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French Version

Meandering around Luweibdeh

It’s not yet a cliché but I love Jabal Luweibdeh. It is one of the oldest areas in Amman and is renown for its old brick houses and gardens...

It’s not yet a cliché but I love Jabal Luweibdeh. It is one of the oldest areas in Amman and is renown for its old brick houses and gardens, its parks and public gardens, and tree-sided streets.

Luweibdeh was once favored as a residential area by the wealthy upper classes and landed gentry, and this is where they built their palaces and beautiful homes. One of the nicest homes I have seen is the one built by Wasfi Bisharat and which has now been beautifully restored by Ibrahim and Hani Bisharat.
You would think yourself in another world reminiscent of Gatsby’s home or something out of Edith Wharton’s novels.. To a nostalgic like myself it’s Luweibdeh’s fever although the place is so quiet, you can hear the sound of a woman’s high heels a hundred meters away. For the first time I know that the picturesque is on this side of Amman. As a whole it beats Abdoun and Sweifiyeh which during Luweibdeh’s heyday were inhabited by snakes and scorpions. Now the snakes have gone away!!

It’s also in Luweibdeh where the Bisharat Church has been built and where you can see in the foyer a marble bust of Wasfi Bisharat and it’s also here that I met Osama Sherif, editor of the Jerusalem Star and started my association with the Weekly over cups of mint tea. So many beautiful memories of the old office of The Star!!!

But where does one start?? From the Select Hotel, I walked past the Shari’a Mosque and made my first stop at Sharaf Stores. This is the oldest and best picture framer in Jordan whose regular customers include the Royal Palaces, Princess Wijdan, Ali Jabri, Muhanna Durra, Salam Kanaan and the foreign community in Jordan. From there I walked to the French Cultural Center. As I was going up the stairs, I found myself musing at a beautiful black and white poster of Catherine Deneuve. The high point of my erotic fantasy ended abruptly when I ran into the Director of the Center who asked me if I had a heart condition. When I said no, he told me I could then look at Catherine Deneuve.

The Heritage House was next. There is nothing I like more than browsing at antiquarian books. There were quite a few of them that caught my attention: Lawrence and the Arabs by Robert Graves; several editions of Seven pillars of wisdom published in 1926; a copy of the Arabian Nights(1873), a few books by Freya Stark, and two complete volumes of the letters of Gertrude Bell(1927). More on Freya Stark and Gertrude Bell in our next issue.

For quite some time I have been curious about a commemorative plate at the gate of Luzmila Hospital—just around the corner from Darat Al Funun which reads in correct French ‘To the Memory of Countess Luzmila du Boisrouvray, nee Patino’. I wanted to know who this philanthropic lady was and what was her connection with Jordan. I knew about the Italian Hospital and Flavia Romero the daughter of its founder who still lives in Jabal Luweibdeh. But who is Countess Luzmila du Boisrouvray? Finally, one of my spies told me everything I wanted to know.

Luz Mila (separate words) was born in Bolivia. She was the only daughter of Simon Patino who made a fortune in discovering and exploiting zinc mines in Bolivia. When Simon Patino died in 1948 he was one of the richest men in the world. Luz Mila married Count Guy du Boisrouvray, a cousin of Prince Rainier of Monaco. Luz Mila was approached by the Sisters of Nazareth who founded the Hospital and knowing of her interest in helping children worldwide asked her for a contribution.. She readily obliged. And the Hospital was able to establish an X-Ray department among other things.

Albina du Boisrouvray, the daughter of Luz Mila and Guy du Boisrouvray continued the philantropic activities of her parents as well as those of her grandfather in Bolivia Simon Patino who has also established a foundation in Bolivia.

In 1989 Albina du Boisrouvray liquidated her personal fortune estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars to establish the Xavier Bagnoud Foundation in the name of her son who died in a helicopter accident in Mali at the age of 24. Albina is known worldwide for her work and advocacy on behalf of children and has had a profound impact on politics, journalism, the film industry, the Green movement, and the United Nations secretary general who received her and thanked her for her humanitarian efforts. Albina is financing the reconstruction of homes in Rwanda following the Civil War in that country and has contributed millions of dollars to Harvard and the University of Michigan to conduct research in public health especially where children are concerned.

Headquartered in Switzerland, Paris, and New York, the Xavier Bagnoud Foundation is currently sponsoring over 40 projects in 17 countries involving children’s rights, healthcare, and AIDS among children and orphans.

Christian Doumit
The Star

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