Maktab Anbar (Arabic: مكتب عنبر) (Anbar Office) is an old house in the center of Old Damascus near the Umayyad Mosque and a short distance from the Street Called Straight. The house was built as a private residence by a local Jewish notable Mr. Anbar in the mid 19th century and was later confiscated by the Ottoman government after Mr. Anbar went bankrupt.
He had made his fortune in the Far East, returned to Damascus many years later and built this beautiful house. The family story was that he had lent a lot of money to the Sultan of Turkey who refused to return the money.
The family in desperation asked the Kaiser of Germany to intervene, and he did. The Sultan was so furious that he never returned the funds and Mr. Anbar then went into bankruptcy and lost the house. The family later was said to have emigrated to Alexandria in Egypt.
The house is built around three courtyards, first the formal reception courtyard, behind this the attractive female courtyard, and finally the spartan servants' courtyard. The main sections were completed at tremendous expense, and due to high costs Mr. Anbar abandoned the project In 1887. The Ottomans, who had been occupying Syria for almost four centuries, completed the project adding two wings and converting the house into a boys' school, which officially became the Damascus Civil Preparatory School.
The Damascus Civil Preparatory School was a prestigious, expensive, tuition-based school for the children of the old, elitist, land-owning families of Damascus.According to Philip Khoury, a large number of the Syrian nationalist leaders who worked and were co-opted by the French from 1928 and independence in 1946, were graduated of Maktab Anbar. The house was restored by the Ministry of Culture in 1976. It now holds a library exhibition hall, museum and craft workshops.
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