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Dar Zefta: an architectural gem in South Lebanon

Dar Zefta: an architectural gem in South Lebanon

Dar Zefta is a tranquil getaway close to the sun. From its splendid architecture to its natural surroundings, it’s a work of art, even a cultural immersion. Strategy Consultant Bahjat el-Darwiche has succeeded in transforming this 1,200 m2 space into a house of arts, culture and heritage, combining the nobility of the past with a vision of the future.

Bahjat et Ghada el-Darwiche.

While every resident of Zefta has considered this place “his” home since 1911, it was Bahjat el-Darwiche’s great-grandfather, Hussein Beik el-Darwiche, a remarkable leader from the South of Lebanon, who anchored the presence of the family in Zefta by crowning his achievements with the construction of Dar Zefta.
Known as a visionary and a dreamer, his touch is in every corner of the house. He had a sense of avant-garde; he was said to be picky and sophisticated as he hired Italian and Oriental architects to collaborate and construct the house while keeping a traditional style with Ottoman ornaments.

This architectural gem, with its two “Wajhiyya” connected by a library, became the emblem of a village, if not an entire region. Throughout the last century, the Dar experienced many changes and witnessed many stories; beautiful and painful ones. Today, it stands as a symbol of resilience and perpetuity.

This Dar of the arts, culture and heritage, and above all of hospitality, generosity and well-being, became a destination where memorable occasions took place. Dar Zefta is an escape to be closer to the sun, far from cluttered life, at the heart of the captivating South with its iconic mountains and its Mediterranean soil. It is an invitation to own an incredible moment from the top of the hill and enjoy the breathtaking spectacle it offers.

Bahjat el-Darwiche affirms that Dar Zefta is the living story of his family heritage, indeed the air, the soil, the land, the food, the faces, the scars, the history of a region and the soul of the stunning South. It’s also where the senses are awakened and emotions blossom. An opportunity to slow down, relax, witness, experience, feel, discover and recharge.

Since the very first days, Dar Zefta was associated to altruism, integrity, beauty, legacy, passion, and progress as the Dar was much more than a beautiful house on the top of the hill. The village was involved in all agricultural activities in and around the Dar. Zefta is famous for its figs, okra, olives, tobacco, miqté and many Mediterranean vegetables. The Dar was also home to a bakery that opened its doors to villagers every Tuesday, preparing delicious grilled potatoes and eggs on corn bread. In 1949, Wajih el-Darwiche, Bahjat’s uncle, even transformed the summer wajhiyya into a classroom, and planting the seed of today’s Zefta’s public school, which carries his name.

Dar Zefta is currently a social enterprise, with proceeds from the guesthouse going towards preserving the region’s heritage and supporting local social and economic development, with the involvement of visitors and all local residents. It is a project that provides employment opportunities, particularly for women and young people. Dar Zefta supports local entrepreneurship, local products and local artisansts, and contributes to the development of cultural tourism, including the recently launched Route des Arts.

La Route des Arts started with the coincidental discovery of the atelier of Darwiche Chamaa in Nabatieh early 2021. A few months later, the discovery of Hussein Hussein atelier near Sour came to add to the delight. These two aha moments sparked the idea of compiling and promoting an itinerary of local artists. This first edition of La Route des Arts, inaugurated on June 4, 2023, revealed eighteen artists, men and women, all from the South, offering unique stories of humanity, creativity, courage, resilience, beauty and hope, as well as a unique emotional link with cultural roots and the future. Supporting local artists is part of Dar Zefta’s mission for sustainable social development. An arts residency adjacent to Dar Zefta is planned for the next two years. It will bring together the power of Dar Zefta and partner galleries/artists, inspire international artists with the nature, people and stories of southern Lebanon, accelerate the development and exhibition of local artists, stimulate the community and encourage artistic activities in the region.

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