The Lebanese Village Half Abandoned in the Wake of a Massacre



Image: Samer Noun

Nature has a way of quickly reclaiming what people leave behind.

Even at the best of times, it’s a strange sensation walking into an abandoned home – the rooms and hallways, once so full of the bustle and noise of daily family life, now silent except for one’s echoing footsteps.

Imagine, then, how much more unsettling this feeling would be with the added knowledge that those who left the house – one day in September 1983 – may well have met a grim fate, massacred by their own neighbors and people they once called friends. Others were more fortunate – forced to flee their ancestral homes, yes, but at least managing to escape with their lives. Yet many would never return.

Maasser el Chouf certainly doesn’t look like the setting for a horror story. Located in scenic pine- and cedar-forested mountains, close to Lebanon’s largest nature reserve, it seems the epitome of an idyllic Mediterranean village. Yet the streets are quiet between its old, white stone houses – deserted or otherwise – and tension still exists between the Christian and Druze communities here. Indeed, the roots of the conflict run deep, long predating what happened in 1983, when 63 Christians were killed in the village, and many more left forever.


Image: Samer Noun

These arched, shuttered windows must have been an attractive feature before the house fell to ruin.

In 2011, a university assignment brought Samer Noun – whose photographs are featured in this article – to Maasser el Chouf. When he arrived in the village, it was the abandoned houses that really encapsulated for Noun the almost desolate atmosphere of the place. How would he describe the feeling of entering the empty homes?

“Weird,” says Noun. “I was interested in them (the houses) and in taking pictures, but in a way I was trespassing, since this was someone’s house, people used to live here.”

“I couldn’t help but imagine a family gathering around the dining table,” he goes on to say. “A grandmother cooking in the kitchen or children running around.” A cheerful domestic scene whose absence seems all the more poignant in view of the fate met by the long gone family who actually lived here.

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