Henri Philippe Pharaoun

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Henri Philippe Pharaoun (or Henry Pharoun) (1901 – August 6, 1993), was a Lebanese art collector, sportsman, politician and businessman. He played a crucial role in securing Lebanon's independence from France and served as foreign minister and other Cabinet positions. He is also remembered as a champion of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims.


Pharaoun was born the son of a wealthy Lebanese Melkite Catholic merchant in Alexandria, Egypt. Four years later his family moved to Beirut, where he was educated in missionary schools. He attended college in Switzerland, and received a law degree at Lyons University in France. Pharaoun married Nawali Kassar, heiress of a wealthy Palestinian family from Jaffa, in 1922, while he was national tennis champion of Lebanon. They had one son, Naji.

For many generations the honorary-consuls to the imperial court in Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian Empire came from his family. He founded the "Austro-Lebanese Association of Friendship".

Probably the richest man in Lebanon during much of his lifetime, he helped to found independent Lebanon and designed the Lebanese flag,[1][2] which in its colors looks similar to the red-white-red Flag of Austria. Known as a Mediterranianist who encouraged cooperation between Christians and Muslims, Pharaoun opposed the pan-Arabist intentions of Riad El-Solh and helped temper the power of the Arab League. He served in the Lebanese Parliament from 1943 to 1946, and then as the Lebanese foreign minister intermittently from 1945 to 1947. After this he retired from politics to focus on business interests. During the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990 Pharaoun took no side, preferring instead to broker peace between the warring factions.

His business interests included Bank Pharaoun and Shiha, both of which he founded. During the 1950s and 1960s he owned the world's biggest racing stable of Arabian horses.

Pharaoun was murdered in his bedroom at the Carlton Hotel in 1993. He was stabbed 16 times; his driver and bodyguard was also found stabbed to death at the scene. Police suspected robbery as a likely motive. A man formerly employed by Pharaoun as a bodyguard was arrested for his murder.[3]

Pharaoun's former house in Beirut

One of their palaces in Beirut was one of the landmarks of that city, and was partly destroyed during the civil war and later sold to the Saudi royal family.

His former Beirut residence is now the Robert Mouawad Private Museum, housing a collection of Arab, Greek and Byzantine antiquities. During his lifetime Pharaoun gained an international reputation as a collector of art and antiquities, many of which he amassed at the mansion located at Beirut's Green Line. According to the New York Times, the residence is a "palace [which] resembles a Gothic castle with a hodgepodge of Greek and Roman statues and sarcophaguses in the walled garden."[4]


  1. ^ "Henry Pharoun Is Slain at Home; Founder of Free Lebanon Was 92". The New York Times. 1993-08-07. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  2. ^ "Lubnān, Republic of Lebanon, Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Lubnāniyyah". Flags of The World. CRW. Retrieved 2009-08-08. 
  3. ^ "Arrest in Beirut Slaying". The Washington Post. 1993-08-09. 
  4. ^ "Henry Pharoun Is Slain at Home; Founder of Free Lebanon Was 92". The New York Times. 1993-08-07. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 


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