visited this hotel in 2020, it was under renovation, and this room was filled with antique equipment.

“The second floor revealed a series of rooms and bathrooms, once welcoming travelers and visitors from all over the world.”

According to Rayes, the hotel was once used as a school. “In the tail of the edifice, we found classrooms and activity rooms that filled the corridors of the abandoned school.”

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