Le­banon’s silk legacy

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

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 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.


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

Photo: Can­vas Mag­a­zine

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