Introduction: The Origins
The Daouk family (“Daouks”) is a family primarily from Ras Beirut Lebanon. The family's presence in Lebanon stems back to the 13th century. The family can trace its roots back to al-Andalus or Andalusia, before the Reconquista took place, which led to the genocide of various ethnicities along the ‘liberation’ of the Iberian Peninsula. Originally arriving from the Maghreb, the family escaped Morocco in the late 12th century from Marrakesh to the Levant during the Reconquista inquisition. The immigration came as a consequence of the heavy influx of refugees from the Iberian Peninsula.
Many Maghrebis were discontent with the overpopulation, and there later was a rift between various Maghreb dynasties and republicans, inevitably forcing families to leave their lands and relocate in other parts of Arabia. As a result, many families including the Daouks can be found in places that are relatively remote from each other, such as Beirut, Damascus, Gaza, Egypt, Libya and the Gulf in the Mashreq region of Arabia (Eastern Arabia).
1300: a new PERMANENT home
Arriving to Beirut around 1310 encompassed a long journey from Morocco. It is disputed as to how the family and where they exactly arrived from. One narration suggests that the family went from the Maghreb to Cairo, then from Cairo to Mecca in order to perform the Hajj (Islamic Pilgrimage), and afterwards set sight towards Damascus before finally settling in Beirut. An alternate narration dismisses this entire scenario and suggests that they went from Marrakesh to the North Eastern Maghreb, or modern day Tunisia, and then sailed from its coasts to Alexandria, before arriving to Palestine and finally heading north towards Beirut. Irrespective of the colliding narratives, the Daouks quickly integrated into the Beiruti life.
The family would then become one of Beirut's prominent families after a truce that would bind them to the 'Seven Families of Beirut' agreement of 1350 (disputed with 1351). The agreement was a written one, which engulfed the houses of: Sinno, Kreidiyyeh, Itani, Doughan, Mneimneh and the Houry family alongside the Daouk family. Although the original agreement has been lost in history, the legacy of this agreement survives until the present day. This is given by the fact that most of Beirut's original families descend from, or are related to one of the Seven Families. The families’ names however, were not necessarily written and spelled the same as they are known to be today. The Daouks initially arrived to Beirut as the ‘Dawakites’ or الدواكة and eventually became the house of Daouk or آل الداعوق.
The agreement of 1350 allowed the Seven Families to act as a single body to govern and protect Beirut. The Seven Families subsequently signed an agreement with the ruling Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. The agreement conferred that they would administer Beirut's internal affairs and protect its people, while the Mamluks under Prince Soudoon I, would handle the military aspects within and outside Beirut. The agreement was a mean of protecting Beirut from foreign powers.
It also ensured that all Beirutis would be entrusted with the protection of Beirut and therefore would be able to become one of the seven families that may caretake a gate. However, the Seven Families retained this entitlement mostly if not not every time for unknown reasons. It is mostly agreed on the grounds that these families were known as the ‘Omana’, the trustworthy ones. The agreement would stay enacted throughout the era of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, which spanned between 1250 to 1517, until its downfall at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
1400: The seven Gates of Beirut
In the early 1400's, the Beirutis had by now completed the redefined walls of Beirut. It remains uncertain as to whether these walls are the same walls that were built during the 9th Century over the Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman cemeteries and buildings, but what can be agreed upon is that the gates isolating Beirut were seven. The symbolism of the number seven stems from its theological significance in Islam and the Quran, deriving from the Seven Heavens and the Seven Skies. Each gate within Beirut was given a name. The most notable of the seven is Bab Idriss as it remains known to this day, situated adjacent to Omar Daouk Street and Omar Daouk Square in the Beirut Central District. The other six gates are known as: Bab Abou Nasr, Bab Ad-Dabbaghah, Bab Ad-Darakah, As-Sarai (Serail Gate), Bab As-Selselah and Bab Ya’qoub (Jacob Gate).
Upon securing the gates and the city from potential marauders, the Seven Families along Beirut's noble elite established a local government which would be chosen by the people. The government would have autonomy over anything within the walls of Beirut. The head of this council would be called the 'chief' referring to what today is a 'president' or 'mayor'. The Seven Families carried greater weight than other families to the council given their greater size in population, meaning that the authority within Beirut was shared between those of the Seven Families numerically and those who were not part of the initial agreement of 1350 occasionally and inevitably more prominently over time.
1500: Beirut and Mount Lebanon
After 1517, Beirut became under Ottoman rule. Beirut was not critically affected by this turbulent change given the religious diversity among its people, who had a large Sunni Muslim population, similar to their Ottoman occupiers. The agreement of 1350 was obsoleted during this era. Yet, most of the subsequent mayors of Beirut would be Beirutis.
However their powers were greatly mitigated making them subordinate to their Ottoman governors, the Walis. The limited sovereignty of the Beirutis would be further damaged towarrds the end of the 1500s with the inevitable rise of the Maans whom had conquered and overtaken their rival Yazbecki and began integrating with the Shehabis.
The Ottomans initially turned a blind eye towards this threat, however sooner on the Ottomans began light embargoes of Mount Lebanon, which meant that Beirut, Tripoli, Damascus and the Galilee had to be sealed to isolate the Lebanese. This led to occasional shortages of supplies, food and water to the Beirutis, depsite Beirut being the city of wells. Yet, the Ottomans prioritised their citizens first, which meant that the wells of Beirut embellished the children of Istanbul before the Beirutis could get their share.
1600: the Emirate of Mount Lebanon
The 1600's saw the rise of the Shihab Dynasty in Mount Lebanon. Their military prominence would prove uneasy to the Beirutis who had no armed force to protect them. Beirut's governance would eventually deteriorate due to the presence of an equally recognised authority in Mount Lebanon. The Beirutis, Ma'ans and Shihabis at that period of time had little disputes over sectarian and demographic affairs, but the military imbalance was worrisome.
The council of Beirut made an agreement with the dynasties of Mount Lebanon, decreeing that Beirut would remain neutral irrespective of sectarian, demographic and political conflicts between them and the Ottomans. The rise of Emir Fakhreddine II in the 1600's would flare hostility between Mount Lebanon and the Sultan. An imminent war would subsequently threaten the very existence of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, as Beirut was hailed by Fakhreddine II as the pearl and capital of the Mount Lebanon Emirate.
In late 1622, war broke out between Fakhreddine II and the Ottomans resulting in a chain of decisive victories for Fakhreddine. His victories in the Bekaa over Moustapha Pasha would positively impress the Sultan, who then spared Mount Lebanon. The Battle of Anjar in 1623 would prove to be one of Lebanon’s greatest victories and one of the Ottomans’ worst defeats. The Lebanese Emiri (Royal) Army wielded 9000 troops, whilst the Ottomans dwarfed them at a hefty 50000. The Emiri army costed the Ottoman army 7500 troops at price of losing 1200 in battle. This victory brought autonomy to Mount Lebanon but stagnated Beirut economically and politically.
The Ottomans would eventually embargo the lands of the Great Emirate of Lebanon which spanned from Mount Lebanon to the Galilee and Damascus at an area of 19500km2, almost twice modern day Lebanon’s size. However, Fakhreddines prominence was short lived. He would face crushing defeats in the anti-Lebanon mountain chain later on, which led to his execution in 1635. Mount Lebanon was then heavily sanctioned by the Ottomans in the remaining years of the 17th century, thus; affecting the supply of food to Mount Lebanon and Beirut. The Emirate of Mount Lebanon was reduced to an autonomous Mutasarrifate, governed partially by the Lebanese and majorly by their Ottoman rulers.
1700: Political Reconciliation
The initial years of the 18th century proved to be very turbulent. Beirut faced economic decline and political rifts with the Ottomans'. The Daouk family were able to supply themselves with quantities of meat from Mount Lebanon, allowing parts of the family to flourish in wealth.
The Emirate of Mount Lebanon reconciled under Haidar al-Shihab who managed to eliminate all his rivals paving the way for the Sultan to place him and his fore-coming descendants as the administrators of Mount Lebanon. He engaged in diplomatic marriages with various rival dynasties. This maintained prosperity and unity in Mount Lebanon for the next century. A notable number of Beirutis engaged in the Emir's diplomatic marriage integration plan.
1800: Flourishing in the metal industry
The 19th century witnessed turning points in the history of Beirut. Beirut by then had reemerged as a maritime hub for the Levant. The city began developing workshops and forging metal. The Daouk family assembled a few furnaces somewhere on Hamra Street. The family owned a strip of land that spanned from the Pigeon Rocks until the conjunction of Hamra Street and Qoreitem. Their initial manufacturing of metal soon developed into manufacturing special metals and rare diamonds that were sold to noble Beirutis and people abroad the vilayet. This eventually dragged the family into the gold market. Muhammad Ahmad Bey al-Daouk was among the first family members to engage in trading gold. One of the most notable members of the late 1800's was Omar Muhammad Bey al-Daouk. Omar flourished in wealth at an early age, becoming a great merchant and politician. His contribution to Beirut with his mass wealth earned him the title 'Bey'.
Another honorable mention is Mohamed Khalil al-Daouk who came out as a prominent figure in the late 1800's. In 1885, he began retailing basic stationary in Beirut, however the economic boom of Beirut exponentially increased demand for pulp and paper. Mohamed Khalil quickly transformed his business into one that could mass produce paper, meeting the demands of the Beirutis. This would make him a tycoon in the pulp and paper industry.
Mohamed Khalil's company remains to this day as one of the major players in the Lebanon pulp and paper industry. The company is by far one of the oldest spanning over 130 years of paper production.
The family significantly grew during the 20th century. Many were able to educate their children abroad Beirut in institutes within Mount Lebanon, Europe and the Americas. Omar was also a key figure in the early period of this era. This time, it was his political career which was noteworthy. His greatest contributions were reconciling the divided de-facto governments of Beirut, driving the Ottoman regime outside of Lebanon peacefully and establishing the short lived Arab State of Beirut after World War I.
The wealth of the family allowed it to monopolise various markets in Beirut. Much of the family's wealth was invested into Beirut's industrial sector, into manufacturing rare metals. Other members funded the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association of Beirut and promoted the subsidisation of education among Beirutis and villages in Mount Lebanon. In 1935, the al-Nahar newspaper company was supplied paper on a five-year credit by Zaki Mohamad al-Daouk who was now the director of the Mohamed Khalil al-Daouk company. This would remain as an honoured testimony for the family till this day.
Ahmad Muhammad al-Daouk was the family's key figure during the period of Lebanon's Independence. In 1941, he served as the Prime Minister of Greater Lebanon under President Alfred Naqqache. His term helped lay the grounds for the Lebanese independence. His sacrifice for this cause came at the price of stepping down from his constitutional authorities in 1942 to weaken France's presence in Greater Lebanon. The Republic of Lebanon would soon emerge as a sovereign nation.
By the early 1950's the family had provided Lebanon two ambassadors, for Spain and France. Ahmad al-Daouk would return as Prime Minister in May 1960, following President Fuad Chehab's dissolving of parliament. He formed an interim government to halt the political rift of 1960. He would then reallocate seats within Lebanon's parliament to restore political balance between Lebanon's political Right wing and Left wing. The 1960s also saw the prominence of the late Bashir Jamil al-Daouk, who was then a recent graduate from the London School of Economics with a Phd. Bashir founded the first critical source of written debate, Dar Attaliah.
The Daouks also witnessed the prominence of the noble and charismatic Ameena Maarouf al-Daouk, a women that symbolised the role that a woman was capable of playing in 20th Century Lebanese society. Despite the limited role women had during that period of time, she was a merchant, a property developer and an investor wielding a land spanning over 40000m2 in the heart of Ras Beirut covering Sadaat street and parts of the Lebanese American University, and the Independence Palace of the late Rafik al-Hariri.
2000: Onto the future
Much of the original members of the family remain in Lebanon today, the eldest being Chaaban Maaruf al-Daouk at the age of 95. However, many have immigrated to countries abroad. Yet, the legacy of the family's core values has not perished. Sheikh Muhammad Omar al-Daouk was a notable person during the early 2000's for his philanthropic and religious contributions to the United Arab Emirates.
Amine Mohamad al-Daouk carries on the legacy of heading the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association of Beirut in Lebanon. Others such as Khaled Yusuf al-Daouk and Walid Anis al-Daouk have emerged paramount in the Lebanese diplomatic and banking sectors. HE Khaled had been the honourable Lebanese consul to Ireland and Walid heads BLC Bank and Fransabank. In 2011 Walid pursued Khaled’s step engaging in politics as Lebanon’s Information Minister under Prime Minister Najib Mikati for four years.
In 2012, the Al Daouk Organization was founded as a way to gather and preserve the family's heritage and history putting it all in one place by Mohamad Omar al-Daouk; building upon the efforts, works and literature that had been previously contributed by the likes of Khaled, Amine and Omar Mohamad al-Daouk. The organisation dedicates its work to its ancestors who played an influential role in establishing Lebanon's modern sovereignty.