The palace was built by emir Bashir Shihab II in the period between 1788 and 1818. After the palace was built, he cut off the architect's hands in order to keep his palace a one-of-a-kind. It was the emir's residence until 1840. Afterwards the building was used by the Ottoman authorities as the government residence. Later, under the French Mandate following World War I, it was used for local administrative purposes. The General Directorate of Antiquities restored the palace after it was declared a historic monument in 1934. After independence in 1943, the palace became the summer residence of the President of the Republic. Walid Jumblatt named it the People's Palace (Qasr al Sha'b in Arabic) because it was built by the people's hands, blood and money.
The palace is now an important touristic site and draws many tourists from outside Lebanon. It is an important destination for school field trips.
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