A pink taxi

A pink taxi

October 6, 2011

Guestblogger: Kamal Salibi, A Historical Pillar Lost




At the age of 5, my family spent  summer in Bahmdoon the village, a hamlet overlooking Beirut. City families would take their light furniture every summer and rent a stone house in the mountains running away from humid sticky Beirut. Our choice in the 50's was the Salibi house owned by an elderly couple and their highly educated children. Dr Salibi an MD, was a Greek Orthodox village notable, who lived one story above us. His deep voice, thick white hair and serious demeanor made us kids dub him as God.


He had a gentle young son who was a historian teaching at AUB: Dr Kamal who was a friend of my older siblings and maternal cousins. He had converted to become a Protestant, being influenced by the American founders of the University. He had a signature bell-ringing laughter and a special sense of humor. He was generous in giving us a lot of his precious time explaining the turmoil that was wrecking the Middle East during Nasser time. Though as teenagers moved by Arab Nationalism,we were on a different wave length,he would always patiently draw our attention to similarities from history past.


Dr Kamal Salibi was a close friend to several generations of my family on both sides, and had mentioned his experience with them in various text books that he wrote. My widest exposure to Professor Salibi was during my 7 years at AUB. Though I was not a history major, I used to visit him as a family friend at his office, and exchange with him political ideas. 


My wife,a history major was more fortunate in taking couple of courses with him. He was intrigued by my early marriage to a Persian, an uncommon alliance those days. The civil war and my work outside Lebanon, made our encounters less frequent. Yet today I feel the Middle East, not Lebanon alone has lost one of its greatest historians after Hourani, Zurayek and other pillars of our modern history.

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