Al mashriq - The Levant
Joun, Seat of Lady Hester Stanhope

(From See Lebanon, Bruce Condé, second edition, Harb Bijjani Press,
Beirut, 1960)

Seven and a half miles northeast of Sidon and north of the Awali River
lies the earthquake-ruined village of Joun, on a fertile,
olive-tree-covered hilltop amid sterile white chalk hills. About 20 or
25 minutes' walk down a ravine and up onto another hilltop to the
northwest of Joun brings the traveller to the lonely, pathetic remains
of Lady Hester Stanhope's once-great baronial establishment, where
William Pitt's niece he]d court as the 'Sitt', or Lady of Joun, during
the early decades of the 19th Century.

Several of the biographies of Lady Hester give the floor plan of this
manor and a distant view of it as seen from the southwest, and these
show us the extent of the buildings, whose upkeep eventually ruined
the Sitt financially and left her hopelessly in debt to the Syrian
money-lenders. Dahr as-Sitt, as the place is still called, had, until
the March, 1956, earthquake, about a dozen habitable rooms, the
dungeon, and its vast underground cisterns, plus considerable
stretches of the fortress-like wall which once surrounded the whole
complex or compound.

 West Facade Remains

Today the whole remaining structure around the so]e surviving
courtyard is bady cracked, with several rooms in ruin, their outer
wall having fallen. Fortunately, however, the west wall's facade,
containing the oldest stonework of the house, probably antedating Lady
Hester's time, still stands intact, as does the north wall of that
wing. The vaulted dungeon, beneath the north wing of the remaining
courtyard, is also still intact as are a few of the storerooms on the
opposite side of the court, and, of course, the cistern.

Beirut residents who wish to see and photograph the site before
eventual replacement of these last remaining buildings of Lady
Hester's time, are urged to visit Joun while this little survives.
The estate now belongs to the famous Greek Catholic monastery, Deir
El-Mokhales, some nine miles to the east, which has let it to the Telj
family as tenant farmers. The tenants were, in 1956, living in tents
to the southeast of the ruined buildings and were expecting the Deir
to clear the ruins and to assist them in building a new farmhouse
on the site. If the new work can incorporate the best-preserved of
the remaining walls of Lady Hester's establishment and follow the
same lines, at least the shape of the principal part of Dahr as-Sitt
will remain for future generations of pilgrims to the lonely hilltop.
If not, we are seeing today the last of the famous noblewoman's
home as she knew it in the early 1800's.

Niece of Pitt

Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope's biography is too well known to need
repeating here except for a few pertinent dates as a background to her
Ladyship's sojourn at Joun. Born in 1776, the year of American
independence, Lady Hester was a daughter of the liberal Earl of
Stanhope, from whom she inherted both her rare intelligence and her
famous eccentricities, and grand-daughter to the Earl of Chatham.

As hostess to her uncle William Pitt the Younger, until his
death in 1806, Lady Hester had a taste of power, intrigue, and

Principal remaining
building of Lady
Hester Stanhope's
once extensive estab-
lishment, near Joun.
The damage to the
south wall was caused
by the March 1956
earthquake. Seen
from the former
garden near Lady
Hester's tomb.

influence which she could not easily forget, and it was due to her
inability to settle down to a quiet and uneventful life, once this
preeminent position was lost to her, that she was driven to seek high
adventure in the East. From 1810 until her death in 1839, for almost
three decades, Lady Hester was Europe's 'Mystery Lady of the Orient'.

As the first European woman to enter then-inaccessible Palmyra, the
Sitt staged a regal progress through Queen Zenobia's ruined capital,
being feted by its Bedouin possessors as a second Zenobia. By 1818 she
had settled permanently in Lebanon, at first as an honored friend and
guest of the Emir Bashir II and later as his hated but respected
enemy, busily intriguing with the Sublime Porte, with her special
friend Mustafa Barbar Agha, Wali of Tripoli, and with various Druze

First at Abra

Her first seat was at the former monastery of Mar Elias, at Abra, on
the opposite side of the River Awali, but the oppressive heat of the
summertime drove her from this site to the pine-covered slopes around
Deir Mashmoushe, southwest of Jezzine, each year, until the
all-year-round residence of Joun was secured. When work had been
completed in enlarging the new establishment to Her Ladyship's
somewhat grandiose and extravagant tastes, she moved her cumbersome
household to Dahr as-Sitt, where the rest of her life was spent.

Here, amid the old olive trees, which still survive, and in her
luxurious garden of tropical trees and imported flowers, ferns and
shrubs, the recluse withdrew from the world except to grant a rare
audience now and then to globetrotting European celebrities, including
Lamartine, assorted German princelings and eccentric Napoleonic
generals, one of whom stayed on to become her favorite and to be
temporarily buried in the tomb she had prepared for herself.

A couple of asacred mares enjoyed privileged status in special
stables, as Her Ladyship became more and more steeped in debt. Her
extravagant household was what eventually ruined the Sitt and brought
the British government to withhold her pension in order to pay the
claims of the various Damascene money-lenders until Pitt's
niece died in squalor and poverty in the midst of a fast-decaying
menage.  Water to fill the enormous cisterns for the purpose of
watering the gardens and trees had to be brought up from Ain Hey-
roun, 100 yards down the hillside, by hand. But Ain Heyroun water is
slightly brakish, so drinking water must need be fetched from Her
Ladyship's favorite spring at Ain al-Hajar away back at Abra, a three-
hour journey for the camel caravan which Lady Hester maintained for
this exclusive purpose .

Sole Remaining Furniture

Little by little, during her last years and months, Lady Hester saw
her household stripped of its valuables by unpaid servants. Only a
pitiful handful of belongings remained to be inventoried at the time
of her death. The only remaining piece of furniture known to have been
at Joun in Lady Hester's time is a battered armoire, or cabinet, with
a curious old-fashioned lock, owned by Yusef Rafael Yunis of Joun, who
inherted it from a great-grandfather who had served the Sitt, and who
had purchased it at the time of her death.

About 150 feet southwest of the remaining buildings, not far from a
few gnarled remaining orange trees, is the simple tomb, in native
limestone, topped with a white marble plaque, which houses the remains
of Dahr as-Sitt's famous mistress.

While the tenant's children respectfully bring sprigs of laurel for
visitors to place on the monument, the latter have no difficulty in
reading the well-preserved bi-lingual (English and Arabic)
inscription, whose six lines commemorate LADY HESTER LUCY STANHOPE,
BORN 12th MARCH 1776, DIED 23rd JUNE 1839.

Bibliography: Lady Hester; Queen of the East Gibb, Lorna Faber and Faber, 2006 ISBN 0571217540, 978-0571217540 Lady Hester Stanhope: The Unconventional Life of the 'Queen of the Desert' Haslip, Joan Sutton Pub., 2006 ISBN 0750943378 Lady Hester Stanhope Haslip, Joan Heron Books, 1970 Lady Hester Stanhope: Queen of the Desert Childs, Virginia Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990 ISBN 0297810170 Star of the Morning: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Hester Stanhope Ellis, Kirsten Harper Press, 2008 ISBN 9780007170302 Decline to Glory: A Reassessment of the Life and Times of Lady Hester Stanhope Day, Roger William University of Salzburg, 1997 ISBN 3705201530 Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope: Forming the Completion of her Memoirs Meryon, Charles Lewis Cambridge University Press, 2012 ISBN: 9781108042284 Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope Meryon, Charles Lewis (AUTH) Stanhope, Hester Lucy (AUTH) London; H Colburn;1846 Travels in Araby of Lady Hester Stanhope Watney, John Basil (AUTH) London; Gordon Cremonesi;1975 915.6 The nun of Lebanon Bruce, Michael (AUTH) Bruce, Ian (AUTH) Stanhope, Hester Lucy (AUTH) London; Collins;1951 920.7 Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope Meryon, Charles Lewis (AUTH) Stanhope, Hester Lucy (AUTH) London; H Colburn;1845 920.7 The life and travels of Lady Hester Stanhope Thesis (M.A.)--Dept. of English, A.U.B. Halabi, Maha Kheir (AUTH) AUB Beirut; 1981 T:2920 The life and letters of Lady Hester Stanhope Cleveland, Catherine Lucy Wilhelmina Powlett (AUTH) London; J Murray;1914 920.7 Lady Hester Stanhope en orient Henry-Bordeaux, Paule (AUTH) Paris; Plon;1924-1926 920.7 Lady Hester Stanhope Haslip, Joan (AUTH) London; CobdonSanderson;[1934] 920.7 Lady Hester Stanhope Armstrong, Martin Donisthorpe (AUTH) London; G Howe;1927 920.7 Lady Hester Stanhope Childs, Virginia (AUTH) London; Weidenfeld & Nicolson;c1990 941.07 Lady Hester Stanhope Kruck, Maria Josepha von Fischer Poturzyn (AUTH) Stuttgart; Deutsche Verlagsanstalt;1936 920.7 Lady Hester Stanhope Roundell, Charles (AUTH) London; Murray;1909 920.7 Lady Esther Stanhope et le Liban Heneine, Alice (AUTH) Beyrouth; Dar Lahad Khater;1983 SeriesVoyageurs d'Orient; 3 915.604 The Gabriel hounds Stewart, Mary (AUTH) New York; MS Mill Co Distributed by Morrow;1967 818 The desert queen Leslie, Doris (AUTH) London; Heinemann;[1972] 828 ISBN 0434418234 The Wilder Shores of Love Lesley Blanch Carroll & Graf; ISBN: 0786702605 ; 1996 (Fro 1 : 93239986x Forfatter : Newman, Aubrey Tittel : The Stanhopes of Chevening : a family biography / [by] Aubrey Newman. 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Sidetall : 3 b. I serie : (Salzburg Studies in English literature. Romantic Reassessm ; 105:1) Noter : Opptrykk av utgaven utgitt 1845. UHS - UHS Mag312 AZ Sal/105:1 5 : 951381822 Forfatter : Vogelsberger, Hartwig A Tittel : The unearthly quest : Lady Hester Stanhope's legacy / by Hartwig A. Vogelsberger. Trykt : Salzburg, Austria : Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg ; 1987. Sidetall : vii, 206 p. : map. I serie : (Salzburg studies in English literature. Romantic reassessment ; 105:7) Noter : Bibliography: p. 203-206. Emneord : Eccentrics and eccentricities. Biography Emneord : British + Travel History 19th century Emneord : Women travelers. Biography Emneord : Nobility. Biography Emneord : Middle East. Description and travel UHS - UHS Mag312 AZ Sal/105:7 6 : 952139251 Forfatter : Mayer, Johannes Tittel : Philip Henry Lord Stanhope : der Gegenspieler Kaspar Hausers / Johannes Mayer. Trykt : Stuttgart : Urachhaus ; c1988. Sidetall : 653 s. : ill., koll. ISBN : 3-87838-554-4 Emneord : Germany. Biography Emneord : Great Britain. Biography HVO - HVO 920.71 May eks. 1 7 : 931884748 Forfatter : Meryon, Charles Lewis Tittel : Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope : forming the completion of her memoirs. Forfatter : Meryon, Charles Lewis Trykt : Salzburg, Austria : Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg ; 1983. Sidetall : 3 v. : ill. I serie : (Salzburg studies in English literature. Romantic reassessment ; 105/4-6) Noter : Reprint. Originally published: London : Colburn, 1846. Noter : "Narrated by her physician"--Facsim. t.p. of orig. ed. Emneord : Middle East. Description and travel UHS - UHS Mag312 AZ Sal/105:4-6 8 : 920691099 Forfatter : Stanhope, Hester Lucy, Lady Tittel : [Brev] News from Lebanon : Lady Hester Stanhope's autograph letter to Michael Bruce / James Hogg. Forfatter : Hogg, James Trykt : Salzburg, Austria : Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg ; 1988. Sidetall : 64 s. 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