Al Kassouf is an iconic grand hotel in Shweir, Lebanon. This structure dates back to the 1930s, but unfortunately, it was severely damaged during the Civil War. Still, the hotel is a reminder of the economic boom that seemed to define Lebanon before the struggles and horror of the Civil War. This was a high-profile place that hosted many international patrons. These included several celebrities from all over the world, not to mention royals, presidents, and many more. Al Kassouf was also well-known throughout the country because it was home to the very first “Miss Lebanon” beauty pageant, which took place in 1935.
Many surviving photographs from the 1930s to the 1960s still stand as a testament to the incredible beauty of the hotel. Al Kassouf continued to prosper and became a sought-after destination until everything abruptly stopped when the war broke out.
One of the peculiarities of the Civil War is that it has very little to do with orthodox military strategy. The fighting is usually more chaotic and spread out, potentially resulting in far more damaging consequences for the territory. It is mostly about different factions taking advantage of whatever local resource they might find. This also includes taking possession of local buildings, which were used as shelters or high towers for snipers, for example. Fighting took place in many of the country’s major cities. Some of the most prominent buildings, including large facilities such as banks and hotels, experienced the most destruction. Their vulnerability was due to their central role in the fighting efforts. This also happened to be the case with Al Kassouf, which was located in a mountains region.
While admiring the ruins of Al Kassouf, it is still possible to marvel at the fine details of the building’s craftsmanship. The overall structure is still there, although damage from ammunition and explosives is visible. Rainfall can seamlessly creep into the building, causing progressive infiltration and water damage. Weeds and other vegetation managed to make their way through as well. However, some of the beautifully decorated floor tiles are still in decent shape and offer a glimpse of just how beautiful and pristine the lobby in the front was.
One of the most unique and amazing features of Lebanon’s historical buildings is the diverse influence behind the local architectural trends. This hotel is a perfect example of how Arabic influences merge seamlessly with Mediterranean and Mittel-European styles. This led to a very luxurious elegant look that persists despite the state of decay that visitors concurrently experience when visiting this location. What makes the view even more special is the surrounding nature, defined by beautiful mountain landscapes, pine trees, and lush vegetation.
Today, many activists and organizations are trying to recover some of the buildings damaged in the war. Many consider places like Al Kassouf to be victims of cultural terrorism, as well as government neglect. While it is quite difficult to prompt action, it is still great to see groups trying to raise awareness on this issue.
This could be a step forward in bringing attention to what is left of the important cultural and historical heritage of Lebanon so that it might be re-assessed and hopefully preserved for future generations. In addition, Al Kassouf is worth trying to preserve because the building represents a very important symbol of national heritage and the connection between various generations of immigrants and emigrants, making Lebanon vibrant and diverse throughout the decades. This inclusiveness is exactly what the world needs right now, and it’s a refreshingly sharp contrast with the controversy that fueled the war in the first place.
More photos can be found below: