Adonis Diaries

The Maitre Phares Zoghbi Library: Kornet Chehwan

Posted on: May 2, 2009

The Cultural Foundation of Maitre Phares Zoghbi: Kornet Chehwan, Lebanon (May 1, 2009)

I used to be, and still are, a frequent visitor to the Phares Zoghbi’s library in Kornet Chehwan.  I currently patronize it almost 5 days a week.

Once, I missed a day and Maitre Zoghbi called me home: he was worried that I might be sick.

Maitre Zoghbi turned over the library to the University of Saint Joseph (the Law Department) for management as long as the library is domiciled at his house. Many lawyers and judges pay visits the library for sources of references that are unavailable in other libraries and universities.

I once overheard Maitre Phares asking Rita Zoghbi, the resident manager, about the final count on the books in his library and she replied: “I think we reached over 50,000 manuscripts and counting”.

Fresh news books in French and Arabic are purchased on weekly basis and Maitre Zoghby used to enjoy touring the various commercial libraries for selection.  Recently, Maitre Zoghby was inspired to add magazines; he is paying for them. The University pays the tab for the new acquisition of books.

With this encouraging environment I am cranking up on average three articles every couple of days and publishing them on the internet that the library has connected to, a few months ago.

I enjoy having a smoke in the garden and picking up a rose or a flower and insert it in my lapel hole.

When Layal Kanaan spent a month in the library (she sits in a large room and I in another) to write her dissertation on French linguistics among the Lebanese I used to bring her an assortment of flowers.  She later told me that she prefers flowers to die in the garden.

It didn’t make much difference to me: I love to see everyone I encounter wearing a flower, a kind of “movable feast” for the eyes and morale proving nature’s eminent glory, beauty, and versatility.

I asked Rita about books that Maitre Zoghbi has published and she gave me two for free, both written in French: “Liban: le salut par la culture” and “A livres ouverts, une vie de souvenirs“, a biographical book.

I had posted this book review on my blog Adonis49.wordpress.com.

Maitre Zoghbi was the lawyer of the Lebanese daily Al Nahar (The Day) and of the Casino of Lebanon.

In every trip outside Lebanon, it was the libraries that were his favorite hangout and books were shipped to his library/house.  Maitre Zoghbi financially aids several local “non-profit” institutions related to health and learning.

Rita is managing the library and taking good care of Maitre Zoghbi.  She arranges for his meetings, communications, translating his occasional illegible hand writing, preparing Turkish coffee for visitors, his appointments to physicians, and calling for taxis (Maitre Zoghbi never learned to drive and he would never miss an occasion to personally offer his condolences to a dear departed).

Occasionally, Rita organizes study groups on authors and philosophers once a month; she invites neighboring schools to check out the library and have special classes.

Maitre Zoghbi prefers to meet with his visitors among his books. As I enter he is already busy inserting “book marks” (that Rita had cut out and prepared for him) in every page he flips, just feeling the need to insert paper book marks.

Maitre Zoghbi is proud that he celebrated his 93 rd birthday this March. He is still relatively functional in walking and reading. Once, he had to climb an incline of a route around the house and it had rained; he was utterly exhausted and scared as he slipped several times; I found him walking by the wall as I parked and gave him my arm.

I horde an oversize room, well heated and well lighted.  I keep a dozen books on the conference table. That should keep the impression that Lebanese adore reading.

Rita shares with me cookies that go with coffee or sections of any fresh sandwiches that she receives. Sometimes I don’t feel hungry at lunch time when I go home.

The library closes when the University is officially closed, which cramps my style and habits.

Once, my sister gave me ride because of car problems. The library was closed and I had the opportunity of investigating drivers’ charity level. I walked half the distance before someone stopped for me.

It shouldn’t be more than a 2-kilometer trip from my home, and if my experience with hitchhiking is satisfactory then I will sell my old car.

For $20 a year you own a kingdom of learning and an oasis of peace and tranquility.

You can find huge volumes of artistic manuscripts for all kinds of famous painters and photographers.  Good reading.

Note 1: I have since sold my car and walk to the library carrying a school backpack. On rare occasions I am lucky with a driver stopping to pick me up.

Note 2: Last year, the library closed as Rita got busy with her own business “Baby Step“. This March 2014, the library re-opened officially and Maha can help you with your search. Opened from 8:30 to 4 pm Monday thru Friday, and Saturday from 9 to 3 pm.

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