Lebanon’s silk legacy
Surrounded by olive groves and a large garden of mulberry trees, wild lavender and grape vines, is a beautiful old stone building that dates back to around 1890. Located in Bsous, the former silk factory is a remnant of another time, when silk production was one of Lebanon’s major trades during the 19th century and silk factories were dotted all over the country. Today, it is a museum that sheds light on the significance of Lebanon’s past silk trade and the process of creating silk.
THE MUSEUM’S FOUNDATION
The museum was founded by husband and wife George and Alexandra Asseily. George’s family company Domtex was one of the
largest textile businesses in Lebanon during the ‘60s, producing and selling sheets, blankets, towels and all bed and bathroom textiles and exporting around the world, so it was a natural interest in textiles that led to the museum’s foundation.
During the 1970s, George and Alexandra spent time in Europe visiting silk museums, which sparked a discovery of the importance of Lebanon’s former silk industry. “Silk used to constitute 45 percent of the GDP of Mount Lebanon, with 175 factories producing silk yarn in Lebanon, mostly for export. When I discovered that, I thought my God; we must have a museum where we can show how silk
is produced and how important the industry was in Lebanon,” Asseily says from his office in Sanayeh. Upon returning to Lebanon they set up the NGO the Association of Memory and Development (AMED), with some friends, and began transforming the silk factory into a museum in which to organize exhibitions and educate on silk production.
LEBANON’S IMPORTANT SILK INDUSTRY
The Silk Museum reveals the importance of the silk industry and trade on Lebanon’s past economy to visitors, having its impact even on the city’s urban planning and social development. “Because of silk, Beirut Port had to be extended to allow big ships to come into the ship yard. Then the first bank