The village of Sawfar (Sofar / Saoufar) was once a stop on the railway track from Beirut to Rayyak in the 19th century. Due to its location and natural environment with scenic views over Hammana valley, Sawfar became the perfect summer getaway for Beirut’s upper middle class.
The Grand Sofar Hotel, built in the 1890s by the Sursock family, was one of the most famous hotels in Lebanon – no, in the Middle East! It also housed the first casino in Lebanon.
This luxury hotel was no exception to the Beirut elite’s summer escape and even lured kings, emirs, political figures, socialites and artists from around the world. Conveniently, it was located right opposite the train station, making it the perfect stopover.
Unfortunately, The Grand Sofar Hotel was destroyed and looted due to the Lebanese civil war of 1975. Currently under the care of Roderick Sursock Cochrane, one of its owners and a direct descendant of Alfred Moussa Sursock, this majestic hotel is under restoration as an art and reception venue, finally re-opening its doors to the public. Hopefully, the estate will become a permanent cultural landmark.
The Grand Sofar Hotel stands today like an abandoned, yet majestic mansion right out of a fairy tale – making it the perfect venue for Beirut-based British artist, Tom Young, to exhibit his latest exhibition entitled “The Grand Sofar Hotel” featuring 40 inspired artworks on canvas.
Young is well known for his paintings portraying Lebanon’s old and abandoned heritage sites (notably the Maison Rose in Beirut from Nov 2014-Jan 2015).
He preserves and brings to life Lebanon’s traditions, architecture, history and beauty through his artworks showing impeccable attention to detail and emotion, recreating lost moments and memories.
“Reclaiming something that has been lost has always been part of [his] experience with Lebanon” – Tom Young
The Grand Sofar Hotel Exhibition
Under the patronage of the heirs of Alfred Moussa Sursock and Michel Ibrahim Sursock, curated by Noor Haydar, The Grand Sofar Hotel Tom Young exhibition is truly unmissable.
In fact, Young’s paintings are inspired by stories of the hotel, memories frozen in time, and even postcards, letters and other objects they found rifling through the many rooms.
Even items that were salvaged from the hotel are being showcased and highlighted.
I personally fell in love with the entire ambiance of The Grand Sofar Hotel exhibition. I got chills upon entering the building and was sincerely overwhelmed by the emotion that lingered around every piece of art.
It’s wonderful for many different generations to also experience and value history through art. Thank you for conserving and reviving endangered cultural sites across the country that hold so much of Lebanon’s heritage.
Here are some more photos I shot at The Grand Sofar Hotel exhibition:
The Grand Sofar Hotel Tom Young Art Exhibition Schedule:
- September 16 (Sunday): Opening
- September 29 (Saturday): Story-telling by Cliffhangers
- October 7 (Sunday): Film screening
- October 14 (Sunday): Closing party ft. Beirut Groove Collective
For more details, check out the website here.
The art exhibition is open until October 14, from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).
LIKED THIS ARTICLE? CHECK OUT MORE ARTICLES IN LEBANON!
The Grand Sofar Hotel, Lebanon
Address: Ain, Saoufar
Contact: +961-81-369250 (Noor Haydar – Art Curator)
For more information, visit the website here.
Unless otherwise noted, all posted content and photographs are owned exclusively by me. None of the content / photographs may be reproduced, modified, recirculated, commercially exploited or reused in any form whatsoever without my prior written consent.
Non-watermarked photo of flyer in this article featuring The Grand Sofar Hotel was sourced from Tom Young website.
For further information regarding permission to use content or photographs, please contact me.