Amioun in Arabic: أميون and other scripts of the name, are most probably transliterated from the original Amyūn. It is the capital town of the predominantly Greek Orthodox area Koura District (i.e. χωριά, villages in Greek) in the North of Lebanon.
Amioun’s name is very ancient and can be traced back to the earliest Semitic and Aramean periods. The name was actually cited in the letters of Tell el Amarna, which were sent in the 14 th century B.C. by local governors in Lebanon to their overlords, the pharaohs of Egypt. Those letters provide information on conditions in Lebanon at that time. Cited in those letters is the word “ Amia”, a name that might have been used to refer to the site of present-day Amioun. In his etymological study of the names of Lebanon’s towns and villages, Anis Freiha thinks that Amioun’s name is derived from the Semitic – Aramaic word “ Emun” , which means a fortified and invincible fort.
Amioun has a population of around 15,000. The large majority are followers of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. Amioun is the 2nd largest entirely Greek Orthodox city in Lebanon and the whole Middle East second to Ashrafieh, a region in East Christian Beirut. The inhabitants of the city are descendants of Phoenicians, Greeks and Ghassanids and they speak Arabic as a first language. The major political party in the city is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.There also supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement, Marada Movement, Lebanese Communist Party, Kataeb and Lebanese Forces.There is a large population of people from Amioun around the world.
Religion, Education and Health
Amioun has 11 Greek Orthodox churches (St.George el Dahleez, St.John al Sheer,Al Sayydeh, St.Sergios, St.Barbara, St.Domitios, St.Marina, St.Phocas, St.Simon, St. George Al-Kafer and St.Gala). There are three public schools and two private. In Koura there is the only Greek Orthodox university in the world, The University of Balamand. There is a public library and a private hospital.
Located in the heart of Northern Lebanon, Amioun is the administrative center of the el Koura District (the Caza of el Koura). Amioun is about 330 meters above sea level and is approximately 78 kilometers away from Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. It is about 42 kilometers away from the Cedars and 18 kilometers away from Tripoli, the center of the Province of north Lebanon (Muhafazat Ash-Shamal).
Situated between the sea and the mountains, on a chain of beautiful hills that stretch from east to west, Amioun has a distinctive location and a breathtaking view. Surrounding the hills on which Amioun is situated are olive fields in the north and vineyards, almond orchards, and olive trees in the south. Paved roads, including the Beirut-Cedars main highway, run through those hills. Long ago, when the houses that stretched on those hills were few, Amioun was called “the town of beautiful hills”. Amioun can be reached via the highway that passes through Byblos, Batroun, Chekka, and Kfarhazir. It can also be reached from Tripoli by way of Bahsas, Dahr El Ain, Aaba, and Bishmizzine.
Amioun in History
Amioun is a very old town whose history can be traced back to the earliest periods. In the past years, a number of French and German orientalists – foremost of whom was the Frenchman Ernest Renan – visited it, studied its archaeological sites, and wrote a lot about them. Amioun’s history goes back to the middle of the eolithic period. The eolithic groups that had been in this region before the arrival of the ancient Semitic peoples (around 4000 B.C. or even earlier) continued to live there during the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. This is supported by the existence of small caves in the rocky hill of Amioun, that is, in the ancient part of the town. It is in this part of Amioun that we have two of the oldest archaeological sites in the town : the cavities of the “Sheer” (the Arabic word for cliff), above which St John’s church stands, and the Cathedral of St George “ el Dahleez” ( the Arabic word for tunnel). Amioun has been inhabited since the earliest periods. In his book “The Monuments of Lebanon”, Father Lamens mentions a number of towns, one of which is “Amia” (p.76). According to Condor, this town of “Amia” is none other than present-day Amioun. If Condor’s claim is true, Amioun may be considered as the oldest town in the interior of Lebanon. ( See Condor, the Tell el Amarna Tablets, 2nd ed., London, 1894).
Amioun’s past has left its mark on different historical periods, whether ancient, medieval, or modern. Some of its monuments can be traced back to a period when different pagan religions prevailed. With the advent of Christianity, the pagan temples in Amioun were transformed into churches whose bells signalled the triumph of monotheism.
Saint George Cathedral: erected over a former temple at the highest populated spot of the town, as mentioned in a circular written by instructor of history in the official Lebanese schools Choukrallah Al-Nabbout.
Saint John "al-sheer" church: Elevated on a rocky cliff over a number of vaults in the southeastern facade of the cliff. A Triple scene of a Crusaders church (1099–1100) panoramic over the 28 man-made crypts in the facade whose carbon-dating suggests 15000–24000 years of age.
The town of Amioun, is known being a site for the Battle of Amioun, a historical clash in 694 A.D. between the Byzantine troops, under the leadership of Murik and Murikian, and some followers of the Monothelite doctrine, as mentioned in the article below by Chedid Al-Azar.
During the 20-th century, major changes touched local population, which was based on agriculture, mainly olive, olive oil and soap production, and modify it into the highest educated society in Lebanon. This resulted in a huge percentage, almost 30%, of highly educated people, mainly in the medical domain. Now hundreds of physicians display vital positions in the motherland and abroad.
Sheikh Gerges El-Azar, was deputy of Koura district who was selected to represent the whole Greek Orthodox communities of Lebanon during Ottoman era
Sheikh Fouad El-Azar, occupied the only seat allocated to Koura in the Lebanese Parlement in 1900-1950
Jacobo El-Azar, former President of the Dominican Republic
Abdallah Saadeh, former leader of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party
Shehade Khouzami, Notable High Ranked Member of the supreme Court of Lebanon, and Law Maker
Salim El-Azar, Former High Ranked Member of the Supreme Court of Lebanon, and Law Maker, known for his adamant integrity
Salim Saade, member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and former member of the Lebanese Parliament
Nassim Taleb, New York author of "The Black Swan"
Dr. George N. Atiyeh
Nadim Beik Chammas, prominent politician and benefactor.
Lebanese philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes his attachment to his hometown in the following verses:
“ I am originally from Amioun (Amyoun) but, the family has not lived there since 1890 outside of vacations; it is in the Greek Orthodox Levantine heartland (we are what Cavafy calls ellenosuron or, what people call less poetically the Antiochans --and I am a native French speaking Ελληνοσύρος (Syrian-Lebanese blood, Arabic tongue, Greek heart) son of Jesuit educated French citizens to confuse matters (though I am not myself a French citizen). ”
The El-Azar (Azar or Al-Azar) era began in Amioun before the 1800 when the Ottoman Sultan issued a special decree appointing the El-Azar family to govern the Koura district. The Koura in that period covered more land and controlled much territories than the Present Koura of modern Lebanon, in 1950’s when El-Azar's Power was greatly diminished by various circumstances, an approximate 30% of Koura territories were detached and annexed to the bordering Districts such as Batroun (Shekka, Hamat, Douma and surrounding villages), Bchare (Knat, Torza and nearby villages), and Tripoli (Kalamoun). The Sultan gave the title or Rank of Sheikhs to El-Azar Family. The El-Azar (Azar) Family dominated the politics, the society, and the economy of Amioun and the Koura district longer than any other family in Amioun. Through their period in the government the El-Azar has shaped the history of Koura, and has left numerous positive impacts. The El-Azar were famous for being the only Greek Orthodox family in the Mount Lebanon Emirate to ever carry the title of Sheikhs granted to them by the ottomans (All the other Lebanese Sheikhs and Princes were either Maronite, or Druz, with few Moslems. The El-Azar were also known to have developed a special relationship with the Maronite Patriarch in Bkerki, that was refelected in the permission granted by El-Azar the catholic mission (maronite) to inaugurate the first Maronite school in Amioun, St Therese School, still one of the finest schools in Koura
Concerned about the consequences of close marriage, The El-Azar decided to inter-marry from the Taleb Family (Moslem Talebs were displaced from the District of Akkar to Amioun (around 1850's), and converted into christianity in order to be allowed to settle in Amioun). This intermarriage had led to improving the status of the Taleb in 1880, and eventually had contributed in elevating the rank of the Talebs to being the second family in Amioun. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, that being Ibrahim Taleb Nabbout by Florentine architects and completed in 1860, financed by his brothers who were silk traders, and paid taxes to El-Azar Sheikhs. Occupied by Ibrahim, then his son Assaad Beik Taleb (there is a frame of the "firman", the "Beik" title granted by the Ottoman), then by Assaad's son Nassim Beik Taleb, then Chafic, then daughters Laure and Evelynne Taleb, then by Yvonne, Laure's only child. The residence is currently occupied by Edgar Taleb Khoury, son of Yvonne Taleb, great-grandson of Nassim Taleb.
Known as Ammiya in the second millennium B.C., the modern town of Amyoun lies on an important archaeological tell. Of major interest are the churches of Mar Jurius (St. George), built on the cellar of a Roman temple, and Mar Fauqa, or St. Phocas, built by local architects during the Crusader period. The entire interior of St.Phocas is covered with Byzantine-style wall paintings of the 12th and 13th centuries. A third church is the modern red-roofed Mar Youhanna (St. John) perched on a rocky cliff with tomb openings on its southeastern facade. Near the old town government building, or "Serail," is the Chapel of Marina, an ancient burial vault converted into a chapel.
Kakos (a.k.a El Roumi)