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Maya Gebeily

Amal Alamuddin from “Druze family of sheikhs”

Baaqline residents excited for new in-law

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin
The Alamuddin house
The Alamuddin house
The Alamuddin house

“Ah, Clooney is one of my favorites,” said Shawki Hamadi, smiling. “He reminds me of the actors from the ‘40s and ‘50s – like Cary Grant.”

 

When news broke of American actor George Clooney’s engagement to Lebanese-British lawyer Amal Alamuddin, Lebanese at home and abroad rejoiced. Alamuddin is a prominent barrister who has served as part of the legal team defending WikiLeaks head Julian Assange. She has also been an advisor to former UN envoy to Syria Kofi Annan and has worked for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s prosecution. NOW headed to Alamuddin’s town of origin Baaqline, a Druze town in Lebanon’s Chouf district, to see how residents were reacting to the news.

 

Most residents responded with pleasantries similar to Hamadi’s, a far cry from the online squeals of Clooney fans. A few rolled their eyes at the sudden attention of prying journalists, but most were happy to joke about the newest member of Baaqline’s families.  

 

“He’s all of Baaqline’s in-law now, every single one of us,” said one staff member at the American University for Culture and Education.

 

“We really would love him to come visit us,” said Hamadi. “And Amal, god bless her, she’s one of our most prominent lawyers.”

 

Sheikh Akram Eid, a longtime family friend of the Alamuddins, told NOW that Amal was born to Ramzi Alamuddin and his wife Baaria Meknas, a Sunni from Tripoli. Ramzi was the son of Khalil Alamuddin, who used to serve as the head of the Baaqline municipality. “[Khalil] was respected and loved,” Eid said. He told NOW that the Alamuddin family was well-known and respected in Baaqline. “Their old history is even better than their present.”

 

“The Alamuddins are from the sheikhs of Baaqline. They’re a really old family,” said Hamadi. “They’re like the house of Jumblatt, Arslan – these families have a certain level in our sect.”

 

NOW was able to locate the Alamuddin household, pictured above. The house was clearly well-maintained, with a sprawling garden and courtyard. According to Eid, Amal’s father Ramzi sold his belongings – including the traditional family home – to his brother, Sami. Sami Alamuddin, Amal’s uncle, is the main member of the family who regularly visits Baaqline on weekends during the summer, but Ramzi and his family rarely come to the town. This isn’t uncommon, said one resident who preferred not to give his name. “The town has 12,000 residents, but only 3,000 of them live here full-time,” he told NOW. “Most live abroad, and the rest are in Beirut full-time.”

 

Baaqline is the idyllic Lebanese village. Roads lined with fresh blossoms wind between large, traditional stone houses. There is a quiet bustle to the town in the early afternoon. But Baaqline also played an important role in Lebanese history: it was the settling place of members of the Fakhr al-Din Maan family during the 12th century and served as a summer home for Druze leaders during Ottoman rule over Lebanon.

 

Amal’s Lebanese Druze background has prompted questions – some serious, some farcical – about the couple’s future together. Many on social media asked whether the couple would be getting a civil marriage, an option not readily available for many Lebanese. Others wondered whether Clooney and any children the two may have together would receive Lebanese citizenship, which Lebanese women cannot pass onto their children but which has been granted in cases of prominence.

 

It’s not just Amal’s Druze background that has excited Lebanese. Amal’s mother, too, has created a name for herself as a prominent journalist and political commentator with pan-Arab news outlet Al-Hayat. With Amal’s impressive background and stunning credentials, media outlets, including Al-Arabiya, have wondered if Clooney is getting the better end of the deal.  

 

“I heard Amal is getting married to a famous movie star – who is it?” Eid asked NOW, requesting a reminder of the actor’s name.

 

“Ah yes, we’ll be calling him George [Q]looney,” he joked, emphasizing the Arabic letter “qaf” pronounced strongly in Druze areas of Lebanon. “You know, we have to speak with a strong ‘q.’” 

George Clooney and his Lebanese-born fiancee, Amal Alamuddin. (Beau Sweet/GC Images)

“Ah yes, we’ll be calling him George [Q]looney. You know, we have to speak with a strong ‘q.’”

  • afif.a.ayash

    nice to see the old neighbourhood.

    August 12, 2014

  • dsacsadc

    على ما يبدو، ووفقاً لمجلة OK، السبب في التسرّع في إتمام الزفاف هو أن علامات حمل علم الدين بدأت تظهر عليها، وأنها وكلوني يريدان الزواج قبل أن ينتشر خبر الحمل في كل أنحاء العالم، ولاسيما في لبنان. فعلم الدين التي ولدت في بيروت من العام 1978، لا تريد أن يُحكم عليها من عائلتها ومجتمعها الذين قد لا يسعدون كثيراً في حال ولد طفلها خارج نطاق الزواج

    July 3, 2014