Beiteddine Palace ( also known as Beit ed-Dine) is one of the finest examples of Lebanese architecture and is considered one of Lebanon’s greatest historical treasures. Apart from its elaborate design, the Palace is also famous for hosting the Beiteddine Festival, which is one of the biggest music and art festivals in the Middle East.
The construction of the palace started in 1788 and was built over a thirty-year period of time. It was built by Emir Bashir Shibab II, who wanted to use it as his mansion. Built on a Druze hermitage site called Beiteddine, which means ”House of Faith”, the palace included lush apartments for the emir, a harem, and a guest house often offered to passengers and dignitaries. The Emir gave great importance to the flashiness and beauty and wanted his palace to be unique.
According to rumors, the Emir ordered the hands of the architect to be cut after the palace was completed so that he would not be able to make another palace like this. There are also records stating that the Emir ordered his male subjects to provide two days of free labor to supply the Palace with water.
The emir had an Italian architect design the project. The local traditional style influenced the architectural components of the Beiteddine Palace. The palace also incorporates various traditional elements from Arabic, Damascene, and Italian architecture. It is richly decorated with mosaics, marquetry, and paintings. There is a large collection of pottery from the Bronze and Iron Ages, Roman glass, gold jewelry, ancient and modern weapons, and various other artifacts inside the Palace. The Beittedine Palace is also known as the ”Lebanese Alhambra”. The courtyard was built vast enough to accommodate visitors, receptions, and festivals. The Emir would leave the palace with grandeur and pompousness.
The palace served as the Emir’s residence until 1840. It was used as a government residence under Ottoman rule, became an administrative office under French rule, and was declared a Historic Monument in the 1930s. Since 1943, the palace has been used as the summer residence of the Lebanese Presidents.