Sami Makarem obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Philosophy in 1954 and his Master’s Degree in Arabic Literature in 1957 from the American University of Beirut.
Meanwhile, he taught Arabic Literature at the Lebanon College of Souk El Gharb then at Al Sirat College in Aley.
He then left Lebanon for the US – to study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1963, he obtained his PhD. in Middle Eastern Studies, specializing in Islamic Batini Studies. In addition, he taught Arabic at the same university for three years.
It was also in America in 1962 that Sami Makarem met and married his wife, Julia Mullin (Melhem) with whom he had two daughters – Sahar and Rand – and twin sons – Nassib and Samir.
Julia Makarem was among the first to research and document the history, culture and perceptions of the Druze, in English language. She was also a highly-regarded educator in Lebanon and America.
In 1963, Sami Makarem returned to his home country, where he was appointed professor of Arab culture at the Lebanese University until 1964. He was then appointed as an assistant professor of Arabic literature and Islamic Thought at the American University of Beirut, until 1971. Following that, he was an adjunct professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic thought (1971-1985).
At the same time, he was head of the Department of Arabic and Near East Studies at the American University (1975-1978), as well as director of the School of Oriental Studies. He was appointed Head of the Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages (1993-1996) and fluctuated until the end of his life in the higher scientific centers of the American University.
In addition, he gave lectures, interviews and television and radio talks on topics of his competence and often on monotheistic affairs. He was also active in the Druze community, interested in its cultural affairs, participating in several institutions and councils, close to the late Sheikh Mohammed Abu Shakra and the great leader Kamal Jumblatt and later his son, Walid.
It was only after the passing of his father, Sheikh Nassib Makarem in 1971, that Sami Makarem discovered the scope of his own artistic talent. Prior to that, he had no real inkling of this ability.
Initially, he followed the “rules” of traditional Arabic calligraphy, producing works of a similar artistic ilk to that of his father.
Before long, he developed his own unique style of artistry (photos below).
“He veered away from the classical approach – he was rebellious and broke every rule of conventional Arabic calligraphy,” says his son, Samir Makarem, who is now restoring and curating the Sami Makarem Cultural Center in Aytat.
“He made the letters dance, he freed it from restrictions, he added color and made it flow – his style was exclusive to him.
“It took a lot of courage to defy all conventions.”
Sami Makarem participated in many successful art exhibitions in Lebanon and abroad, and also published books in this field.
In his literature, he specialized in the historical research of the Tawhid sect. He published a number of books regarding history and faith, in Arabic and English, and published a large number of articles on this subject which have become an important reference in the history of the Druze.