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Map showing the location of Aitou within Lebanon
Map showing the location of Aitou within Lebanon
Location within Lebanon
Coordinates: 34°18′31″N 35°55′11″E / 34.30861°N 35.91972°E / 34.30861; 35.91972Coordinates: 34°18′31″N 35°55′11″E / 34.30861°N 35.91972°E / 34.30861; 35.91972
Country  Lebanon
Governorate North Governorate
District Zgharta District
Highest elevation 1,300 m (4,300 ft)
Lowest elevation 900 m (3,000 ft)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Dialing code +961

Aitou (also Aytou, Aytu, Aïtou, Aito, Itoo, Arabic: أيطو‎) is a village located in the Zgharta District in the North Governorate of Lebanon. Its population is Maronite Catholic.


Aitou is a lovely village lying on four hills : " JABAL AYTO(EL KAREN)-EL ALAMA-DNIT-KANISSA HILL". It is one of the first villages in Casa ZGHARTA, far from the capital by 113 km and far from Tripoli by 27 km, and Zgharta, the casa center by 19 km . It is between 900 & 1300 meters above sea level. The village's area is about 6.9 km2 or 6,900,000 meters squares. The current estimate is that 1157 people live in the village in about 200 houses. The people of Aitou are followers of the Maronite Catholic church. It is also estimated, according to some statistics, that in the U.S.A there are about 14,000 immigrants from Aitou; most of whom live in Peoria, Illinois and have formed the Itoo Society. The Itoo Society was established in 1914 for several purposes: creating and maintaining unity among the Aitou community in Peoria, maintaining strong ties to the families remaining in Aitou and providing for the general welfare of both the Aitou community in Peoria and the citizens of the village of Aitou. The Itoo Society of Peoria maintains its websites- and as well as a Facebook page entitled "Itoo Hall". There are also many immigrants from Aitou who live in Venezuela, Australia, Brazil, and some European countries.[1]

Famous People from Aitou[edit]

The most renowned individuals from Aitou or descendants of Lebanese from Aitou are:

  • Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation
  • Joseph Hitti, bishop
  • Bishop Hanna Alwa,Father Khalil Alwan, Superior General of the Lebanese Missionaries, Sister Vincent Alwan Superior General of Saint Vincent de Paul order.
  • Nayef Alwan, the most famous sculpture internationally proclaimed .


With a Qaf (Qaitou), the name in Aramaic could mean summer, heat or boar.[2] It is equivalent to the Arabic Qaith (قيظ ), meaning canicule or heat wave. It could refer to Aitou being used as a Summer Resort given the town's location at a high elevation, yet only 27 km from the Mediterranean coast.[1]

With a Ghayn (Ghaithou), it could mean anger, rage (Arabic equivalent: غيظ ).

With an Aleph ('Aitou), it could mean thick, obscure, magic in reference maybe to the thick forests or the thick fog that characterizes the summer evenings in this area.


Aitou is a mountainous village, located 113 km from Beirut and 27 km from Tripoli, Lebanon. The town occupies the northern slopes of Mount Lebanon at an elevation ranging between 900 to 1300 meters above sea level.[1]



In antiquity, Aitou was famous for its oak and cedar forests. An Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription sent by Pharaoh Pepi II to one of the kings of Byblos, asking for a number of trees from the woods of the God Aitou in order to extract the resin used by the Egyptians for embalmment is indicative of the importance of the forests of Aitou in ancient times. The hieroglyphic inscription is found today at the National Museum of Beirut.[1]

Ottoman period[edit]

After the settlement of the Maronites in Mount Lebanon in the 5th Century, there was a Muqaddam in Aitou counted among the Maronite leaders.[3] The rule of the Aitou Muqaddam seems to have been limited to the nearby region till 1519.

In 1517, one year after the beginning of the Ottoman rule in Lebanon, the Muqaddam of Bsharri, Elias, died leaving the rule of the region to his young son Hanna, known later as Abdel Muneem.[4] In 1519, the Muqaddam of Aitou, Kamal Eddine Ibn Abdel Al-Wahhab, known as Ibn Ajramah (ابن عجرمة), profiting from the confusion and the young age of the Muqaddam of Bsharri, seized the power in Jebbet Bsharri. He was married to Sitt El Moulouk (ست الملوك), a cousin of the Muqaddam of Bsharri. Sitt Al Moulouk played an important role in the take-over out of revenge because the family branch of her father, the Sheikh Alwan, was evicted from power in Jebbet Bsharri previously.[5]

In the first Ottoman census of Jebbet Bsharri done in that same year, Aitou was credited with 28 male adults, 24 of them married.[6] Adopting the common estimation of the Historians of that period, we could assume that 185 people lived in Aitou in 1519.

The Muqaddam of Aitou, Ibn Ajramah, ruled Jebbet Bsharri for 18 years. He built a castle[7] in Aitou and accumulated a lot of wealth.

In 1532, Abdel Muneem (عبد المنعم) of Bsharri succeeded in getting back the rule on half of the region from Bsharri to Hadath El Jebbeh, the other half from Blaouza to Aitou staying under the rule of Ibn Ajramah of Aitou.[8] In 1537, Abdul Muneem of Bsharri killed Ibn Ajramah of Aitou by stabbing him with his spear. The killing took place in the village of Blaouza. Ibn Ajramah was buried in Aitou behind the church of Mar Sarkis.[9] This episode marked the end of the Muqaddams of Aitou.

But the wife of Ibn Ajramah, the above-mentioned Sitt El Moulouk, took eventually her revenge by paying mercenaries to assassinate Abdul Muneem in 1547, ending also this dynasty of Bsharri's Muqaddams as no male descendant was alive.[10]

In the second Ottoman census of 1571, Aitou had 46 male adults, 40 of them being married.[6] There should have been 304 inhabitants in the village. It is almost a 10 per mil increase per year. The increase for the whole region was around 4 per mil per year. This demographic vitality of Aitou could mainly be explained by the actions of construction and organization initiated by Ibn Ajramah and by the wealth accumulated by him as confirmed by Douaihy.

Religious Structures[edit]



  • Monastery of Saint Simon
  • Monastery of Saint Artemios of Antioch (Challita)


  1. ^ a b c d About Aitou
  2. ^ Moubarac, Youakim (1984): Pentalogie Antiochienne/Domaine Maronite, Tome II, Volume 2, Cenacle Libanais, Beirut, Page 587.
  3. ^ Al Qattar, Elias (1998): Muqaddamiat Jebbet Bsharri fi Al-Ahed Al-Othmani, First Congress of Jebbet Bsharri, Gibran National Committee, Bsharri, page 306.
  4. ^ El Douaihy, Estephane (1982): Tarikh Al Azminah, version of Abbot Boutros Fahed, Dar Lahd Khater, Beirut, page 398.
  5. ^ Al Qattar, Elias (1998): Muqaddamiat Jebbet Bsharri fi Al-Ahed Al-Othmani, First Congress of Jebbet Bsharri, Gibran National Committee, Bsharri, page 315.
  6. ^ a b Khalīfah, Iṣām Kamāl (1995): Abhath Fi Tarikh Loubnan Ash-Shamali, Private Editor, Hadtoun, Lebanon, page 79. OCLC 35578546
  7. ^ The Arabic expression used by El Douaihy to describe the castle built by Ibn Ajramah in Aitou is Burj Sharif, which means Noble Castle. Could we see there a reference to a mosque? We do not know the religion of Ibn Ajramah. Given his name, he could be a Muslim. Usually, Historians agree that the commonly called Maronite Muqaddams used to take Muslim names since the Mamluks period in order to facilitate their relations with the Muslim rulers but they were in fact either Christian Maronites or Christian Jacobites. We know from Douaihy that, after his assassination, Ibn Ajramah was buried behind the Church of Mar Sarkis and not inside it as we could expect for a leader of such importance in those times.
  8. ^ El Douaihy, Estephane (1982): Tarikh Al Azminah, version of Abbot Boutros Fahed, Dar Lahd Khater, Beirut, page 410.
  9. ^ El Douaihy, Estephane (1982): Tarikh Al Azminah, version of Abbot Boutros Fahed, Dar Lahd Khater, Beirut, page 412.
  10. ^ El Douaihy, Estephane (1982): Tarikh Al Azminah, version of Abbot Boutros Fahed, Dar Lahd Khater, Beirut, page 417-418.