Emir Faisal Arslan Museum

Built in 1895

A treasure trove of Lebanese political & social history

Aley's first

Built in 1895, Emir Faisal Arlsan Museum is perched on a hillside near the entrance of Aley, reached by a series of twists and turns along the Damascus road.

It is Aley’s first museum, initiated by Hayat Wahab Arslan, wife of the late Emir Faisal, as a tribute not only to her husband, but also the socio-political history of the Arslan family and Lebanon’s struggle for independence.

Indeed, the transformation of the family’s palace into a place of historical significance was the desire of Emir Faisal himself, who insisted that “what the Lebanese achieved is the property of Lebanon”.

Inside the beautifully restored 12-room, white and beige stone structure is a combination of Oriental arches and European medieval towers. It houses treasures from old documents, books and manuscripts, to weapons and tokens from important historical periods, such as the creation of Greater Lebanon and then its 1943 independence.

One example is the Arslan family registry in Kufic writing, from 800AD. More recently there are relics from the 1948 war with Israel, including helmets from the Haganah defence forces and a cannon from Nazareth. A French chest from the time of Napoleon Bonaparte shares space with porcelain washstands dating to 1920.

There are 19th-century items from Syria, such as a mother-of-pearl antique bridal chest, and Ottoman antiques, including a tapestry designed as currency.

Built in

The Arslan name appears throughout Lebanon’s history. Emir Toufic Arslan (1870 – 1931) was one of the major figures behind the creation of Greater Lebanon in 1920.

The palace was constructed by Emir Toufic in 1895. The Emir had many political and administrative roles, the most recent being a member of the Lebanese Parliament. He was a fighter against Ottoman rule, and then the French mandate, believing in Lebanon as a single and independent entity.
On 15 April 1915, in the High Court of Justice, he was exiled to Anatolia because of his involvement in the work for the independence of Lebanon. The prince bade farewell his family in Aley and planted a cedar tree as a symbol of his love for his country.

Emir Toufic was among the third mission to Paris in 1920 to participate in the peace conference and to demand independence for Lebanon, and succeeded in achieving this goal.

His son, Emir Majid Arslan, was one of the country’s independence leaders in 1943.

Emir Faisal Arslan (1941-2009) was the son of Emir Majid. He believed in pluralism and dialogue among the people of the homeland, and that justice and the rule of law are the basis of the state of citizenship.

In 1983, after the death of his father, he was consecrated as Emir and Druze leader. Faisal Arslan continued in the position until his younger brother Emir Talal Arslan became the political leader of the Arslan family by consensus, after Emir Faisal withdrew from active politics in 1989.

Historical

The Palace-museum is divided into five main categories: Historical collections, paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, the Arslan family record of more than 700 years, ancient weapons and pottery, and weapons used against Israel during the Battle of the Maalikis.

There are administrative documents with official seals that provide for the sale and purchase of land and property. In another corner, a French-made piece of clothing dating from Napoleon Bonaparte, brought by Prince Toufic from Paris on the day of the proclamation of the Greater Lebanon.

Arslan

The men’s reception hall contains the Arslan Register, written in the Qur’anic script more than 700 years ago, copied from the original Kufic script, dating back more than 1,300 years. Weapons adorn the wall of the room, dating back to the early Gregorian centuries, and others used in the war against Israel. In pride of place, the guns won by Emir Majid Arslan on the day he was the commander of the Lebanese Army in 1948 in his war against the Israeli army in the Maalikis. One corner of the room displays the Maliki cannon, the Nazareth Cannon,  and the weapons used in the battle for independence in Bchamoun.

"What the Lebanese achieved is the property of Lebanon"

Emir Faisal Arslan

The courtyard, which consists of four sections open to each other, is a place to meet the family who lived in the surrounding rooms. The walls are dominated by a collection of paintings dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, including a painting from the 18th-century Jean Bruegel school, which was famous for painting flowers on wood. In wooden facades, the pottery collection dates back to BC, and another set of stained glass dates back to the 19th century.

The penultimate station was in the dining room, on the wall an 18th century carpet, presented by the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, on the occasion of his visit to Emir Majid Arslan. The French ceramic dishes dating back to the same century were brought by Prince Toufic from Paris, and in the room itself silver candlesticks.

Famous

In its history, the palace formed the headquarters of many prominent figures, most notably British General Edward Spears, who assisted the independence movement from 1942 until 1945.
During the Second World War, British soldiers dug a corridor beneath the garden floor, reaching the opposite side of the south of the Damascus road, to avoid enemy bombardment. The entrances to the corridor were closed immediately after the war for security reasons.
The palace also housed Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani in 1962, when he was Crown Prince of Qatar. Prince Moulay Abdullah of Morocco stayed at the palace in 1961 during preparations for his wedding to Princess Lamia al-Solh. Her father, Prime Minister Riad al-Solh frequently vacationed in Aley and the considered the palace his second home. President Elias Sarkis was also a frequent visitor, and considered the outlook from the palace terrace, overlooking the mountains, to be one of the most beautiful views in Lebanon.

Emir Faisal Arslan Museum

When & Where

When

By appointment – phone 05 555 999.

Entrance is free of charge

Where

Damascus Road – near the entrance to Aley

Heather & Sami Eljurdi

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