On this lovely Sunday, June 4, our destination is Zefta, a captivating village located in southern Lebanon. Our aim is to appreciate the artistic creations showcased in the magnificent guest house, Dar Zefta, where Bahjat and Ghada El Darwiche graciously welcome us. Today marks the inauguration of the exhibition titled “Sur la Route des Arts,” (the Road to Arts) and our compass guides us toward this enchanting experience.

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Every family cradles a unique story yearning to be narrated. During our visit, our host guided us through the nostalgic corridors of his legacy. He revealed that the place had been their home since 1911. “My great-grandfather, Hussein Beik el Darwiche, an illustrious leader of southern Lebanon, solidified our family’s presence in Zefta by erecting Dar Zefta, a symbol of his accomplishments. Known as a visionary and a dreamer, his spirit is felt in each and every corner of the house. He had a keen sense of the avant-garde; he was said to be discerning and sophisticated. He enlisted Italian and Oriental architects to collaborate in the construction of the house while preserving a traditional style adorned with Ottoman embellishments,” the host proudly said.

This architectural gem, with its two “Wajhiyya” interconnected by a library, became the emblem of a village, if not an entire region. Throughout the past century, Dar Zefta underwent numerous transformations and witnessed a plethora of stories, some beautiful, others painful. Today, it stands as a symbol of resilience and continuity.

“It is the Dar of arts, culture, and heritage,” Bahjat El Darwiche confided. “It is the Dar of hospitality, generosity and well-being. Our abode has turned into a venue for memorable occasions. Dar Zefta offers an escape to bask in the sun and a refuge from the tumultuous modern life, nestled in the heart of the captivating South with its iconic mountains and Mediterranean terrain. It invites you to experience an incredible moment from its hilltop, where you can marvel at the breathtaking spectacle it provides: a perfect spot to retreat and daydream,” he went on to say.

With palpable pride and emotion, Darwiche told us that Dar Zefta is the living narrative of his family’s heritage. “We embody the air, the soil, the food, the faces, the scars and the history of this region. We are the soul of the beautiful South. Dar Zefta encapsulates a place where time halts, tensions evaporate and dreams are birthed.”

As we strolled through the corridors, our senses awakened and we felt a rage of emotions. Our minds unchained our hearts, allowing them to fully appreciate the charm of the surroundings. Our tour culminated in the luxurious chambers, each named after a scent, Yasmine, Misk, or Ambar, echoing scents that we carried with us as we ventured toward the communal living space.

Caught between the “diwan” and the “liwan,” our hearts oscillated. The library resonated with history, bathed in the soft glow of natural lights that infiltrated the patio, creating an atmosphere of dazzling clarity. The dining room, a genuine temptation to indulgence, blended ancient furniture and art pieces in a dreamy setting where we savored delectable Southern cuisine meticulously prepared by the family’s unwavering cook.

The terraces invited us to savor a refreshing lemonade, while the pool suggested a refreshing plunge or a moment of respite on a hammock at dusk. Our escape continued toward the pine gardens, where “La Route des Arts” was inaugurated to showcase the works of 18 regional artists.

Abbas Makki, Adel Koudaih, Ali Chamesddine, Amal Matar, Charbel Fares, Darwiche Chamaa, David Daoud, Fatat Bahmad, Ghinwa Baderdeen, Hussein Hussein, May Jaafar, Nour Ballouk, Rima Hawila, Rima Mansour, Safi Jouni, Soukayna Hawila, Youssef Aoun and Zahed Koubayssi infused colors and artistic emotions into this legendary location.

We wandered from sculpture to painting, following this route that led to beauty and disseminated culture. In this journey, Dr. Tony Karam consistently brings his music to life, skillfully playing a century-old piano with innate virtuosity. Art emerges as a unifying force, transcending individual boundaries and enriching life through genuine expression.

The journey began in early 2021, when our hosts embarked on a quest to discover the artistic landscape of southern Lebanon, culminating in the creation of “La Route des Arts.” The story came fortuitously to life during visits to local artists’ studios, sparking the desire to organize the inaugural edition of “La Route des Arts.”

By bringing together a diversified spectrum of Southern artists, highlighting their unique perspectives on humanity, creativity, resilience and hope, “La Route des Arts” carves its own path.

At Dar Zefta, an ardent passion fuels the support for the local artistic community. The mission is deeply rooted in sustainable social development, aiming to create opportunities for women and young people within the local community. By nurturing the region’s vibrant artistic energy, the gap between tradition and innovation, art and culture, is bridged.

Visiting Dar Zefta allows us to dive deeper into the richness of our South and to live an extraordinary moment that transcends both time and space.