BEIRUT: The 250-year-old historical Baabda Mansion, the former seat of Ottoman governors in Lebanon, is waiting to be restored to its former glory.
During the Ottoman period, the center of Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate (district governorship), which was a special administrative unit within the larger Beirut Vilayet (province), was located in Baabda, whose borders are intertwined with the capital Beirut today. The officials of the mutasarrifate used Baabda Mansion, which was a government office built by the Ottomans for state affairs, during that period.
The mansion, which is located less than a kilometer from the current official presidential residence, Baabda Palace, is among the important Ottoman works in the country.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Mount Lebanon Governor Mohammad Makkawi provided information about the history, importance and present situation of the mansion. “The Ottomans built Baabda Mansion for local chief Emir Haydar Shihab in 1775. It has been the center of Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate since its establishment. The mansion witnessed important events in Lebanese history, especially between 1860 and 1916. It remains the most important and oldest public building in the country.”
According to Makkawi, the mansion’s exterior resembles a four-sided castle. It was built as a two-story structure on an area of 7,852 square meters (84,520 square feet) and is surrounded by gardens.
The historical building houses an archive featuring many significant documents belonging to Lebanon. Since it serves as a public building and also an archive, the mansion requires urgent restoration.
Noting that they developed a restoration plan to restore the mansion to its former glory, Makkawi said, “However, the economic crisis that hit the country delayed everything, including restoration works.”
Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate
Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, or Mount Lebanon Sanjak, was an autonomous administrative unit established for the administration of the predominantly Christian region of present-day Lebanon under the Ottoman Empire.
A district governor was directly appointed by the Ottoman sultans in Istanbul to this mutasarrifate for the administration of the region, where a significant Druze community is also present. However, after the Ottoman Empire, this system disappeared when a larger Lebanon, including sanjaks of Tripoli, Sidon and parts of Damascus sanjak including Beqaa Valley and Baalbek, became a colony of France.
During the Ottoman period, the Baabda Mansion functioned as the central building of the autonomous administration. During the French period, it was used as the high commissioner’s building.
After Lebanon’s independence, the mansion was converted into the administrative center of Mount Lebanon, that is, the governor’s office.