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Photographing the Villa of Yousef Beidas

Yousef Beidas’s Villa is one of the most interesting abandoned landmarks in Lebanon. Still, in order to see why, it is necessary to take a step back and focus on this individual, and his rather one-of-a-kind arc from astonishing riches, to virtual obscurity. Beidas was a very prominent figure in Beirut and in Lebanon in general. He was a wealthy and influential banker common with Palestinian roots. Beidas was particularly well known as the founder and chairman of one of Lebanon’s largest banks, Intra Bank. In the 60s, the country was experiencing an upswing in terms of financial prosperity. The future was bright, and many people considered Lebanon as one of the most prosperous and promising countries in the Middle East.

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Overlooking the beautiful Lebanese landscape.

Beidas was an example of what it meant to experience success in this environment. His experience encouraged many others to follow in his footsteps and even for investors to try that on the local economy. However, things took a much different and sudden turn because of the Civil War, which suddenly came about in the 70s and ravaged the country and its economy on and off for many decades afterward. However, Intra Bank didn’t directly collapse due to the civil war: in fact, the collapse was a bit earlier, dating back to the late 60s. The reasons why are still unclear to this day, with many historians quoting various reasons, including hostility for Beidas, being a Palestinian immigrant. Apparently, it did not sit well for many local financers and industrialists that a foreigner had almost a total monopoly over the Lebanese economy at the time.

Even though Beidas was able to build a $500 million empire, the bank started to lose assets quite quickly. Later, many financial irregularities were actually discovered, such as top bank officials (including Beidas himself) using bank funds to secure personal loans for themselves and their associates. There are still many theories surrounding the sudden and puzzling collapse of such an enormous financial institution. Some people suspected that competitors, such as the West or Saudi Arabia, were behind the demise of the bank as well. Many observers also consider this financial fall as one of the leading causes of the instability that led to the Civil War scenario in Lebanon.

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The villa has many interesting architectural features.
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Staircase.

At the end of the ordeal, there was nothing left for Beidas but to experience an extraordinary fall from Grace. He hastily fled to Switzerland in 1966, where he died of illness only two years later, probably due to the extreme strain and stress. His wife and children try to recover some of the family’s wealth and assets but to no avail. Beidas’s villa in Bhamdoun, Lebanon, was an example of some of the most beautiful and luxurious residences in the country, but it quickly fell into disrepair. Yousef Beidas’s Villa had a modernist look to it, with forward-thinking architectural appointments typical of pre-civil war Lebanon.

The expensive features have been ruined by weathering and swallowed by vegetation, so much so that the exteriors might remind of an old military installation rather than a luxury property by this point! Although the building was not damaged by war activities, it still experienced a steady decline. The bare concrete feels as gray and dim as Intra Bank’s collapse, a bad omen that sadly served as a premonition of Lebanon’s own fall. The country, which was once called “The Switzerland of the Middle East,” took a sharp turn towards a completely different reputation and headed towards a path of social and economic instability that still plagues the legacy of the country to this day.

2 Comments

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Marwan Youssef Beidasreply
July 12, 2022 at 4:35 am

Thank you for taking these photographs. The family spent just one summer 1963 in that beautiful villa in Dhour el Abadieh half way between Aley and Bhamdoun. I was 15 years old then. I enjoyed every moment spent in that villa. It was designed by an innovative architect whose name slips my memory. My late father was near the peak of his banking career that was destroyed in 1966 by the then president of Lebanon Charles Helou and his fellow corrupt political friends. There is a play in the Beirut Art Centre theatre that will run until July 16, 2022 entitled who killed Youssef Beidas. 56 years after the “murder” of Intra Bank, as Sheikh Najib Alamuddin put it in his book “The Flying Sheikh” published by Quartet books in London in 1987 and 54 years after my late genius father died this generation of Lebanese still look back to the golden years of 1950s up to 1966.

Roman Robroekreply
July 12, 2022 at 2:12 pm
– In reply to: Marwan Youssef Beidas

Thanks for sharing! Wow!

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