Chateau Musar Store 1933.jpg

Beirut 1930 - 1939

The Arab Renaissance  

1. Turning Points

The 1930's were collectively a turning point in modern history. Europe would face a new conflict with the rise of Adolf Hitler who intends crowning Germany as a global superpower trumping France, Britain and the Soviet Union. The Arab World would become more repellent to foreign occupation, as many activists would emerge calling for Arab unity. This was most notable in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt and soon became to be known as Arabism. Lebanon would have its own share of Arabism, where many protests took place calling an end to the french eradication of the adopted Lebanese Arab identity. Beirut on the contrary, underwent a new renaissance, giving birth to a handful number of great Lebanese people that would emerge in the later part of the century.

2. Cementing the Institutions 

Modern development bestowed upon the roads and districts of Beirut. This came at the hands of the French authorities and the Lebanese people. The French sought to improve public transport to ease their movement between Damascus and Beirut. The Lebanese began establishing institutes of all kinds at an aggressive rate within the capital city and the rest of Greater Lebanon. The political parties developed to imminently serve this very purpose of who would carry Lebanon over the next decade.  However this came at a price, which yet again divided Lebanon into Christian and Muslim.

In 1930, the Lebanese Phalanges Party (Hizb al-Kataeb) was established as the backbone of Christian politics in Lebanon. The prominence of the Maronites in particular was so pristine that they would be regarded as a higher class than the Muslims in the eyes of the High Commissioner of the mandate, Auguste Henry Ponsot. To conflate with this dominance, Muhieddine al-Nasuli, the chief editor of Beirut Newspaper established the Lebanese Najjadah party a few years later. The party was one of a Pan-Arabist ideology. The act would seem to restore balance between the Christian right and Muslim left, yet the High Commissioner favored the Maronites over the Muslims, whom he accused of being untrustworthy and Ottoman agents. 

3. Rigging politics from Beirut

One Beiruti who was more influential than any other in the 1930's was the Sunni representative Sheikh Abdullah Beyhum al-Itani. Abdullah had previously called on the council to host a national census in 1928, in 1929, twice in 1930 and lastly in 1931. The aim was to derive the composition of religious sects in Greater Lebanon. In 1921, it was concluded that Greater Lebanon had a Christian majority, however back then, Baalbek, the Bekaa and North Lebanon were not yet fully integrated into the new republic, hence the census was very unreliable. A new census would be troublesome given that many Maronites saw that a Muslim majority Lebanon would inevitably mean a Lebanon unified with Syria and the rest of the Pan-Arabist states, who sought uniting a single Arab superstate.

In 1932, the Chamber of Representatives finally agreed to Abdullah's request with the High Commissioners consent on arranging the census somewhere around midyear. In Beirut, noble Sunni Beiruti leaders met with other noble Sunnis, Druze and Shia from Sidon, Mount Lebanon and the Bekaa. The agreement was to unify the identity of Sunnis Shias and Druze as 'Muslim' in the census. This would not bring them the result they intended to reach as it was later summed up that Lebanon was constituted of a population that was 51% Christian and 49% Muslim. 

 

4. Birth of hope

Away from politics, Beirut saw the birth of Bashir al-Daouk who would later become one of the greatest Lebanese writers. On the contrary, Lebanon lost its greatest artist of the 19th century, Gebran Khalil Gebran. His death in 1932 would not only bring sorrow to Lebanon, but the rest of the Arab world. Gebran was seen as a great writer, poet and artist. Upon his death, the Lebanese sought to carry his legacy by gathering his personal belongings in New York  in order to build a museum honoring him in his hometown Bcharre. In Central Beirut (Wasat Beirut), the municipality coordinated with the government and french authorities to establish the Lebanese Premier League and the Lebanese Second Division of Football. 

Beirut would soon serve Gaston Hochar as a market for his wine products in 1932. Having founded Chateau Musar in 1930, Hochar would plant his first vineyard in Lebanon that year. In the intellectual sector, al-Nahar was founded on the 4th of August 1933 by Gebran Tueini, a Greek Orthodox Christian who was an Arab unionist. After returning from exile in France, Gebran started al-Nahar with a modest capital of 50 golden liras raised by doners. Later that year, the license was granted to Lebanon allowing it to establish its Football Association officially. This would finally be concluded in initial 1934.

5. The Hierarchy

1934 brought along a new form of turbulence on the political scene. For the remaining years of the 1930's the political skirmish between the Christians and Muslims would be dwarfed by a new rift. This rift was not only one of a sectarian matter but also a cause divided by a secular Arabist ideology. On one hand was the far right National Bloc led by Emille Edde. Edde's politics pursued a Lebanon that was under Christian hegemony. On the other end was the Constitutional Bloc led by Bchara al-Khoury. These parties would emerge between 1934 and 1936 after the French consenting to Edde's presidential candidacy. in 1934. Bchara al-Khoury and Edde agreed on one matter which was Lebanon's permanent separation from a Syrian union. However, al-Khoury knew that a powerful Lebanon cannot exist without solid unity between Christians and Muslims.

Al-Khoury would surprise his rivals when he created formal political alliances with many Muslims leaders from Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli to maintain a a powerful position. This was not support by many Maronites. This political rivalry would lead the French to favoring non of them for the presidency of Lebanon around 1934. Beirut was not isolated by this political rift. Emile Edde came from a family that was notable for its mercantile prominence. This meant he had strong ties with the elite of Beirut's merchants. Edde would resort to many prominent Beirutis to gain their support for the upcoming elections, which to an extent included Sheikh Abdullah Beyhum al-Itani and Ahmad al-Daouk. Later on in January 1936, Edde successfully succeed Habib Pasha al-Saad as president.

6. Dividing From Syria

In 1937, the Ararad weekly newspaper was founded in Beirut by Mihran Damadian. The newspaper served as a voice for the Armenian people who were living in Lebanon, covering Armenian news, sports updates and Armenian interests. 1939 had a lot to give Beirut, another newspaper of that time was al-Amal, which was established by the Lebanese Phalanges Party. It was noteworthy for being one of few to publish bilingually in Arabic and French. The Adventist College of Beirut was established that year in Mouseitbeh, Beirut. The college was very diverse and eventually became the Middle East University as known today. The famous Farra Designer Center was also established in 1939, where it crafted furniture and installed it in a variety of Beiruti homes. By now much of Lebanon's economic life began to fully detach from that of Syria. An indicator providng this detachment were the football teams that emerged seperately in Lebanon that period such as al-Safa and al-Shabib al-Mazraa.