Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Town of Beit-Chabab

The Town (a century ago): Currently, simply hometown Beit-Chabab (Lebanon)

Home-town of Beit-Chabab Al Day3a): Time and circumstances were not friendly

Many years ago, Beit-Chabab was called The Town (al Day3a) by over a dozen villages in a 7- kilometer radius, and for a great reason: It was the town that offered almost everything to trade that people at the period needed and wanted.

People from the surrounding villages converged to The Town for trading, buying excellent home-made manufactured products, and contracting out for skilled artisans in ironwork, carpentry, civil work, stone cutting, roof fixing…

The Town was famous for its clothing fabrics, particularly silk-work, home produced from start (silk-worm…) to finish: almost every family had its weaving equipment.  Families: working a couple of hours or 20 hours a day. The city of Lyon (France) relied on the silk production of The Town for its manufactures…

The Town was also famous for its fabrication of church bells, exported around the world, and pottery of every kinds like for saving olive oil, dried fruits, lard, fatty mincemeat…every kind of container needed for the winter season…

The Town produced all kinds of vegetables and fruits, and sent forth caravans to fetching cereals, wheat…from Syria and the Bekaa Valley…

And WWI hit the country and people died of famine and endured the harshest period during three years: Many had to exchange their lands for a loaf of bread.  The Ottoman Empire had sided with Germany and needed food and conscripts for its front in Suez against the English…

By the time the war was over, The Town tried to make a comeback, but a third of the surviving  inhabitants had immigrated to Africa, joining extended family members who had started their own trading businesses…

Late author Amine Rihani (born in the nearby village of Freikeh, see note 2) described my hometown eight decades ago.  Apparently time and circumstances were not friendly with The Town: “Beit Chabab is a striking beautiful town of green land, white stone houses, red tiled roofs…The lower location is at 600 meters altitude and the highest at 750. A town is important for what it produces, and I wonder why the people in Beit-Chabab insist on calling their town The Town. Beit Chabab had a history of production and skilled men and women, but the skilled people are no longer there….”

The people of The Town were self-sufficient peasants and skilled artisans, and they were hidden kings on their own right.  Currently, the inhabitants have retained a huge misplaced sense of dignity: They have to import everything and purchase almost everything from the neighbouring village shops…

The former The Town is supposed to be the next biggest town in number of voters (after Baskinta), but it never managed to put forth a single candidate for the parliament. All the successive governments since 1943 never considered a single one from The Town as minister…

The municipality is of 24-member, but no one really think that he has a job to do.  The Mayor was elected for two terms without much fight, and before the third election he disseminated the good news that he is bored and tired.  Come election time, the Mayor changed his mind and spent $700,000 to bribe voters, entire chattel families…   How do you  think the mayor will recoup his expenditure?

It turns out that the municipality may not report projects costing over $7,000 to the ministry of the interior: Most of the projects are basically reworking the walls by the road, even if not needed…The mayor charge for the civil work equipment he has for the various jobs…

The dozen villages have grown many folds in residents: The Town has no policy of renting homes, and it has no high-rises…No restaurants, no movie theaters, no centers for youth to meet…Nothing.  Beautiful sleeping town.

Funny, a student doing a thesis on Beit-Chabab had to select his topic on the 14 churches, every family clan having its own church.  The only money “invested” is on remodeling the church and building an extension “salon” for people to gather to offering condolence to the dead.

Note 1

Note 2: Amine Rihani was born in 1876 in the village of Frikeh (Lebanon) and immigrated to the USA and settled in New York, and toured all of Lebanon on donkeys, the Arabic peninsula and most of the Arabic World, visited with the leaders and reported on the conditions. Among his works are: “Khaled”, “Heart of Lebanon”, “East and West public figures”, “You, the poet”…




March 2023

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