Old Time Beirut – Why “Geitawi?”

(The Daily Star, September 4 2010)

Rima Diab, 33, housewife: The hospital here is called Geitawi; I think the area is named after the man who built it.

Elian Leesha, 59, butcher: I’m not from this area. I’ve had this shop here for 21 years but I’m not sure why it’s called Geitawi.

Jack Deb, 37, hairdresser: Nobody knows. Possibly it’s called Geitawi after the hospital.

Hrag Babigian, 14, assistant in local cafe: The area is named after the hospital.

Abraham Daabhul, 45, electrician: I think it’s named after the priest who built the hospital, Padre Geitawi.

Mario Ashed, 24, university student: I’m not sure – I don’t live in this area.

Kamel Nagar, 41, proprietor: The hospital is named Geitawi, and this area is named after the hospital.

Maurice Khoury, 54, hardware-shop owner: The area is named after a priest from the Geitawi family. He gave land which he owned to nuns to build the hospital on, so the area was named after him.

Bedros Koulajian, 50s, muktar of Geitawi: Geitawi is the name of a bishop called Geitawi. The hospital was named after him, and the street.

Ramez Assaf, 36, mechanic: I have no idea – I’ve never even thought about why this area is called Geitawi.

Eli Frayha, 52, construction manager: It’s named Geitawi after a priest whose family name was Geitawi. I think there’s a statue of him at the hospital which he built.

Answer: Geitawi is a district of Rmeil. The name comes from a local priest, Joseph Geitawi, who founded and built the hospital in 1927 on a church estate. He then passed responsibility for the facility to the Maronite Sisters. The hospital was originally named the Hospital of Poor People, and its aim was to serve Lebanon, which is why it is now called the Lebanese Hospital (l’Hopital Libanais). Geitawi’s generosity was legendary, and his name was given to the hospital, and thus the area, to commemorate his position as a local benefactor.