In 1946, Victoria Khouzami, the first Lebanese woman to obtain a doctorate from the Sorbonne, presented the idea to Louis Joxe, the director general of cultural relations and the Ministry of national education, upon her arrival to France. This strongly encouraged him. He accepted the honorary position of president of the Association culturelle franco-libanaise created in 1948 to promote, amongst other things, the creation of a Pavillon libanais at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris.
Ten years later the Cité internationale agreed and in 1959 the Lebanese government committed its engagement to participate in creating a pavilion with 130 rooms. Private funds, as well as a contribution from the Fondation Gulbenkian were used. The Maison du Liban was inaugurated in 1965 in the presence of the president of the Lebanese republic, Charles Helou. It took the name Maison du Liban in 1969. The civil war, which divided the country between 1975 and 1990, didn’t affect the cohesion of the Lebanese pavilion which has always remained a talking point thanks to the efforts of the Association culturelle franco-libanaise.
The house holds the status of a foundation and is recognised as a public utility of which the board of directors is chaired by the Lebanese ambassador in France.
The façade is decorated with pink sandstone in opus incertum, concrete and polychrome panels in primary colours, evoking the Mondrian palette. On the ground floor there is a foyer, a library and a multipurpose room. The two blocks are linked by a large glass hall via the festival room. The main entrance is protected by a concrete slanted porch that rests on a double V support, typical of the sixties. The house has 136 rooms.
The architects Jean Vernon and Bruno Philippe, along with the co-designers of the Résidence Lucien Paye and of the Maison du Maroc, designed a modern pavilion, without vested interest, made up of different volumes centred around a garden. The only part made according to tradition is the central patio with the cedar, the national symbol, on it. The accommodation is divided into two volumes that once separated the males and females, which was the case for many houses before 1968.
Leila Shahid, a Lebanese diplomat, was the chief delegate of the Palestinian authorities to the French government from 1994 to 2005, then the Palestinian ambassador to the European Union, to Belgium and to Luxembourg from 2005 until 2015. She is currently involved in cultural actions for the Palestinian diaspora.