palace of the Emir Youssef Chehab
today houses DeirElQamar’s Municipal Council.
was built in two phases and was
finally completed by the Emir Melhem Chehab and was the seat of local government
during the 18th century.
this palace also witnessed many assassinations and massacres. The Emir Youssef
disposed of many of his adversaries here, and finally in 1860 the Christians
were herded inside and slaughtered by the hundreds and their bodies were thrown
out of the windows.
Before its destruction by the Ottomans, the lower floor designed in the Maan style, was the palace of the Emir Fakhreddine 1st. It later became the first soap factory in Lebanon and then was turned into a factory to dye silks and cotton. Yet later during the Chehabist era, it became a stable. Then between 1943 and 1976 this floor was transformed into a state prison.
The upper floor was built by the Emir Melhem Chehab (1729-1752) and later completed by his son the Emir Youssef Chehab (1770-1789). It was the residence of the Emir Bechir II Chehab until 1810 (1794-1840).
This edifice built in the “Khan” style, is composed of several vaulted halls covered by terraces and which look out over a vast open courtyard.
You enter via a beautiful monumental portico decorated with two lions (one on either side), symbols of the Chehab dynasty. Here again as a security measure, after passing through the guards' room you must take a 90º turn to enter the main courtyard.
Opposite the entrance, on the western side of the courtyard, is a liwan with a beautiful arched roof and an elegant and symmetrical “mandaloun” or bay window.
On the south side of the courtyard one cannot help but admire the main room that is domed.
The perfection of this pendant decorated dome and the perfection of its execution lead us to consider that it is one of the finest still in existence in Lebanon. Please note the small windows all around the dome which serve to light up the room.
Facing the valley is a very attractive kiosk made of polychrome wood paneling. This calm and secluded area may have served as a haven for meditation for the Emir. Within this domed edifice one also finds the most delicate mosaic decorated arches and windows.
you return to the courtyard, notice the semi-circular steps in “bouzennar”
stone at the entrance of each room together with the rich variety of decorations
on the supporting beams over each doorway. These steps and beams and the
decorations they bear signify the importance of the occupant of each room.
the eastern side are two small rooms decorated magnificently in wood and painted
with geometric and floral patterns. The room on the right has a chimney where
the mantelpiece is decorated and sculpted with stalactites. Small alcoves allow
visitors to place their slippers in them or perhaps hold an oil lamp.
The architecture of the Seraglio is a typical example of equilibrium and harmony. The sobriety of the construction and the elegance of the decoration are never unbalanced.
Now let us leave the main square and head down towards a very attractive quarter known as the church quarter where we find the fountain named mother of Nicolas or Oum Nicolas.