Rechmaya

District of Aley

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Rechmaya

Arabic: رشميا

Located in the District of Aley, Rechmaya is the village of water, wine, presidents, ancient monasteries, agriculture and silk.

Etymology

Origins

The word “Rechmaya”
is derived from the
Syriac-Aramaic language,
meaning “source of water”. Or a derivative of Saqi Rechmaya (near Byblos).

Location

Co-Ordinates

Longitude: 33°73′70″N
Latitude: 35°59′90″E
Area:
• Metro 25 km2
Elevation: 350-900 m

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Discover Rechmaya

Rechmaya is a village with spectacular green forests and magnificent waterfalls and springs. It is a village of ancient monasteries. It is the village once known as “Jourat Al Dahab” or Gourd of Gold, producer of the country’s finest silk. It is the village of famous historical, political and religious figures.

“Rechmaya” is considered to be a Syriac Aramaic word.

The name is divided into two parts: Rech (or Rish) and Maya (or Mayo), meaning the head or source of water.

Opinions differ as to the origin of the village’s name. The village may have been named in honour of its plentiful water sources, or its name may be a tribute to the original home of its early Christian settlers.

The first Christian family to inhabit Rechmaya was the Ibrahimi family – Ibrahim Hanna from the lineage of Muqaddam Jaj. They came around 1545, during the era of Fakhreddine, from the village of Saqi Rechmaya, which is close to Lefhed and Jaj Jbeil. It is said that this village bore its name in reference to the birthplace of the owner of that locality.

But it is also said that Rechmaya was inhabited before Christ, and that its ancient Arameans named it for its abundance of water.

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The Great Forest

Located in the district of Aley, Rechmaya rises between 350 – 900 m above sea level, allowing great diversity of its agriculture, including both coastal and mountainous crops.

It is 28 km from Beirut, and 14 kms from the centre of Aley.

Rechmaya extends in a rectangular shape from east to west in the middle of hills overlooking the Safa-Damour river valley from the south.

Rechmaya is surrounded by the villages of – Maasriti, Habermoun, Bserine and Btater to the east; Mazraat al-Nahr, Shuret, Majdel Al Meouch, Ammiq, and Kfar Qatra to the south; Ain Trez, Selfaya, Bou Zreida, Dweir Al-Rumman and Chartoun to the west; Ruwaisat Al-Naaman, Sabal, and Mansourieh Bhamdoun to the north.

It is a scenic drive via Aley – Bkhechtay, Bhouarah, Ghaboun, Kfar Amay, Chartoun, Ain Trez. Or from Damour – Baourta, Kfar Matta, Jisr el Qadi.

The village extends over an area of 2500 hectares (25 km sq), characterised by breath-taking rock formations and waterfalls.

There is a spring of abundant water at its entrance, and in its valley flows the Al-Safa River, from Al Tannour. The river forms a natural separator between the two districts of Aley and Chouf.

Rechmaya is surrounded by grape vineyards, fig, olive and fruit trees. It has a forest extending in front of the river’s cross section, known as “The Great Forest”.

During the silk era, Rechmaya was also famous for its apples and pears.

Today, Rechmaya’s charming alleyways and staircases reveal old churches and arches, traditional stone houses, retaining much of the village’s original character and charm.

Hundreds of cedar and pine trees have been planted in reforestation programs.

Rechmaya’s magnificent waterfalls, rivers and hiking trails make it one of Lebanon’s most picturesque destinations.

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Ancient Rechmaya

Rechmaya was inhabited in ancient times as far back as the Roman empire.

Stone sarcophagi dating back to the Roman era were found in a locality that still bears, to this day, the name “Jourat Al-Naous” in the Taliti (Triangle) area east of Rechmaya.

Rechmaya was inhabited during the Byzantine era, as evidenced by the discovery of underground antiquities in the subsoil – such as bronze statues, some with Greek letters. Studies conducted on these objects have proven they date back to the sixth century AD.

According to the respected historian and author Philip K. Hitti (born in the village of Shemlen) – “Greek writings indicate that the country was inhabited by Christians.”

The Crusaders came to Rechmaya and settled in the village (sometime between 1100-1300 AD). They benefited from its abundant crops and took up a position on Mount Sir, which was the location of the current Monastery of St Antoine.

Archaeological ruins – stone columns belonging to a palace – dating back to the era of the Crusaders, were found near Ain Al-Mays.

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Modern Rechmaya

The genesis of Rechmaya in its present character dates back no further than the mid-1500s.

After Emir Fakhr al-Din al-Maani II assumed the reins of power in Mount Lebanon, he encouraged Christians to take up residence in the region. The silk industry was developing at a rapid pace, and there was an urgent need to stimulate mulberry tree cultivation, and reclaim barren and unused lands around the Chouf. Since Rechmaya was famous for its wide, fertile agricultural area with abundant water, it attracted families from many regions across Lebanon.

At the time of its inception, Rechmaya was part of the conditional princely lands of the ruler at the time. It was subject to the tribute of Ain Dara, which was directly subordinate to Emir Haidar Al-Shihabi, after his victory in the Battle of Ain Dara and his distribution of provinces.

Rechmaya became separated with the intention of reviving it, and its lands were distributed according to the method of “Mugharasa” or “Shalash” – meaning “sharing” – whereby the farmer was able to own the plot of land on which he built a house, mill or olive press.

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Keserwan to Rechmaya

At the time of the arrival of its first residents, Rechmaya was the property of the Druze sheikhs of the Atallah family in Ain Dara. The land comprised only sheds and barns to “winter” the goats and sheep.

Over time, the newcomers took possession of the land, and established houses suitable for habitation.

They began to consider the affairs of their religion, but they did not have a priest to conduct their religious duties. In 1582, a delegation of residents made the journey to Batha, Keserwan, in search of a priest to fulfil their requirements. Druze residents also accompanied them to facilitate their mission.

That delegation in Batha succeeded in its mission, and returned with Khoury Bechara bin Mubarak, after the signing of an agreement in the interest of all parties. The Druze were among its signatories.

It is reported that when Khoury Bechara began construction of the church in Rechmaya, he was assisted by Druze as well as Christians.

From the lineage of Khoury Bechara, appeared Khoury Abdullah, who approached Emir Haider Al-Shihabi, after strengthening his support and participating with the youth of Rechmaya in the Battle of Ain Dara in 1711 and capturing two Yemeni princes. Emir Haidar rewarded him with the lands of Rechmaya and its vicinity.

Since that time, the sheikhs of the Al-Khoury family have assumed positions with princes and rulers.

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Rechmaya - The Southern Jurd

During the Mutasarrifid era, Rechmaya was appointed as the base of the Southern Jurd Directorate in the Chouf district, and its first director was appointed during the reign of Daoud Pasha (who established a famous school in the village of Abey), and Sheikh Amin Al-Khoury. Twenty six nearby villages were annexed to it.

In July 1880, the Mustarrif (Governor) Rustem Pasha issued a decree designating public commercial markets in some towns of the mountain, and allocated to establish a market in Rechmaya every Thursday.

After the year 1900, other villages were annexed to the Rechmaya district, and Mrad Bey al-Saad became the director of the Southern Jurd district. He enjoyed judicial and procedural powers, maintained security through members of the police force placed under his command, and determined taxes and collected them with the assistance of the sheikhs and mukhtars.

The district director was appointed mostly from the sheikhs of the Al Khoury and Al Saad families, who resided sometimes in Rechmaya and sometimes in neighbouring Ain Traz. At that time, Rechmaya and Ain Traz had one tax, before they were separated during the reign of Habib Pasha al-Saad. During the Mandate era, the obligation to appoint the director from the sheikhs of Rechmaya was abolished. Emir Farid Shehab was appointed to succeed Sheikh Iskander al-Khoury.

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Rechmaya - Gourd of Gold

Rechmaya was known as a centre for silk production between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Its production reached about 40,000 cocoons in the years of demand. In order to process the cocoons, the factories of Kar Al-Fayalj (Karakhin – plural Karkhana) were established in the town to produce silk threads. A total of six factories were constructed, distributed in different locations adjacent water springs, as large quantities of water were required for silk production.

These factories continued to operate until the 1930s, until they permanently ceased operation and were demolished, leaving behind only traces of their ruins.

Rechmaya was the second silk producing village in Lebanon, after Damour. The village of Rechmaya even sent workers to distant silk factories, some of whom worked as far afield as Mashta al-Helu in Akkar.

Lebanon’s only surviving reminder of this once-flourishing industry can be found in the Silk Museum in Bsous.

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Bandar Rechmaya

During the time of the silk trade, Rechmaya was known as “Jouret al-Dahab” or “Gourd of Gold”.

Rechmaya’s harvest of 40,000 cocoons had an average price of about 1 million piasters – about 10,000 Ottoman lira.

This led to the issue of debt bonds and deeds, and included in them the phrase “circular currency of Bandar Rechmaya”, meaning it must be paid according to the exchange rate of the golden lira in Turkish currency in its local market.

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Rechmaya's Mills

In addition to silk production, Rechmaya was known for its mills for grains. These six mills, most of which operated on water, ceased production around 1955. There were also three water mills. Oil and carob presses spread alongside the mills, until a press was established in Ain Traz and another in the centre of the town. It continues to operate today throughout the olive harvest season, producing some of the finest olive oil in Lebanon.

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Ancient Agriculture

The early settlers of Rechmaya divided its lands into five categories that indicated their ancient agricultural experience –

Irrigated lands were graded into terraces, their soil surrounded by thick walls and distributed with varieties of crops in need of irrigation during the summer (berries, fruits, vegetables, legumes);

Rain-fed lands with deep soil, graded into terraces supported by thick walls, and planted with rain-fed tree species (olives);

Rain-fed lands with flat, light soil (slush), allocated for the cultivation of wheat and other grains;

Sloping rain-fed lands with light limestone soil, divided into small terraces and planted with varieties of vines and delicious figs;

Rocky, sloping and difficult-to-reach lands (al-Arid), still covered with oaks (acorn), mullein, carob, hawthorn, arbutus (strawberry trees) and other trees.

The valley area remains in Rechmaya, where private springs abound, and it has been planted with lemon and fruit trees.

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Rechmaya's Squares

Rechmaya’s main square has known many incarnations since its inception.

It was originally known as “Camel Square” in reference to the camels that would be brought to the area carrying goods for trading. They would take the delicious fruits of Rechmaya in return for grains.

During the Ottoman era, at the height of silk production, it was known as the square of “Bandar Rechmaya”.

In the middle of the 20th century, the municipality paved the square using carved antique tiles, and it became known as “Court Square”.

In the 21st century, the name of the square became “President’s Square”, as the municipality installed bronze statues of their historical presidents, Habib Pasha Al Saad and Sheikh Bechara Al Khoury.

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Rechmaya's Milestones

The first road that reached Rechmaya extended to Ain Trez from Jisr el Qadi, constructed during the reign of Wasa Pasha in 1887.

It was later connected from Rechmaya to Btater and Bhamdoun, during the reign of Naoum Pasha in 1898.

The first municipal council was established in 1892, also during the reign of Mutasarrif Naoum Pasha, and headed by Sheikh Joan Zaher al-Khoury.

On 3 February, 1930, the directorates were abolished and replaced by a gendarmerie station in Rechmaya, Aley and Baabda.

In 1933, the first pharmacy was opened in Rechmaya market, by Lotfi Bazarkan.

In 1935, the municipality of Rechmaya illuminated the town’s streets and then brought electricity to the houses (at the expense of their owners).

In 1938, the first telephone room in Rechmaya provided communication to all the surrounding regions.

In 1946, a post and telegraph office was established, and 20 neighbouring villages were connected to it.

In 1948, a a telephone centre was established, and more than 20 villages were connected to it.

In 1964, the first free medical clinic was established by the Rechmaya Youth Association with the assistance of the Social Welfare Department.

The first Sheikh of peace in Rechmaya during the era of the Mutasarrifiya was Merhej Al-Sheet Al Brahim in 1865.

The first mukhtar in Rechmaya during the mandate era was Taraf Shahin Abu Silwan in 1928.

Rechmaya introduced silent cinema in 1927, and it was shown in the town square by a team from the French Mandate army.

The first person to receive the title of “Bey” in Lebanon was Sheikh Ghandour Saad al-Khoury from Rechmaya. Emir Shihab, the ruler of the mountain, distinguished him from the princes and sheikhs of the country, with the inscription “Your Excellency, dear brother, the respected consul of Bey”.

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The Springs of Rechmaya

Rechmaya is famous for its natural water springs, of which there are many – more than 50.

The most important of all is the spring of Ain al-Mays, whose waters originate from the interior of Mount Sir, Ain Sir, al-Jawwar, al-Mashre`a, al-Ghazlaniyah, Teltiti, Mar Takla, Bisdiya, al-Kasair, al-Tawaweni, Halafati, Ain al-Kinsha, Ain al-Barak, Ain al-Awaini, Ain al-Tahtaniyah, Ain al-Masijek, Karam al-Shar, Ain Traz, Bir al-Mansoura.

As for the valley springs, some bear the names of their owners: Al-Fawar Spring, Al-Harran Shukrallah, Al-Harran Rashid, Al-Harran Mansour, Abu Khair, Al-Qawas, Al-Zeer, Al-Karwanah, Maan, Lahoud, Al-Deek, Boudendan, Sheikh Iskandar, Al-Hashem, Matta, Al-Kak Hassan, Al-Kak Ghandour, Ain Al Ammar, Ain al-Fatra, al-Fiti, al-Naqta, Tali’a, Niqbat Khazen, Bou Chahine, Al-Sahafa, Shamshin.

Al Mays spring is located on the property of St John, so the townspeople made an agreement with the owner of the property and the spring was dug inside at a depth of 450m, with canals to reach agricultural lands and homes.

The spring’s abundance reaches 350 cubic meters per day during the summer, and exceeds this number several times during winter with the melting of snow.

The Wealth of Water

The village of Rechmaya is one of the first towns in Lebanon to obtain electricity, and its hydro-electric plant was the first of its kind in Lebanon.

Work on the hydro-electric plant was approved by French delegates before the mandate, in 1928 and was completed in 1932 by a Belgian institution. The plant relies on water from the Safa spring, descending from Lake Kafranis into the valley. The slope from the water reservoir in Kafranis to the electricity production machines is 500 metres.

In 1956, a new section was added to the plant.

In the past, Rechmaya’s electricity reached as far as Beirut, illuminating the Presidential Palace and powering the City’s tram, as well as the summer resort villages.

The Rechmaya-Kafranis road was built for the power station.

The plant still exists today and is considered the grandfather of electrical plants in the Middle East.

In the summer of 2022, the US Embassy began a rehabilitation project to restore the plant.

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Centres of Learning

The Rechmaya Girls’ School was established in 1920. This was a rare precedent in that area at the time. The management of the school was entrusted to the Sisters of Lazaria. In 1935, the management of the school was transferred to the Antonine nuns, who resided in a monastery built for them in 1954.

The Protestants established the Protestant School for Girls and Boys in Rechmaya in the early 1900s. Education was entrusted to the teacher Latifa Amin Sherbin (born in Rechmaya, 1880). She used the home of her immigrant brothers as the headquarters of a school for young boys and girls in which she taught them the principles of reading, writing, and arithmetic in Arabic only. The school remained active until its closure in 1955.

St John Monastery School for Boys and Girls was established in Rechmaya in 1706. The monks of St John Monastery had pledged, since taking over the Monastery, to allocate one or more of their monks to teach the villages their primary education.

The school was suspended in 1899 due to the demolition of its old building. After settling in a rented building, the new school was built in 1913, which the Lebanese Order considered its first modern school, teaching Arabic, French and Syriac. In 1962, the Order provided the school building to the Ministry of Education and St John School was transformed from a monastic school into an official supplementary school and later a mixed secondary school.

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Rechmaya - A Presidential Village

Rechmaya is the first town to produce two presidents of the republic – President Habib Pasha Al-Saad (born in adjoining Ain Traz) before independence, and Bechara al Khoury (in Rechmaya) after him. As a token of loyalty and appreciation to these great men who entered the contemporary history of Lebanon, and the role they played in achieving Lebanon’s independence, the municipality established the “President’s Square”, where it erected two pedestals displaying bronze busts of the two presidents.

They were close relatives – following the same grandfather. Because of a disagreement, the cousins divided the grandfather’s name – some became Al-Khoury, others became Al-Saad.

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Rechmaya's Ancient Churches

Rechmaya’s landmarks still preserve the nobility of architecture and the color of its ancient stones, and Rechmaya was famous for its group of monasteries that date back to the mid 1600s – sadly, war destroyed some and damaged others.

The monastery of St Youhanna el Maamadane (John the Baptist) and St Antoine of Sir were classified as the third oldest monasteries of the Maronite Order in Lebanon, but they were destroyed, as was the Monastery of St Elias.

It is said that the monastery of St Antoine was a place where Emir Bechir Al Shihabi studied for several years. He also returned and sought refuge there after being persecuted by the Turks.

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Church of Saint Kyriakos

The Church of Saint Kyriakos (also known as Saint Cyr), the patron saint of Rechmaya, was founded in 1581, and its official seal is still used in ecclesiastical certificates to this day. The current church is not as old, as it was renovated, rebuilt, and consecrated by Patriarch Estephan Al-Douaihy in 1683. It was restored again after the civil war in 1994.

It is one of the largest and most beautiful mountain churches of its era. Its walls are made of white cast stone. Its roof is arched, knotted with crosses. Two-thirds of its area was allocated for men to sit, and the back third, which is about a foot higher than the front section, was reserved for women’s seating. Its altars are made of bright white marble decorated with gold water.

Above the main altar was once the portrait of Saint Kyriakos and his mother Yulita (Juliata) (martyred in 304 AD), painted by the famous Lebanese artist Daoud Al-Corm (in 1882). Sadly, the painting disappeared during the Mountain War, and was replaced with an alternative.

Sheikh Bechara al-Khoury Al-Faqih, grandfather of President Bechara al Khoury, is buried in this church.

The feast of St Kyriakos is held every year on 15 July, and celebrations are held on its eve.

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Monastery of Saint Youhanna el Maamadane

The Maronite Patriarch Estephan Al-Douaihy, Sheikh Abu Saber from Rechmaya, contributed to the completion of the monastery of Saint Youhanna el Maamadane (Saint John the Baptist) that he began building in 1656 in the town, and it is the oldest monastery in the region. Father Ibrahim ibn Sahwa al-Ghaziri became a monk in 1685 and presided over the monastery. After the establishment of the Maronite monastic order in 1699, Father Ibrahim took over the Monastery of St Youhanna Rechmaya and joined the Order in 1706. The endowment was ratified by Hajj Saqr Abu Saber and Patriarch Yacoub Awad.

It was written in the Waqfiya in the Garshuni language:

“The reason for this liberation is that, with our thoughts and satisfaction, we have completely handed over the Monastery of St Youhanna Rechmaya to the Aleppo monks, who will dispose of it and its livelihood according to their desires and obligations, and he will not oppose them in any way. They may destroy and rebuild, accept and  expel according to their salvation. It does not oblige them to baptise, spend the night, or crown a groom indsidetheir monastery and outside their monastery. In short, the honourable Father Ibrahim Al-Ghaziri (he lived in the monastery and handed it over). This is our thought, our consent and our seal, and God is the agent for the sincerity of our words. Our adherence to this is presented to His Holiness, Mar Yacoub (Awad), the Honorable Patriarch, Mar Elias, our Honorable Bishop and Father Ibrahim, the Honorable Abbot of the Monastery. Written on 6 February, 1706. Signed by Saqr Abi Saber.”

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The Monastery building comprises two floors, the lower one contains the old house to the east. To the west are cellars for storing supplies and crops and sheltering poultry. To the north of the Monastery, a water spring flows under an arched bridge, the water of which is collected in its basin to irrigate the lands. As for the upper floor, it has a main northern entrance. It includes about 20 bedrooms with arched corridors. During the war in Lebanon, this Monastery was unfortunately looted, burned and mostly destroyed. Restoration work is ongoing, returning the Monastery to its former glory, albeit with some necessary modifications in its architecture and division.

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Monastery of Saint Elias

The Melkite Greek Catholic Monastery of St Elias was destroyed by the war that ravaged the Chouf in the 1980s and caused the displacement of much of the population of Rechmaya.

Bishop Naophitos al-Halabi, Bishop of Saydnaya in Syria since 1721, fled the brutal war waged against him by Patriarch Silvestros of Cyprus, and took refuge in Rechmaya. He bought a plot of land on which he built three rooms and carved a cave in the rock (it still exists and is known as the Cave of Umm Sinan). In 1730, he erected a sacrifice temple in it.

He moved to Rome after relinquishing ownership to the Roman Catholic Basilian Savior Order, who in turn expanded the property. The church was completed in 1778, and was considered one of the largest churches at the time.

Emir Bashir II visited the Monastery and left a trace of this visit – an oil portrait of the Prophet Elias of Rechmaya, painted on wood and placed on the inner altar of the church. It was engraved with the words – “ On this day, our Lord Emir Bashir, visited this Monastery. We intercede for God to protect it.”

This painting was taken to the Monastery of the Saviour for safekeeping.

The most important events witnessed by this Monastery:

7 April 1788 – Bishop Anthanasius Jawhar, Bishop of Sidon, was elected Patriarch of the sect. He spent his last days in Rechmaya, and was buried in the church.

3 December, 1794 – the first synod council was held and Cyril Siaj of Damascus, Bishop of Hauran, was elected Patriarch of the sect.

On July 20, a religious festival is held in the village of Rechmaya, for the feast of Saint Elias.

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Monastery of Saint Antoine

The Monastery of Saint Antoine, like its church, was built in 1707, on the hill of Rechmaya, in the most beautiful location, in the Sir region, famous for its pleasant climate and the sweetness of its sparkling, fresh water.

In this regard, the monks of the Monastery circulate an old proverb: “ Winter in Naameh and summer in a pleasant way, for whom can I see?”

«شتّي بالناعمة وصيّف بسير لمين بصير؟»

The site was originally chosen by a devout monk named Antonius Mubarak, who desired solitude and isolation. He built the general Monastery in 1706 from his own money, and named it after his patron. When he entered the Lebanese Monastic Society, he handed over his monastery and its affiliated properties to it. A school was opened there, as in most monasteries. This is considered the fourth monastery of the Lebanese Monastic Order after the Monastery of Mart Mora in Ehden, and Saint Elisha in the Qadisha Valley, and was preceded by the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Rechmaya by one year.

What is striking about this Monastery church is that is constructed entirely of stone: the temple, its steps, the altar, the nave, the windows, the tables. Its stones are clean, bright, white, consistent in their engagement and overlap. Before being renovated, it was covered with an earthen crust. The restorers removed and cleaned each stone individually. When they encountered damaged or discoloured stones, they obtained a power from Germany that fossilises by mixing it with water, allowing them to treat these areas, returning them to their former state, with the same color and pattern.

Prince Bashir II Al Shihabi stayed as a guest in this monastery. The area near St Antoine known as “Jowzat Al Emir” is so named for the walnut trees planted there by Emir Bachir. The secret of these trees was that they were planted above the road and their trunks appeared on the other side.

St Antoine Monastery was also frequently visited by one of the founders of the Maronite Monastic Order, Gabriel Farhat, who later became Bishop Germanos Farhat. It was also once presided over by Father Ibrahim Al-Ghaziri, a graduate of the School of Rome.

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From Rechmaya to Bkerke

In Wadi Rechmaya, on both sides of the Damour River, there are many caves of pumice stone and rock, and natural caves similar to Jeita Grotto, in which there are limestone stalactites. A quantity of these stones was transported from Rechmaya to Bkerke, and were used to build the front entrance to the patriarchal edifice in Bkerke.

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Famous Faces of Rechmaya

The village of Rechmaya has known many famous faces in its long and distinguished history – in religion, politics, law, education, science, arts, literature:

Ibrahim, son of Muqaddam Jaj Hanna Al Khoury – He contributed with his brothers Khair and Ibrahim in consolidating the rule of Emir Mansour Al-Assafi in Keserwan. He also contributed with his brother Khair in returning the two princes, Fakhr al-Din and Younis, to the Chouf from their hideout in Ballouneh. He was rewarded by Fakhr al-Din Baqa’a Rashmia, the ancestor of the family in Rechmaya.

Khoury Bechara Mubarak – He was the first ancestor of the lineage descended from the Al-Khoury and the Al-Saad family in Rechmaya and Ain Trez. He was the son of Al-Shidyaq Simaan, son of Khoury Mubarak of Batha Keserwan. When he came to Rechmaya around the year 1582, he built a church in it named after Saint Kyriakos to serve the parish.

Khoury Saleh Mubarak – The grandfather of the Khoury Saleh branch of the Mubarak family in Rechmaya, and the grandson of Khoury Bechara. He attended the Battle of Ain Dara in 1711, at the head of a group of young men from Rechmaya, where he fought valiantly and captured two Yemeni princes. Prince Haidar rewarded him for this victory with feudal status in Rechmaya and its dependencies, and elevated his family to the position of feudal lords in Lebanon. He was ordained a priest in the name of Khoury Saleh. He later travelled to Rome (1730-1740) for a purpose that is still unknown.

Three of his seven male children were the origins of three branches that later comprised the family, which then became divided in two families – the Al Khoury family and the Al-Saad family (which later produced the two presidents – Habib Pasha al-Saad and Bechara Khalil Al-Khoury). The conflict was caused by political loyalty or rivalry with the Shihabi princes at the time.

Sheikh Ghandour Al-Khoury Saleh (?-1737) – In 1736, he attended the Louaize Council with the leaders of the country and the sons of feudal Maronite families.

Sheikh Saad Ghandour Al-Khoury Saleh (1722-1786) – The grandfather of the Al-Saad family in Ain Traz.

Khoury Hanna Hobeika – Endowment of the land on which the Church of Saint Takla was built in the early 1700s.

Abbot Emmanuel Al-Ibrahimi Al-Rishmawi (?-1790) – General Abbot of the Maronite Order 1766-1769, 1772-1775, and 1778-1781

Abu Issa Shahwan Hobeika – He achieved heroism in the battle of Emir Youssef Shihab against the Hammadids in Dar Baashtar in 1773 under the leadership of Sheikh Saad Al-Khoury Saleh.

Musa Abu Nasr – He achieved heroism in the battle of Emir Youssef Shihab against the Hammadids in Dar Baashtar in 1773 under the leadership of Sheikh Saad Al-Khoury Saleh

Tannous Jaber – He achieved heroism in the battle of Emir Youssef Shihab against the Hammadids in Dar Baashtar in 1773 under the leadership of Sheikh Saad Al-Khoury Saleh.

Tannous Hobeika – Appointed by Bashir II, supervising the construction of Beiteddine Palace building, and then the construction of the Saraya Zahle in 1814.

Father Gabriel Hobeika (?-1949) – Lebanese monk, ordained in 1897, Abbot of the Monastery of Sir.

Father Philippius Hobeika  – An Antonian monk, he co-operated with the monk Ibrahim Al-Khoury Hanna Al-Baskintawi,  building the Monastery of Saint Simeon in Ain Al-Qabou.

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Sheikh Bechara Al-Khoury Al-Faqih (1805-1886) – He was a famous scholar, a descendant of the Al Khoury family of sheikhs of Rechmaya. He was born in Rechmaya in 1805. At the age of 17, he entered the Ain Waraqa School and studied morphology, grammar, logic, physics, literary and theoretical theology. He lived there as a teacher and a student for three and a half years, from 1826-1829, where he was given the titles of Al-Shidyaq.

He returned to Rechmaya, where he became involved in education. He was then invited to teach grammar, morphology and theology to monks at the Monastery of St Antoine in Baabda, then to monks at the Seminary of the Roman Catholic Monastery of the Saviour, then to some priests in the Archdiocese of Beirut, and he continued to do so for eight years.

He wrote works on Arabic grammar.

He was sent to Beirut by Emir Bashir Shehabi to study Islamic jurisprudence with Father Habib Al-Khoury Al-Battdini, under the supervision of Patriarch Youssef Hobeish. He read to its judge, Sheikh Yunus al-Bizri, then to its mufti, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Ghar. He then moved to Tripoli, where he read to Sheikh Mohammed Effendi Arabi Al-Zaila Al-Azhari, and in 1839 obtained a certificate of mastery of jurisprudence.

They were the first Lebanese Christians to study Sharia with Muslim scholars.

He was a judge in Beiteddine Palace in 1840, under Emir Bashir II. He took over the Judicial Council during the reign of Bashir III. He was a judge for the Maronite community in the Shura Council of the Druze Qaimaqamiya (District Council) in Choueifat from 1846-1860, and a member of the Grand Trial Council from the beginning of the Mutasarrifiya rule (1861-1879). He taught jurisprudence in Beiteddine and and at his home in Sabniyeh. Then he established a school of jurisprudence in the heart of Baabda, from which many famous magistrates graduated. Rustem Pasha appointed him to the judiciary in Deir al-Qamar in 1879 and he remained there as judge of the Grand Trial Council until his retirement in 1883, with the title of “The Mufti of the Christians”. He died in his home in Beirut in 1886, at the age of 81, and was buried in the family cemetery in Barchmiya.

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Sheikh Marai Al-Khoury – Brother of Sheikh Bechara Al-Faqih – He served as a judge for 15 years.

Sheikh Amin Al-Khoury  (?-1879) – He was director of the Al-Jurd Al-Jannoubi District, and District Commissioner of Jezzine District.

Sheikh Iskander Al-Khoury – He was Director of the Southern Jurd District.

Abbot Nimatallah (1866-1949) – He was ordained in 1890, taught at Al-Hikma School, joined the Society of Missionaries in 1894, assumed high responsibilities and taught in its schools, General President of the Society 1930-1949, established the mission in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). During the reign of his presidency the Assembly took over the management of Ain Waraqa School 1935-1939, established the School of the Apostles in Jounieh, and Beiteddine School 1939-1946, and managed the Damour Episcopal School 1940-1941. He wrote several books.

Father Shukrallah Mubarak (1879-1944) – He was a Lebanese missionary, a student of the School of Propaganda in Rome, ordained in Rome in 1906. He taught philosophy and theology at the Missionaries’ Association in Lebanon. He was Vice President of the School of Propaganda until 1928. He practiced spiritual exercises in Lebanon and Egypt, and was advisor to the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family 1929.

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Bishop Ignatius Mubarak (1876-1958) – Born in Rechmaya on 26 September, 1876, he was a spiritual leader, rhetorician and politician par excellence. He was ordained a priest in 1901, head of Al-Hikma School for many years, and Archbishop of the See of Maronite Diocese of Beirut in 1909.

He was appointed Bishop of the Archdiocese of Beirut on 4 March, 1919.

He wrote sermons and pastoral letters, providing religious messages, ecclesiastical teachings, and spiritual and patriotic guidance.

Thousands of Christians and Muslims would gather to hear his sermons in the archdiocese. Some priests close to him would shorten his speeches and send it to newspapers, especially Al-Bishr newspaper.

He accompanied Patriarch Elias Howayek to Paris in 1920, and greatly contributed in gaining Lebanon’s independence. He held the upper hand in ending the mandate and achieving independence.

He gave a famous sermon in February 1926 in response to the French Governor, Cailla, in which the Bishop reviewed the words of the Bible – “Cursed is the dog that does not bark in the field of the Lord”.

After the arrest and detainment of the Lebanese government in Rashaya in 1943, Bishop Mubarak went to the British Legation, where he met Vernier, and then with the Minister Plenipotentiary. He left carrying the banner of the opposition. He visited the families of the detainees, including the family of Riad el-Solh. His visit to Basta was an incredible sight – the residents tried to carry his car on their shoulders, shouting the name of the Grand Mujahid.

He then opened the doors of the Archdiocese of Beirut, to hold a session of the House of Representatives. He stood up and addressed the deputies, and made a covenant before God and before them that whoever tries to enter to disrupt them will not do so until they step on his corpse and their hands are stained with his blood.

He then left, allowing the deputies to hold their secret session, in which they decided to meet in the village of Bchamoun.

His car could be seen travelling in the city, from one legation to another, and the cars of all the representatives of allied countries and political figures were parked at the door of the Archdiocese.

He also presented General Catroux, the envoy of the French government, with a memorandum protesting the measures taken against the government.

He renewed the construction of the Al-Hikma School and Church, and built churches in Beirut and the regions of the diocese. He was a man of courageous (and sometimes controversial) political stances who contributed strongly to the battle for Lebanon’s independence. He resigned from the presidency of the Diocese of Beirut in 1952.

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Sheikh Bechara Khalil Al-Khoury (1890-1963) – He was a lawyer, judge, orator, writer, politician and national leader. He received his education at the Jesuit University and graduated as a lawyer in France in 1912. He practised law in Egypt from 1914-1919. He was Secretary General of the Government in Baabda in 1919, President of the Bar Association, President of the Court of Appeal in Beirut, Senator-designate 1926-1927, Minister of the Interior, acting Minister of Finance 1926-1927, Deputy Appointed 1927-1929, Prime Minister and Minister of General Education 1927-1928, Prime Minister and Minister of General Education and Justice 1928, Prime Minister and Minster of the Interior and Health 1929, Appointed MP 1929-1931, 1934-1937, 1937-1939, and elected 1943-1947. He founded the Constitutional Bloc Party and gathered under its banner an elite leadership group. He was President of the Lebanese Republic 1943-1952, the leader of the men of Al-Istiqlal (Independence), who were arrested by the Mandate authorities in Rashaya. He was released from Rashaya Castle prison on the morning of Independence Day, 22 November, 1943. During his presidency, Lebanon achieved its independence from French authorities and colonial occupation, foreign soldiers were evacuated from Lebanon with the formation of a Lebanese army in its place, the constitution was amended, the Lebanese coexistence formula was established, and Lebanon was internationally recognized as a free and independent sovereign country. Other significant developments included: The establishment of the Ministry of National Defence – Formation of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants – Joining the United Nations and the League of Arab States – Establishment of the Beirut International Airport – Construction of the UNESCO Palace – Lebanon’s accession to the International Civil Aviation Authority, the IMF and World Bank.

His presidential term was renewed in 1948. He resigned in 1952 after a three-day strike in Beirut.

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Mikhail Mashaqa (1800-1888) – He was a doctor, musician and diplomat. He wrote “The Shehabi Treatise on the Music Industry” and “The Instructor in Astonomical and Arithmetic Tables”. He left memoirs entitled “The Answer to the Proposal of Loved Ones”. He was the American Consul in Damascus.

MIKHAIL MASHAQA - DOCTOR, MUSICIAN, AUTHOR, DIPLOMAT
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Sister Cities

Father Louis Bechara Al-Khoury – He was the head priest of Saint Elias Church in Ras Beirut.

Father Tobias Mubarak (?-1946) – He was a Lebanese monk, ordained in 1897, headed monasteries and administrator.

Nassif Bey Mikhail Mashaqa – He was Deputy Consul of America in Damascus in the early 1900s.

Father Ignatius El-Kik (?-1945) – He was a Lebanese monk, ordained in 1904, Abbott of the Monastery of Mishmouche, steward of the treasury of the Diocese of Beirut.

Father Boulos Abu Nader (?-1943)  – Lebanese monk, ordained in 1904, headed several monasteries, custodian of properties of the See of Beirut.

Said Hobeika (?-1944) – He was a writer and inspector of finance in Lebanon.

Khalil Bey Bechara Al-Khoury – He was head of the Arab Pen League in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifiya (Province), and one of the free Lebanese exiled by Jamal Pasha in World War I.

Father Antonius Ammon (?-1973) – He was a Lebanese monk, ordained in 1928. He was learned in wisdom and other subjects, headed monasteries, and wrote articles on history, a collection of poetry, and a biography of Jesus.

Sheikh Sami Al-Khoury – He was Director of Justice 1932-1936, Minister Plenipotentiary.

Sheikh Fouad Khalil Al-Khoury – He was a businessman, President of the Saint Mansour Society in Beirut, holder of national and foreign medals.

Sheikh Salim Khalil Al-Khoury – He was a political leader, nicknamed “The Sultan”, MP 1947-1951, and 1951-1953.

Sheikh Sami Khalil Al-Khoury – He was a jurist and diplomat, head of the Registry of Rights at the beginning of the Republic, director of the judiciary, Minister Plenipotentiary for Lebanon in Cairo, representative of Lebanon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, Minister Plenipotentiary in Brussels and Extraordinary Delegate to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Fouad Qabalan Kanaan (1920-2001) – He was a lawyer, writer, translator and journalist. He studied law in France, taught at Al-Hikma School, and was editor-in-chief of Al-Hikma magazine 1951-1958. He also authored many books.

Dr Khattar Shibli (1922-) – He was a lawyer, administrator and university professor, with a Doctorate in Law. He held positions in the Ministry of Finance, Head of the Central Inspection, Member of the Central Council, then Member of the Supreme Banking Authority of the Banque du Liban, Chairman of the Board of Directors and General Manager of the National Foundation to guarantee deposits, and member of the Board of Directors of Electricite du Liban, a member of the Beirut Airport Development Committee, a Governor at the Central Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Lebanon, a doctoral lecturer at various universities, President of the National Council for Veterans. He had a taste for poetry and literature and wrote several books.

Sheikh Michel Bechara Al-Khoury (1926 -) He was a lawyer, journalist, administrator, and politician. He received a Bachelor of Law, practiced journalism and law, President of the National Council for Tourism Development 1964-1972, Minister of Communication and Defence 1965-1966, Minister of Tourism and Arts 1967-1968, appointed by President Elias Sarkis as his personal representative on special foreign missions, Governor of Banque du Liban 1978-1984. He participated in missions and headed official delegations to international conferences. He was Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lebanese-French Banking Company.

Dr William Deeb Al-Khazen (1933-2020) – He was an educational inspector, author and university professor. He held a PhD in Arabic language and literature and wrote many books.

Samir Najib Hobeika (1940-2016) – He was a Lebanese diplomat. He was a specialist in international organizations and the dynamics of Lebanese immigration. He served as Lebanese ambassador to Jordan, Brazil, Austria and Switzerland. Recipient of the Brazilian Order of Merit, rank of the Grand Cross, and the Austrian Order of Merit, rank of the Grand Cross. He was a general secretary of the executive council of the Maronite League, and a member of the Swiss Association for Euro-Arab-Muslim-Dialogue (ASDEAM).

Father Boulos El-Kik – He was the Director of Al-Hikma (Wisdom) School

Dr Najib El-Kik – He was an Admiral of the Republic of Mexico.

Sheikh Khalil Bechara Al-Khoury – He was politician, MP for three terms – 1960 – 1964-1972, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs 1969.

Abbot Basil Al-Hashem – He was a Lebanese monk, ordained in 1957, General President of the Lebanese Order 1988, author of several books.

Maroun Al-Hashem – He was a writer, and employee of the Ministry of Education.

Dr Milad Al-Hashem – PhD in History

Father Louis Younan (?-1961) – He was a Lebanese monk, ordained in 1928, head of monasteries, administrator.

Albert Qabalan Kanaan – He was the author of the book “Rechmaya and the Southern Jurd Province of the Chouf in Lebanese History”.

Antoine Farah – He was a journalist and member of the municipal Council of Rechmaya, 1998

Maurice Chalhoub (?-1999) – He was a retired Brigadier General.

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Heather & Sami Eljurdi

Founders • Archivists • Editors

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