The Lebanese Heritage House: Marie Khalife’s Museum By Dr. Guita Hourani and Michel Ghanem

Perched on a hill overlooking the ancient church of Our Lady of Ilige and the Monastery of Mayfouq in Mayfouq, Lebanon, we find one of Lebanon’s hidden national treasures:   “the Lebanese Heritage House” of the late Marie Khalife.  Over a period of more than 30 years, Khalife amassed hundreds of cultural objects from around Lebanon to create a replica of the characteristic Lebanese home. Her villa and the museum it housed were finished in 1990,

at which point she opened it for free to the public.  Although it was not an official museum, and it was largely unadvertised, it was visited by over 3000 persons by the time she died, in March 2013. Partly this was due to the fact that the Lebanese Heritage House had caught the attention of the media, and was featured on many Lebanese and Middle Eastern TV shows.  

Marie held BAs in Arabic literature and theology and taught painting as well as civic education in private and public schools in Lebanon, instilling into generations of students a love for Lebanon and its heritage. She was a poet and a painter, and friends and acquaintances can testify to her refinement. In the era of the Civil wars, when all about her intellectuals as well as common people were falling victim to pessimism about the future of Lebanon, she resisted with passion this notion and maintained a resilient optimism. She persisted in nurturing her vision of beauty, seeing life in naturally formed objects and giving them, as well as products of handicraft,   a home. Objects for her were subjects that told stories. 

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