Al Kassouf Hotel: A Civil War relic


Al Kassouf Hotel – Tamara Saade

Tamara Saade
Lifestyle Editor

Once considered a landmark of the Lebanese luxury landscape, the Al Kassouf Grand Hotel now sits on an isolated hill, in the mountain of Dhour Choueir. Amongst the many abandoned relics of Lebanon’s golden age, the hotel remains one of the unavoidable milestones of the country’s history.

Empty of furniture, with broken walls and crumbling floor, the soul and spirit of the hotel still echoes between the long corridors. Few elements of the original hotel’s design still remain, including some faded wallpapers, a few bathtubs, and the traditional geometrical floor tiles.

Built under the French mandate, the Kassouf Hotel was a reference for some of the greatest figures of the Arab World. Oum Kalthoum and Farid Al Atrash were amongst the usual visitors. The hotel’s reputation exceeded Lebanon’s borders, also attracting kings and queens. Edward Said even wrote about it, comparing it to a “fortress” and a “great social pinnacle.”

Al Kassouf hotel had its fair share of glitter and sparkles, especially in 1935, when Miss Lebanon’s first beauty pageant took place, and saw Jamila Al Khalil crowned.

Unfortunately, every good story comes to an end, and the hotel wasn’t spared the ravages of the Civil War. According to the Beirut website, Syrian troops then occupied it until 2005. Although the outside structure of the hotel isn’t damaged or broken, its inside is completely wrecked, looted of its furniture, and even its doors and windows destroyed.

Some walls still stand, while others have been demolished and ruined. The bullet holes do have a certain advantage, as they let the sun rays light up the remains of the hotel rooms. The entrance invites the visitors to a wide garden that overlooks the valley, sprinkled with the traditional Lebanese houses and their bright brick roofs that brighten up the deep green scenery.

On the ground floor, a luminous ballroom still resonates with the sound of heels dancing and glasses clinking, while the elite of the pre-war time enjoy yet another night in one of the “Grand Hotels.” The kitchen, on the other hand, is splattered with brown paint and mud from what appears to be a recent intrusion.  

The second and third floors mainly consist of rooms, with their individual bathrooms, and small balconies. Long corridors lead to the various chambers, where some walls still give an impression of what the rooms looked like. Black and white tiles in the bathroom and colored walls in the rooms are now covered in mud and filth, where nature infiltrated the structure and moss overcame the grey concrete.

Unlike many of the country’s pre-war vestiges, the Kassouf Hotel can easily be accessed, as no fences or walls have been built around it. On the contrary, the ground floor has an appended outdoor coffee terrasse. Although only functional during the summer, the cuisine does cater an off-season proposition.                                                                                                

Many projects have been rumored to restore the hotel, to make of it one of the Grand Hotels again, but no concrete changes are presently seen.

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