Middle East Centre for Arab Studies
The Middle East Centre for Arab Studies (MECAS) was an Arabic language college in Shemlan, in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of Lebanon. It was opened by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British Government in 1947. Initially, the school was housed in a small building, but later expanded to a much larger purpose-built facility.
The college gained notoriety as a "spy school" after it was publicly denounced as such by Kemal Jumblatt speaking in the Lebanese Parliament. Although the charge has stuck, and the label is still commonly used, there is little evidence to support this beyond infamous British/Soviet double agent George Blake, who was a student at the school and who was taken from there to Heathrow, where he was formally arrested on espionage charges.
Sir James Craig wrote Shemlan: A History of the Middle East Center for Arabic Studies, a book in which he gives an account of the school and a description of pre-Civil War Shemlan. The Civil War made the situation increasingly difficult, and in 1976, MECAS was temporarily evacuated before closing altogether in 1978. Today its building houses the Help and Hope Institution, run by the Dar Al-Aytam Al-Islamiyah, which is home to 200 mentally handicapped children.
As of 2013 the building and name were used by British ex-pat author Alexander McNabb for the title of his book, the third on his middle-east cycle. Shemlan - a deadly tragedy, cover the story of a dying 'old-school' British diplomat who was taught at Shemlan, looking to find an old love.
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