Beirut – Lebanese Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat hesitated a lot before announcing that he is passing the family mantle to his son, Taymour.
Walid Jumblat had to quash many rumors surrounding his intention to pass the “Jumblat leadership” to his successor, perhaps out of “superstition, because the mantle in the family is seldom passed through normal circumstances.”
The MP on Sunday became the first living member of the Jumblat family to transfer leadership to his son. In the past, the mantle was usually passed in the case of the leader’s death, or as often is the case with the Jumblat family, assassination.
Taymour now carries the 305-year Jumblat family legacy on his shoulders. The Mokhtara estate that lies in the heart of the Chouf region in Mount Lebanon has long been a historic symbol of this family.
The origins of the family itself have long been the subject of speculation, with some saying it comes from the line of the Tannoukhy family that ruled vast areas of Mount Lebanon. Others say it comes from the Kurdish Ali Basha Janboulad, who was the ruler of Syria’s Aleppo city.
What is certain is that the origin of the current Jumblat family, which is the leader of the Druze community in Lebanon, comes from Sheikh Ali Jumblat, who inherited the Mokhtara estate and the family mantle from the father of his wife, Sheikh Qabalan al-Kadi, in 1712.
Sheikh Ali passed away at the age of 87 and passed on the leadership to his son Sheikh Qassem Jumblat, who also inherited the Baadaran region. His brother Najem took the Mokhtara estate.
Sheikh Qassem was succeeded by his son Bashir Jumblat, who was one of the most prominent allies of Prince Bashir al-Chehabi, who ruled Mount Lebanon for a long time. Bashir however turned against the prince and had him hanged in conspiracy with the then Ottoman ruler of Acre.
Bashir did not pass the mantle to either of his sons, Nassib and Najib, but to his relative Saeed Jumblat, who was assassinated by poisoning. This was verified by Dr. Riyad Ghannam, who linked the assassination to English-French agendas in the region.
Najib then assumed the Jumblat leadership, who after his death of natural causes, passed it on to his son Fouad, who was “mistakenly” assassinated at the hands of Shakib Wahhab. A French aide, whom Fouad was accompanying, was supposed to be the target of Wahhab’s assassination.
His son, Kamal, was only four years old at the time of Fouad’s death, so Nazira Jumblat chose her brother-in-law Hikmat as political guardian of the leadership.
Kamal came to power in 1943 after Hikmat’s death and remained at the head of the family until his assassination, along with two of his companions, in 1977. Fingers were pointed at the Syrian regime for being behind the murder, but his son Walid maintained an alliance with regime head Hafez al-Assad until his death in 2000. This alliance did not carry on to his successor Bashar Assad.
Ghannam told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Mokhtara was originally a Crusader mansion that was eventually destroyed. Sheikh Qabalan built a new mansion on its ruins. It has since been passed on to various leaders over the generations.
Ghannam revealed that the mansion was built and reconstructed numerous times after falling to the disputes that mired the Jumblat family with its rivals, including Prince Bashir al-Chehabi, who once his alliance with Sheikh Bashir Jumblat fell apart, confiscated the contents of the mansion before destroying it.
MP Walid Jumblat is keen on preserving the legacy of his father at Mokhtara. The estate is filled with photographs and various mementos from the slain leader. Among them is the identification card of Kamal Jumblat with a bullet hole in the middle from the day he was killed. Walid once told Asharq Al-Awsat that he makes sure to look at that ID card every day.