1922 Guide Book of Shweir


1922 Shweir Guidebook

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Shweir Gathering


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Ain al Sarfed 


We are grateful to 
Rosalie Adib Touma Sawaya El Khoury from Sao Paolo, Brazil 
for saving and making this treasure of a book available to us and to 
Hilda Sawaya in Tennessee, USA 
for her translating the book in such an informative and detailed manner
Thank you Rosalie and Thank you Hilda

A Traveler's Guide....

Posted by Hilda on November 04, 2000 at 21:49:11:

Today I had the pleasure of leafing through and reading some sections of the tourist guide of Shweir that was published in 1922. The copy of the guide came to me from Anwar in California who received a copy of it from Rosalie who has had it with her in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It was very interesting. It amazes me that our forefathers had the insight into the land, the climate and the beauty of both as they marketed it as such to the Egyptians, Syrians and Iraqis as early as 1922. In their marketing they talked about the healthy attributes of the moderate dry weather in the summer encouraging all who have means to come to benefit from the healthful effects of summers in Lebanon. They emphasized the fact that there is no language barrier for people from the surrounding countries to adjust to should they choose to come to Shweir for their summers as opposed to going to Europe.

It was noted that Dhour el Shweir had obtained telegraph services to help keep the guests connected to their homes and work and they boasted daily mail service to shweir!

They spoke of the woods and the way the pines as well as other trees help produce the oxygen that we need for a healthful living. They spoke of the availability of water from the springs. They restricted the hunting of small birds for they recognized both their beauty as well as their importance in keeping the environment free of pests and other small insects. They were against carrying of arms unless one has a permit. They were attuned to the needs of their guests so they made every effort to make their guests feel welcome, at home and safe. And should any one fall ill, Shweir had four medical doctors...

They knew that people who came once will try to come again and will bring their friends too...

The guide is very informative. It tells of distances between towns and how to gain access to each town/ resort. There were some paved roads, but there were roads that were only trodden on the back of "beasts"...By the way those days it took two hours by car from Beirut to Dhour ...

The guide had ads for a popular car then as well as restaurants, furniture stores etc.

It has some history about the Shweir, its people and the surrounding areas too and that is so interesting as well. I thought I would translate parts of it for everybody to read but it is not that easy.

It fascinates how much I learnt about Shweir, the people and myself after this site came to being.
I can only suggest publishing some selected pages of it on the web. It will definitely enrich and give meaning to the lives of the many of the shweirieh who visit this site...whether at home or scattered all around the world...

...Incidentally, when the book was published, they had a count of the shweirieh who lived in the town and they tried to keep track of those who emigrated to the Americas, and the rest of the world...Its is just fascinating...

Thank you Rosalie and Anwar... 

Shweir of 1922

Posted by Hilda on November 05, 2000 at 09:11:32:

Much as I try not to think of the Shweir-Rosalie-Anwar "time capsule", I find myself gravitating back to it.

Hence to relief my obsession with this find, I will try to translate -to the best of my ability -sections of the book to share...

It is worth noting that the Shweirie people did the work on the guide, but they did not restrict their discussion to Shweir only. They included in it information to help guide the tourist through out the Matin region. They believed that people who were to visit were interested in what the whole area has to offer, so in it there is discussion of the other known summer resorts in Matin, how to get there and what to expect. So it makes me proud to know that the Shweirieh were the leaders in that effort...

In the following is the translation of description of Shweir and surrounding areas as depicted by the author:

"the Shweir district is an elevated area in the Matin with an average altitude of 1000 meters above sea level. It lies 26 km away from Beirut and is 29km far from Zahle'. On its east and north, shweir borders ( the district of)Baskinta, from the west it borders the (district of) al-kate'ha and to the south it borders the (al matin alshimali) north matin.
Shweir district -Nahiah-consists of Shweir, Dhour, Khinsharah, Btigreen and Al-jwar. Its area is 810 Drahim as per the survey of 1860. In the last census count, its population was 2650 residents and 960 émigrés. However the count of the émigrés is not accurate having failed to account for the people whose whereabouts were not known and also due the lack of information about the descendants of some.

"Industry" (as in craft or profession):

The shweiries and some of their neighbors, travel to various states in Syria building houses. Some of the people from al-jwar and Khinshara work on the plumbing. They are all descendants of the Samaha family that became known for their talent in this field.

Industrial plants ( maamel):

to date there are three Tobacco plants: two in Shweir and are owned by Simaan Sawaya and sons and the third in Khinshara owned by Hanna Kasouf and brothers.

There are six factories to produce silk, one in shweir, three in Khinshara, one in btegreen and one in al-jwar.

Agriculture/ woods:

there are no grains grown in the area. However the trees are:

Pine: found in abundance and of good quality but the pines are neglected. But to educate the populace about the pines a group of experts were brought in, they took care of the needs of large wooded areas and showed the locals how to best take care of the pines and harvest them. The harvest of pine nuts will be plentiful.

Black berry trees (tout):

Little, and neglected. The silk yield prior to the war (( I assume WWI) was 7000 ika (?1 ika=200grm)but the volume of silk has dropped to 500 (Ika) after the war.


Enough to produce grapes for the populace, with a little extra to make molasses and wine.

Ain al-Sindianeh: Its is area is small/narrow and its agriculture is similar to that of shweir.

Btegreen: by far the largest of the surrounding towns, and its produce is plentiful. Grains are grown but not in sufficient amounts for popular consumption. Prior to the war silk produced totaled 9500 (ika), but now it produces 2000 (ika). Grape harvest totals 200 (kintars) and is made into wine and molasses sold in the vicinity and the land. Its wood is harvested made into charcoal and sold in the surrounding areas.

Al Khinshara; no grains are grown and produce is little. silk produced prior to war was 5000(ika) that too dropped to 1500(ika. Its vineyards produce 600 kintars of grapes most of which is made into wine and molasses and sold in the country.

Al-Jwar: Endowed with good soil for growing wheat, lentils chickpeas and " KRISNEH". Its area is 36 (dirham). the silk produced is 600(ika) and grapes harvested are 200 kintars.

The towns are rich in trees (Sindian, Ballout and Bitim etc.)

The water: the area is not noted for its strong flowing springs but it boasts smaller springs that is sufficient for the local use by people for their personal needs and for agriculture purposes.

Metals: iron ors are found in Bitigreen, however the lack of "fuel" hindered the extraction of its iron.


In Shweir there are two schools, run by American missionaries one is an elementary school while the other is a secondary school.

The convent schools run by the nuns of the sacred heart are also two; one for boys and another for the girls.

Betgreen has two schools one run by the Catholics and another run by the Greek orthodox (Mitranieh)

A school for the clergy is run in the monastery of Mar Yohanna. This school accepts students from the populace.

Trade:  Shweir boasts a souk brimming with different kinds of cloth and house wares. The souk attracts people from surrounding towns. If people were to use new trade techniques, the trade as a business will flourish in Shweir.

However the most important "capital" of all is the God given beauty of the land that was given to us free (by God). This capital will provide the jobs for the doctors, pharmacists, farmers, property owners and laborers of the area.

this trade can be profitable if we expound on the our abilities to attract the capital and the people from the surrounding countries...."

I will end this now ... to be continued later..

"trees that communicate..."

Posted by Hilda on November 05, 2000 at 20:27:09:

Following is a translation( to the best I can) of an essay by Amin Reehani as it appeared in the guide to Shweir in 1922:

"The woods of California in the USA boast trees that are more ancient and grand than the cedars of Lebanon. The (redwood) trees are big enough to allow a tunnel to run through the tree trunk large enough for carriages to go through; now that is a sign of the trees' greatness. As to the age of the redwoods, there is evidence of fossilized trunks that speak of the age of these trees. The California trees are surely one of the wonders of the world. However the redwoods are gigantic structures that are at once blind and mute...

They are ancient, yet they tell of neither story nor history. The redwoods provided shade to the wild of beings, that have neither the thought nor the feeling...The redwoods are celebrated however by the scientist that studied them and the tourists that visit them...

The Cedars on the other hand like the other pious trees of the Hindus and Muslims (AL-cider) have an aura of greatness that by far exceeds their visible beauty and grandeur. The voice of the cedars echoes through life till eternity. Cedars speak of clandestine history and of the human spirits' secrets.

So wherein lies the religiosity of the cedars that bestows onto the trees their grandeur and beauty?

Is it in vain that man blends something of himself and of his dreams with the soil, sun, water and air?

And if that is the case, then what is that dream that whispers to me the voice of King of Jerusalem through the ruffling of the cedars' branches? What is the secret union between the spirit of the trees and the religious devotees? I intend no vagueness in my speech ...I imagine that with every seed that a human hand has planted and that grew into a tree there was a core of faith and a drop of love that was entrenched with the seed. Love and faith grew together with the branches, flowers and fruits to rise as incense. Absence the love and faith results in rotting and death .

Love is eternal, and so are the cedars. prophets and poets praised them hence they loved them. And as the proffits remain immortal, the cedars that they praised remain so too...The cedars of Lebanon speak immortally of the secrets of nature and life. As such in the cedars there is the divine, the human spirit as well as nature."

Thanks for the Great Translation

Posted by George Matar on November 06, 2000 at 08:12:06:

In Reply to: "trees that communicate..." posted by Hilda on November 05, 2000 at 20:27:09:

Thank you for taking the time to translate several section of the "Shweir 1922" guide book. As usual you have done a great job at it. As a matter of fact you have done me personally a great favor when you wrote these few last articles.
Reason 1. I have been real busy at work, home and at the beach cabin which I bought in partnership with my brother Nabil. I honestly have not had the chance to sit down and read the copy of the book that Anwar has sent me.
Reason 2. I am so ashamed to say that my Arabic has deteriorated so much that it is a little hard for me sometimes to comprehend what I am reading.
I am so sure that there are many others like me that appreciated the translation.
Amal & Najib came by the Cabin on Saturday, we had lunch together....Amal really loves you, they are planning to visit you soon. 

Re: Shweir of 1922

Posted by mona on November 05, 2000 at 17:29:01:

In Reply to: Shweir of 1922 posted by Hilda on November 05, 2000 at 09:11:32:

I guess history repeats itself. The neglected trees and bringing experts to educate is parallel to what is happening now with the new generation.

No industry or resources to speak of persists.

Imagination, and innovation, however seemed to have made up for it.

Butun trees, now that brings memories of SSS, where the best desert during lunch break was to eat ALAHEEN albutun and immediately after swallowing the butum, drink water, and did it ever taste so sweet in the mouth. I used to be the champ in picking up the most tender alhoon,or the most ripe butum grapes (they did look like mini grapes). I wonder if the tree next to the SHEER is still there.

I am still wondering if there is still a MAHLEESEH left in the area. If there is could somebody let me know where.

If there are any pictures from the brochure, please scan them, it will be nice to see how the area looked liked in 1922

Re: Shweir of 1922

Posted by Hilda on November 05, 2000 at 18:03:17:

In Reply to: Re: Shweir of 1922 posted by mona on November 05, 2000 at 17:29:01:

Mona, the pictures in the book are not clear at all. These photos are in black and white originally and the copy I have is just a copy of the original...

Summers at summer resorts...

Posted by Hilda on November 06, 2000 at 15:45:23:

Following is a translation of an article by Dr. Habib Hamam on the health benefits of spending summers in summer resorts: ( As-Sayf wa al-istyaff)

Summer resorts are lands that are rich with spring waters, mild climates and blue skies...the place that people resort to from the heat of summers elsewhere to restore their health and well-being. The best resorts are those that are endowed with beautiful scenery and lots of evergreen woods.

Such are the characteristics of the summer resorts of Lebanon, for irrespective of its location in the mountains of Lebanon, the result is the same magnificent natural beauty amidst the evergreen forests of pines and cedars (and al -Arra'ar).

These trees are of utmost value when it comes to making the air clean and free from germs and molds. Trees are important by virtue of the fact that they produce oxygen and ozone.

The ozone has an amazing power in "purifying" the air, a power that exceeds the importance of oxygen. Ozone is produced in the electrical fields that surround the tree needles and leaves and it is expelled in the air. The production of Ozone is enhanced by the spine shaped needles of the trees and the glue/ incense material that exudes from the trees helps in that production as the later is capable of conducting the electric currents from the trees to the ground. In a sense the pine needles act as a lightening rod to deflect the electric currents from the tip of the trees to the ground via the gluey sap that is abundant on the evergreen trees.

The Lebanese resorts offer benefits to the people with respiratory ailments and rheumatic disorders as they offer dry summers with low humidity. Some spring water is rich in iron minerals that has benefits to those who suffer from indigestion and lack of appetite. Yet some other water springs are known for their alkaloid minerals and that helps people with hyperacidity in the stomach.

Another important health benefit for the summer resorts in Lebanon is the presence of dark soil that absorbs rather than deflects( as in the case of white sand) the harmful effects of the bright sun light.

It is worth noting that spending summers in moderate climates away from the heat is beneficial reason being that in hot weather the body is being forced to function in an unusually hostile environment that will have adverse effects on the health of the people. Examples of heat related illness are heat strokes and sun strokes.

As such, it has been shown that spending the summer in resorts is a must for those who can afford it. It is worth noting that spending different seasons in different lands is something the nomadic Arab culture pursued as a way of life to avoid the ill effects of some weather elements- in some parts of the land- on their health. Add to that, we also notice how in nature, birds and other animals migrate in pursuit of better weather conditions for their survival.

Hence the behavior- of nomads among the Arabs and the beasts in nature -of migrating to more suitable climes is but an indication of the need for people to seek refuge away from the hot summers to special resorts. Resorts offer them the needed refuge for healthful peace and quiet.

"The history of Shweir as told by the late Jirjus Hamam"

Posted by Hilda on November 07, 2000 at 18:34:40:

Again, I attempt to translate what appeared in the tour guide entitled Shweir and its surroundings that was published around 1922.

Apparently the compiler(s) of the guide have asked the late Jirjus Hamam to write a history of shweir and what follows is valuable and was the last he wrote.

"Among the acmes and hilltops of the Matin, there rises one acme that extends from the south west to the north east, and has an elevation of 1200m above sea level. It tops are shaded with pine trees whose fragrance fills the air and nourishes the human body. This acme overlooks the great sea (The Mediterranean) and Beirut on its west allowing vistas that are at once expansive and breathtaking. The observer can also view the awesome Sanin on to the east as well as Soufar and its vicinity to the south. The acme flattens at its tip and it connects to other mountains and hills forming the summer resort of Dhour el-Shweir; this resort is the place of refuge for the seekers of health peace and quiet from Egypt and Syria.

(carriage) Roads extend to it from the sea- shore and other roads connect it to its surrounding townships in the area. shweir has three automobiles for passengers, each automobile can traverse the distance from Beirut to Dhour in 2 hours and at times in one hour and a half.

The Shweir lies on the eastern slope of this acme and it is fifteen minutes away from Dhour(on foot). A lot of its homesteads are nicely designed and have brick roofs. shweir proper is limited in its territory/area and its soil is of clay nature not suited for agriculture. Its people harvest their vineyards that they consume and make into molasses and wine that is not sufficient for their local consumption. Furthermore its land has scant water supplies. Its water is primarily collected from running spring waters. This necessitates obtaining the produce and milk (and the milk products) from nearby villages.

Its people depend on their ability at the building "industry" (using stone) for their survival. It was said that this tradition was brought to shweir by a Halabi ( as from allepo) builder who was the grandfather of the Halabi family and who made the shweir his home more than 200 years ago. The shweirie people were known for their artful building throughout the mountain region(? mount Lebanon) and they excelled init to the point that non other than them got to do it. This lasted until civil war of 1860. After that more builders got into the business necessitating on the Shweirie people to seek work in far away parts like Houran. When Prince Bashir Al-Shahbi decided on building his palace in beit-eddine,he brought in the Shweirie builders to accomplish the task ( and they did). The shwierie builders were led by the master builder Rustom Moujais. Damascene were hired to do the inner workings of the palace like the marble work/ sculpting and such. It was said however that the government called on to master Rustum, Yousef Ghosn and Elias Baaklini to oversee the building of AL-bougaz castle.

Shweir's name is said to come from the Syrian word of Shoro and that means a "soor" as in perimeter, shorr got into the language and applying to it the grammatical formula in Arabic to indicate a "small size" , the word got transformed into Shweir. It was given the name that indicates soor because it was surrounded by the mountains from all sides and it was in the bottom of the valley. At times some immigrants would lovingly call it Al-jourah because of the nature of its landscape.

However Shweir was also surrounded by another kind of "Soor". The latter was a result of the monasteries that were around it, the monasteries and their properties prevented the populace from owning large pieces of property. Hence to the east is Mar Yohanna Monastery, Mar Elias monastery was to the north Mar Mikhail- as Safsaf to the south and Mar Moussa to the west.

this in turn led the shweirieh to work hard and compete in order to survive. Their nature was changed because of that. They are more enlightened, smart and hard working; known very early on for their courage...

( Poetry to follow, but I can't translate the 5 lines of it, however it is published on the web from Rosalie)

The shweirie people had to seek very creative and yet in some ways repetitious means to earn a living so when the Europeans demanded silk in 1866, ten silk factories were formed in shweir. In 1870, the demand on the silk dropped drastically so, many shweirieh lost their capital in the process when the business turned sour.

Also, when the pursuit of knowledge was perceived to bring good return on its "pursuer", many shweirieh went to schools and shweir ended up with eleven doctors, four pharmacists and thirty other people with advanced studies...

This all started after the war in the mountains, when people did not want to pursue building any more in hostile( war) conditions. These people were 25-30 years old. they chose instead to attend school in the American missionary school in Abieh (the A as in ARa'ar)in shouf. These were Daher Khairallah, Yousef Badr, Mikhayel Assaf, jirjus Butros, Mikhayel Rustom, Antoun Badr and Salim Saadeh. They were known for their diligence and motivation as they pursued their studies. When they left school, they became the leaders of education in the village, no one prior to them had any formal knowledge except the teacher(mu'alem)Shedid Yafet.

Elementary schools had started to flourish in the matin and shouf when the above group were done with their studies. More Shweirieh were attending school and were successful at it that one year prior to the war (WWI), shweir had eighteen people in the academic field counting students and teachers and college professors( at AUB).

As Immigration became an option, many people( around four hundred) left to the United States, Brazil and Australia. Only one made a fortune and that was the teacher, author and owner of linen industry in Brazil: Ni'meh Yafet.

Shweir is mentioned in the general history books, as a site of a war between the "kaiseeien" and the "Yamaneeien" in 1636. In that battle the Yamaneeien lost and retreated to al-mrouj where the kayseeien caught up with them and crushed them...

When the ottoman sultan Salim occupied Syria an Egypt in 1517, he asked his people to secure the peace and quiet in the new territory, so people started coming to inhabit the region. Families grew and prior to war (? al oumoumieh, ?WWI), its population was 960. During the war many people died and many others spread out in the land leaving 600 people alive and dwelling in Shweir, whereas 450 were dead. 60 homes were destroyed.

The Greek orthodox constitute two thirds of the population having two churches, the other third consisting of Catholics and Maronites and Evangelists....

No real archeological finds in shweir, except for the remains of an ancient wall in its north believed to go back to the Roman times.

Shweir has two schools. One goes back to the American Missionaries and the other goes back to the Jesuits. However the American school was started by the British -Lebanese Association of Edingbrough. Its locale (on the dahr el Sheer) is beautiful and its buildings are well built and designed shaded by lots of trees. In 1900, the British association gave the property to the American missionaries on condition they (the missionaries) continue to educate the public.

The school was successful in attracting students and its graduates went on to study in the universities in Beirut- at either the AUB or the Jesuits university.

Shweir boasts a lot of medical doctors, poets, literary figures, professors and teachers.

The doctors are: Dr. Khalil Sa'adeh,Dr. Habib Hamam, Dr Fadlallah al-Hawi, Dr. Rizkallah Baaklini, Dr.Salim Ghosn Moujais and his brother Dr. Fouad Ghosn Moujais and Dr. Faris Simaan Sawaya was a dentist. Other medical Doctors includ Dr. Najeeb al-khoury Moujais, Dr. Najeeb Tibishrani, dr. Shukri Mushrek and his brother Dr. George Mushrek; Dr.Nicola Azar al-Hawi and Dr. Adib Habib Hamam.

The pharmacists were: Jirji Merhej, Wadi' Ghosn Moujais,Khalil Antoun Badr and Mikhayel Elias el Hawi

The list goes on to enumerate all the BA graduates with college degrees and some who studied philosophy and religion..."

the list is long and makes any shweirie proud...

Editor's note

Posted by Hilda on November 07, 2000 at 18:47:14:

As I finish up the translation of selected pieces from the tour guide, I urge you to read critically and if you have answers for the things I put a question mark around, please verify your knowledge and post it, so that we may have a better picture of Shweir in that time.

I hope you find those translations meaningful...