Beirut is most definitely one of the most fascinating cities in the world when it comes to abandoned buildings and forgotten places. The country, and in particular its capital, have gone through a lot in recent times. Not only has the city been the active theater of urban civil war, but it also endured several occurrences, including a recent explosion that contributed to the destruction and further decay of many historical buildings.


Room on the top floor with classic triple arches

The famed Tabbal Building in Beirut happens to be one of these aforementioned historical places, which is deeply rooted in the city’s history and its ups and downs throughout the decades. The Tabbal Building came to life as a lavish luxury residence, and its first floor was completed in the late 19th century. This period is considered the beginning of a wave of great economic growth for the country. This wave of expansion culminated in the 20s with the growth of the port of Beirut. The area became a very important trading post in the Middle East and the Mediterranean at the time. More importantly, it was a crossroad of so many different cultures and influences, highlighting Lebanon’s standing as one of the new entrants in the world’s fast-growing economic powers of the day.


Outdoor hallway

A place like the Tabbal building still serves as a perfect reminder of the era’s blend of European and Arabic influences, highlighting Lebanon’s unique social and cultural landscape. The central hall has a majestic outlook, adorned by three arches and even outfitted with a private garden.

The home was owned by Selim Tabbal and his wife, Victoria El Tawil, who relocated to the building shortly after their wedding. They continued to expand the residence, eventually moving to the upper floor, and renting out the ground floor to another couple, Jean and Alfred Chehadeh, who stayed in the building for many years (up until their deaths, before the civil war era). Following the demise of the Chehadeh brothers, the building’s ground floor remained vacant pretty much until renovations finally took place in 1997.

Over the past few years, the ground floor became home to a few restaurant businesses, which altered the premises in different ways while still retaining the original columns, ceilings, and marble floors, making the building so distinctive and iconic. Following the Tabbal family, the building’s first floor became home to Emile Hanna Daher and his family, including daughter Samira. She went on to become the first female ambassador of Lebanon and the first woman to work as an ambassador in Japan, when she represented her country there. As mentioned previously, the recent explosion in Beirut damaged many local buildings, including this one, which became exposed to weathering following the blast.


Old televisions gathered in one of the many rooms


Dining room

By the mid-1930s, the Tabbal family also added a third floor to the building in the style of the previous floors in terms of decor and layout. This floor is particularly notable because of how Ottoman and Islamic architectural styles merge, making for an eclectic and luxurious twist. George Tabbal, Selim’s youngest and only son, lived in the apartment until the 2020 blast – his only home for nearly the whole 90 years of his life. In the aftermath of the explosion, George Tabbal couldn’t bring himself to return to his former home and see such a special place with so many personal memories in a degraded state.

Today, artists and local organizations are trying to raise awareness on buildings like the Tabbal Home. Hundreds of historical residences and notable sites have been affected by the 2020 Port Blast, leaving people displaced and leading to the loss of more than a hundred years of historically important artifacts and architectural excellence.

Special thanks to Silat for culture and my partner the Heritage Management Organization for making this visit to the Tabbal Building in Beirut possible.

More photos can be found below: