Souk el Gharb

District of Aley

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Souk el Gharb

Arabic: سوق الغرب‎
Located in the District of Aley, 2 km from Aley, its history dates back to the time of the Phoenicians.


The word “Souk el Gharb” is translated as “Western Market”, named as such near the end of the 18th century.


Longitude: 33 ° 79′ 25″ N Latitude: 35 ° 56′ 25″ E Area: • City 2.5 km2 Elevation: 675 – 750 m
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Discover Souk el Gharb

Souk El Gharb, in the District of Aley, is a village surrounded by pine forest,  overlooking Saint George Bay and Beirut.

While visiting this village you will be amazed by the architecture – Souk El Gharb has been inhabited since ancient times, as attested by the Roman vestiges found in the town area. Most of its historical buildings date back at least from the era of Ottoman rule in the 16th Century.

Although archaelogical evidence indicates that Souk el Gharb was inhabited BC and also by the Crusaders in the 12-13 centuries, the village later became well-known, in part, because of its church – the Saint George Abbey Church and Monastery, founded in 1575.

Toward the end of the 18th century, Souq el Gharb had become a trading and bartering centre for much of the region. Initially, it was centred around a spring, and was known accordingly as Market of the Spring.

As its popularity grew, attracting more farmers and traders from the region, a large inn was built to accommodate travellers overnight.

Shops and houses were built, roads were created for easier access to the village – and soon it was known as the Western Market – Souk el Gharb.

The villages that lie between Aley and Souk El Gharb are Bmakine and the two Ains: Ain el-Sayydé (“Our Lady’s spring”), and Ain el-Rimmané (“The spring of the pomegranate”). South of Souk El Gharb is located the village of Kaifun.

Souk el Gharb was once a popular tourist destination for wealthy Arabs, who built luxurious villas where they spent the summers, escaping the heat and humidity in their own countries.

Famous Places - Souk el Gharb

In the 16 the century, as the village of Souq el Gharb grew, it was decided to build a church – which still stands today. Representatives of the village sought permission from the Orthodox Bishop of Beirut, who provided them with a letter of recommendation addressed to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. After travelling to Instanbul with the letter, permission was granted for the building of the St George Church in Souk el Gharb.

Building of the church attracted more residents to the village as the years went by.

The beautiful views, clean air and cool summers attracted aristocracy from Beirut and Arab countries, as evidenced by many of the architecturally magnificent mansions in the village. Many of these homes have been restored, many are in ruins – but they still provide an invaluable insight into a  bygone era.

Famous Faces - Souk el Gharb

Howard Bliss was born in Souk el Gharb on 6 December, 1860 and received his elementary education in this village. He was the son of Daniel Bliss, founder of the Syrian Protestant College (now American University of Beirut). He followed in his father’s footsteps – graduating from Amherst College, USA, and returned to become the second President of the SPC between 1902 and 1920. With his good relations with the Ottomans, especially Jamal Pasha, he led SPC through the difficult days of WWI. Dr. Howard S. Bliss was among the Lebanese-Syrian delegates to the Paris Peace Conference, on February 6, 1919, and gave a speech on behalf of Lebanon before the Council of Ten.

Rachid Atieh was born in Souk el Gharb in 1875. He was a journalist working in a well-known Lebanese newspaper in Beirut. In the early 20th century, he immigrated to Brazil and landed in Sao Paulo, where he continued to practice his profession as a journalist and founded a newspaper he named “Fata Loubnan” (the young man of Lebanon). A street in São Paulo was named in his honour.

Jamil Murad Baroudy was born in Souk El-Gharb on 8 August, 1905 and studied at the American University of Beirut. He continued his studies in France and the U.K. where he specialized in Middle Eastern Studies. He later befriended King Faiysal Ibn Abdelaziz Saoud. He was appointed Secretary General of the Lebanese Republic at the New York World Fair and later became Emeritus Secretary. Jamil Baroody was made Honorary Citizen of New York City in 1939. In 1943, he joined Princeton University as Professor of Arabic and befriended Dr. Philip Hitti, Professor of History. Baroody was an adviser to Arabic Edition of Reader’s Digest, and a freelance writer on Middle East 1944-1947.  After the end of World War II, in 1945, he joined the Royal Saudi Mission in San Francisco when the United Nations was established. He further signed the Declaration of Human Rights along with another famous Lebanese, Dr. Charles Malik, who headed the Lebanese delegation. He served as the Saudi Ambassador at the U.N. until his death in 1979, when the U.N. flag was lowered for the first time in mourning.

Other famous names include:

Iskander Nicolas Baroudi (1856-1921): Judge, doctor, poet, journalist, historian, social activist, author.

Dr. Raja Hajjar: Chemist and University Professor, born 1928, Dean of The Faculty of Beirut University, Lebanese American University 1983-1993, author.

Abbas Michel Khalaf: Administrative and Political, born 1934, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Life Insurance Company in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Minister of Trade and Economy 1974-1975, Member of the National Dialogue Committee 1975.

Dr. Youssef Iskandar Salameh: Banker, writer, author and thinker. Born 1925, Ph.D. in Political and International Sciences. Founded and managed the Intra Bank in New York until 1967.

Moutran Elijah Saliby (M): Bishop of Orthodoxy, born 1881

From 1929-1936, he was in charge of Metropolitan Beirut and its surroundings. He received seventeen medals in recognition of his religious works and worldly projects.

Dr. Elias Salbi: Director of American Protestant Schools; He founded 27 schools in Mount Lebanon.

Dr. Ghaleb Salbi (1872-1947): Teacher, doctor and musician. Also a poet and educator, he was the head of the British Royal Society.

Najib Mitri Salbi (1870-1935): Chief Medical Doctor of the U.S. Army of the Philippines, Member of the Academy and Legislative Council, Author of “Language of the Moors”.

Rashid Shaheen Attia (1882-1956) – An immigrant journalist, linguist, educator and poet. He traveled to Egypt in 1906. He emigrated to Brazil in 1913 and created the magazine “Modern Novels”, and the newspaper “Social and Literary News”” And “The Boy of Lebanon”.

Samuel Atieh – Head of English Army Intelligence in Egypt.

Elijah Atieh: Deputy Governor of Sudan and friend of Lawrence of Arabia during World War I.

Shaheen Atieh (1825-1913) Linguist, expert in Arabic Literature

Jirgi Shaheen Atieh:  (1883-1945) Poet, writer and journalist, he created a magazine ‘the Observer”.

Nassif Salim Atieh: He obtained a lawyer’s degree from Istanbul in 1905. Board member of Mount Lebanon during the Ottoman era.

Sami Atieh: Journalist, established a newspaper “Hadath”

Edouard Atieh – Director of the Arab Bureau in London.

Dr. Salim Nassif Atieh: First doctor to graduate from American University in 1871, he treated patients for 40 years free of charge. He founded a pharmacy in Souq el Gharb, from which the poor were given medicine free of charge.

Dr. Nohad Akl: University Professor, born 1937, President of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the Lebanese American University, Member of the Executive and Administrative Councils, Member of the American Chemistry Association, and The Lebanese Organization for Scientific Development. Many articles and lectures in analytical chemistry.


History of Souk el Gharb

A short distance from the St George Church in Souk el Gharb church are the remains of a walled fortress.

Archaelogical evidence indicates it was occupied in Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Byzantine times.

The site is said to have been occupied by the Tannoukiehs in the 15th century, the Maans in the 16th century and the Shehabs in the 17th century. It was restored by the Talhouks in the 18th century.

Legend has it that many farmers and fossickers found an abundance of treasures on the site, including gold coins, ancient artifacts, religious icons, etc.

Beyond the fortress, deeper in the valley, are the remains of a deserted village known as Ain Snoon.

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Seat of Learning

Souk El Gharb was famous for housing several important schools and teaching institutions in Lebanon, attracting the best students from all over the country and even abroad.

The School of The Scotsmen, founded by Elias Saliby in 1854, was administered by the Scottish Missionaries. In 1874 it was transferred to Shuweir,  and then to Beirut in 1899.

The Orthodox School was founded in 1852, administered between World War I and II by Habib Mita. After being repeatedly closed during the war, it reopened in 1946 in a new location on the outskirts of the town where Dr. Shaheen Salibi donated a 100,000-square-meter estate to develop the school’s capacity and increase the number of its pupils.

Other schools included: The Souk El Gharb Presbyterian School (alumni include Abraham Rihbany), The Souk El Gharb College of Lebanon, The Souk El Gharb Technical Institute and College, The Souk el Gharb School for English Instruction, and The Souk El Gharb Boarding School for Boys. In addition to these schools, Souk El Gharb also houses the Balamand university.

Picture of Heather & Sami Eljurdi

Heather & Sami Eljurdi

Founders • Archivists • Editors

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