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Words Bassam Alkantar

Samara Noureddine says in an interview with Beyond: “Abandoned places have always sent me shivers down my spine and raised numerous questions in my head. In fact, the memories left behind by those forsaken places have intrigued me into venturing and pondering the hostile muddy roads, corroded fences, broken doors, shattered windows, and un-piled-up furniture.”

As a freshly graduated architect, concrete has been Noureddine’s main interest; however, framing the stories behind those vernacularly and traditionally built masterpieces has grown from a hobby to a passion. This passion has been taking her places, places that have been partly vandalized but never forgotten.

Numerous buildings and constructions in Lebanon have been abandoned. Empty hotels, deserted train stations, uninhabited buildings, and other places that were once full of life and people are left as a reminder of what was and what could have been. Beneath all the dust, rust and cracks, there are stories of people who used to live or take their daily train rides there, and when you try to imagine these people and their lives, each picture acquires a special aura of nostalgia. It’s as if the people in these places had just picked up and left.   

For Natalie, venturing in these abandoned places is the closest we get to archeology. Discovering these new places is by far the most fascinating and pleasant experience that we’ve ever had. Before reaching our destinations, millions of thoughts run through our minds when it comes to how the scenery would be and how it will make us feel. Every place that we have visited has left us speechless, turning what was once a hobby into a passion. We are willing to sustain these adventures by creating awareness in people. The energies inside every house and in every location give us an idea about what might have taken place inside.

Here’s a selection of some of the abandoned places around Lebanon, every single one of which has its own special charm. The pictures behind these abandoned places are taken via mobile phone, in the era of transforming mobile phone technology and camera into a pocket studio. 

Beit ISA’AD EL TOUFOULA School
Souk El Gharb – Aley
(photo credit) Samara Noureddine
After the Palestinian Disaster in 1948, the Arab Palestinian Women’s Union was established to help the Palestinians in Lebanon. Subsequently, this committee has greatly influenced the building of the Palestinian School “Beit Isa’d El Toufoula” in Souk Al Gharb.
The school was built in 1965 in Souk Al Gharb (Aley District), overlooking the sea and surrounded by green trees.
In 1982, during the inhumane Israeli attack on Lebanon to destroy its infrastructure, the Palestinian school was brutally bombed.

 

The Forest House
Ainab – Aley
(photo credit) Natalie Noureddine
Located in the middle of a huge forest lies a house of a thousand melodies. The walls that have listened to the melodies that were played on the piano, where little fingerprints are still engraved on the keys, still play the same melodies, only this time, to each other.

 

El Baron Ibrahim Youssef Salman’s House, Ramlieh
Aley
(photo credit) Samara Noureddine
Ibrahim Salman was among the immigrants who left Lebanon to Argentina back in 1915. He worked hard in Argentina, and when he came back to his homeland he was known for being wealthy and generous. The house was built in 1918 on the remains of a semi-existing old house. The family lived the typical bourgeois (middle-class) family life.

 

Silk Mill
Kfarmatta – Aley
(photo credit) Samara Noureddine
During the reign of Prince Fakher Eddine, the town of Kfarmatta (Aley District) prospered with the cultivation of berries and silkworms.
The silk mill was one of the biggest mills in Lebanon, well- designed and fully equipped. It operated until 1964.
However, during the civil war, the silk mill was used a military barracks and severe armed conflicts took place in the town, which led to the destruction of the mill and it red-bricked roof.

 

Kasir Al Bajaa
Ainab – Aley
(photo credit) Natalie Noureddine
From its name, we can just imagine how huge this castle is! This castle has over 80 heirs who most probably don’t know about it. It is located in the heart of Ainab far from the main road and it is planted between yards and yards of acorn trees. This image represents what I like to call a door-ception; it is a representation of a frame within a frame. These doors leading to beautifully carved rooms have been modified by some retouches from nature.

 

Grand Hotel
Sawfar – Aley
(photo credit) Samara Noureddine
Directly, opposite the train station, the center of attraction was built by the Sursocks the Sawfar Grand Hotel. The preliminary architectural work started in 1840 and the hotel opened its door to greet its guests in 1890. Ever since its opening, this legendary hotel attracted the highest class of society, as well as the elite of gamblers until it was forced to shut down because of the civil war in 1975. This picture represents the lonely elevator that has withstood the silent days and the harshness of those winter nights. Rust has eaten its doors, vandalism has shattered its glass, and fissures have appeared in its fierce walls.

 

Train Station
Shweit – Aley
(photo credit) Natalie Noureddine
Early in 1995, the last train journey between Beirut and Shakka took place.
As for today, Lebanon only has a small number of trains, including 30 in Rayak, six trains at the Mar Mikhael West station and in Tripoli, and one in Saadnayel.
The port of Beirut train station and the stations in Zahle were destroyed and demolished, while the stations of Mar Mikhael, Khan al-Shabab, Baabda, Shweit, Sawfar, Dahr al-Baidar, Maryjat, and Yihfofa were preserved.

 

Grand Hotel
Sawfar – Aley
(photo credit) Samara Noureddine
The sink still stands where everything around it has fallen! Years after the harsh history of Lebanon’s civil war, this old bathroom remains as one of the most untouched symbols in one of the rooms of the hotel. These are hotels that greeted guests and a bathroom that overheard the laughs and love of couples and the sobs of strangers in the silent and lonely nights of their lives.

 

Water Mill
Merdashieh – Zgharta
(photo credit) Samara Noureddine
Until recently, the ancient water mill, which belonged to the Antonine Maronite Monastic Order, was still in good shape and functioning properly, with people rushing there eagerly to grind their wheat crops into flour.
The large massive grinding stones were still spinning and performing their tasks to the fullest, drawing it water from the rumbling river of Rash’een.
However, in 1995, the spinning stones stopped spinning and in 2005 the water mill’s doors were closed to its hard-working villagers after its main function changed.

 

Water Mill
Ain Zhalta – Chouf
(photo credit) Samara Noureddine
The ancient water mill has been sadly neglected after it was lastly run by the eighty-year-old Kezhaya Tanious Abed El Salib from the neighboring town of Mrayjat.
The mill is about 200 years old. It was used by the villagers and the neighboring towns to grind the wheat to make flour, and it was powered by water coming from the spring of Nabeh El Safa. Adjacent to the mill lied an olive press; however, it was destroyed my man’s greed.