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Protestant Heritage in the Middle East

History of Schools at Shwayfat

Located in the Chouf mountains, overlooking Beirut, the village of Shwayfat is known for it strong educational credientials. This is due primarily for Shwayfat being the home to the famous Interional School of Chouifat system of schools.

The history of this particular school dates back to 1886, when a local Shwayfat resident, Tanious Saad worked with an Irish missionary, Louisa Proctor to establish a school for girls. The school built upon the foundations of American missionary schools, which closed in order to focus its endeavors elsewhere.

A timeline and brief outline of the International School of Choueifat is presented found in the "Historical Note" from their website.

An interesting source on the social history of Shwayfat during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is presented in the book, Mahoud Khalil Saab, Stories and Scenes from Mount Lebanon. [translated Tammam Abushakra] (Saqi:London, 2004). The chapter, "Father Tanious Saad", pages 212-216 provides the following information about the school, illuminating its connection to the Kurani family and the Protestat community.

"In 1886, the school [for girls in Shwayfat] opened with twelve boarding students and sixteen day students....The first graduation ceremony was held in 1908. The class consisted of four girls: Zahia Kourani [sic], who became a teacher; Eugenie Jureidini, the daughter of Amin Beik Nassour al-Jureidini, who also became a teacher, married Father Tanious [Saad] in 1895, and later became the school's headmistress; Youmna Malek, who opened a school and became its headmistress and later left it in the custody of her nephew Pierre Ivanov; and Emilia Trad, who also opened a school and became its headmistres..." (Saab, 213-214).

Could this be the school where Labiba Kurani taught? Is she related to one of its first graduates Zahia? These questions remain unanswered, but if you have more information please feel free to share them with the author of this article and manager of the Preserving Protestant Heritage project by emailing

A furthernote must be made regarding the Jureidini family, who is also mentioned as one of the first graduates of this school. Like the Kuranis, the Jureidini family has a long history of connection to both the Protestant community and education. Their story follows a slightly different, and equally interesting path. We hope to return to explore the Jureidini family in a future exhibition.