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The Fine Writing

Sheikh Nassib Makarem was only 20 years of age when he first wrote on a grain of rice. It was a sentence of 61 words. His goal was to compete with an emir from the Tanoukh Dynasty who was able to write a Koranic verse of around 50 words on a grain of rice about 500 years before the young Sheikh was born.

The young Sheikh, a genuine artist, perceived beauty as truth. Beauty, in his eyes, did not express itself in the solid form only, but rather in justice, honor, greatness, knowledge, discipline and maturity. That was how the young artist defined beauty in the person, in the society, in the individual, and in the government. He lived his life glorifying virtue and rightness.

While Sheikh Nassib was growing up, Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire. He experienced the atrocities and injustice of the Ottoman authorities. He protested and supported the parties against the Ottoman regime. When the Ottoman Constitution was declared, and believing, like everybody else, that the Constitution would be the social savior and solution, the young Sheikh created a marble egg, the same size of a natural egg, positioned on the back of a bronze eagle. He drew the Ottoman Emblem on the top of the egg and wrote the reason for creating the work. Along side the Ottoman emblem, he wrote a prayer for the Sultan and the Ottoman Empire. Then he wrote the Ottoman Decrees in Turkish as well as in Arabic. He proceeded to write the evidence for proclaiming the constitution for the first time, then the proclamation of the constitution for the second time. Then he wrote an explanation for the eagle carrying the egg. Later he wrote two poems; the first of which praised the constitution and the second, which praised the Ottoman army. He then drew a map of the Ottoman Empire with the names of the important cities. The total number of words, excluding the emblem and the map, was about 10,000 words. Sheikh Nassib says that it took him about two years and about 1000 writing instruments. That piece of art was named the Egg of the Constitution.

After years had passed, Sheikh Nassib, like everyone else, believed in the new Ottoman leaders. Sheikh Nassib was impressed with the leaders, in particular, Jamal Pasha. When Jamal Pasha was promoted to a higher rank and was sent as a ruler to Syria, Sheikh Nassib presented him with a gift of a grain of wheat on which he had written several verses of a poem. Jamal Pasha was so impressed that he granted Sheikh Nassib a medal and three certificates enabling him to import wheat from Syria to Lebanon. He used these certificates during the starvation of World War I in Lebanon.

The Socioeconomic situation did not progress as planned with the new Ottoman Constitution and the new rulers. During World War I, The Ottoman Empire joined the Axis Powers, and the Ottoman rulers became so ruthless that the young Sheikh felt he had been deceived. Thousands of people suffered from hunger and persecution. The young Sheikh, at that time, had been impressed with what the American Red Cross had been doing in helping the poor out of their misery. These actions compelled the young Sheikh to send the President of the American Red Cross, a grain of wheat with a 101word message of thanks written on it.

In 1913, the Arab revolt broke out in the region under the instigation of Sharif Hussein, an Arab revolution leader. Emir Faysal, the son of Hussein, conquered Damascus. This act of revolt prompted Sheikh Nassib to send a grain of wheat inscribed with 110 words to Emir Faysal. Impressed by Sheikh Nassib's work, Emir Faysal presented the young Sheikh with the privileged Royal ensemble (garb) and asked the young Sheikh to be his personal calligrapher.

The following year, Emir Faysal was proclaimed king of Syria. Sheikh Nassib created a 7.5mm X 7.5mm ring for him and wrote three verses of a poem on it. That poem related to King Faysal being a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohamed. The new king ordered a medal to be awarded to Sheikh Nassib. Unfortunately the prevailing situation at that time did not permit the delivery of the medal.

Sheikh Nassib also created a ring specially made for the king’s father, Sharrif Hussein. This ring was made of silver, 5mm X 5mm, satisfying a personal request of King Faysal.

Later in that same era, when King Faysal was proclaimed King of Iraq, Sheikh Nassib created a ring with the map of Iraq engraved on it and included three verses of a poem praising the King. This ring was exhibited in Iraq in 1932.

When Ghazi, the son of King Faysal, was proclaimed as the heir of the Kingdom of Iraq, Sheikh Nassib created a ring made of gold for him with 4 verses of a poem. He included the date of the proclamation. The writing was embossed in gold. The new heir was so impressed by that magnificent piece of art that he ordered full royal recognition and the title "Beik", a title only awarded to royalty, to be awarded to the Sheikh.

When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was proclaimed under Kind Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Ruhman Al Saoud, Sheikh Nassib presented the King with a ring made of gold that included 5 verses of a poem.

After Egypt won its independence, Sheikh Nassib engraved on a gold ring the Egyptian National Anthem that included 16 verses of 157 words. This ring was exhibited in the First Arab Exhibition in Jerusalem in the year of 1933.

Sheikh Nassib presented King Fouad I, King of Egypt, a 7mm X 7mm gold ring, that included 6 verses of a poem about his coronation as King. He also created a ring of silver and engraved a poem composed of 86 words.

His fame was acquired after his art and calligraphy reached beyond man's imagination. He was able to write on a grain of rice made of silver, a 30-verse poem of 287 words, on one side of the grain. This grain was exhibited in 1925 in a world's Fair that was held in Egypt. The administration of the Fair charged an additional fee for those who were interested in seeing that magnificent grain.

During the rein of King Farouk I, King of Egypt, The Egyptian Royal Academy asked Sheikh Nassib to create a grain of rice and engrave the map of Egypt on it. The Sheikh not only engraved the map of Egypt on the grain of rice but also included the map of The Sudan with the letters and boundaries embossed in gold.

Sheikh Nassib also created a grain of rice made of silver and engraved the map of Palestine including the names of its important cities. The letters and boundaries were embossed in gold. This grain of rice was exhibited in the Second Arab Fair that was held in Jerusalem the year of 1934.

He engraved on a 10mm X 8mm gold ring the Syrian National Anthem. That ring was exhibited in the Syrian Industrial Fair.

For Lebanon, Sheikh Nassib engraved the Lebanese National Anthem on a 7mm X 5.5mm gold ring. This ring was exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

He also engraved on one side of a marble grain of rice the Ruins of Baalbek as they appear now. On the other side he engraved the Temple of Baalbek as it looked during the Roman Empire. This grain of rice was exhibited in the Syrian Industrial Fair, the Iraqi Fair, the Arab Fair in Jerusalem in 1933, and in the 1939 New York World's Fair.

In addition, he engraved the map of Lebanon on a grain of rice of silver with its rivers, the major cities and the boundaries embossed in gold.

At the 1939 New York World's Fair, Sheikh Nassib Makarem sent to Lebanon's wing at the Fair, a grain of rice made of silver especially created for the fair. He engraved the map of the United States of America with the boundaries, the major rivers and the letters N.Y. and U.S.A. embossed in gold. This particular grain was believed to be the most magnificent work of art and was valued at $150,000 at that time. Sheikh Nassib was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Sheikh Nassib not only commemorated national events, but he was also highly interested in recognizing Knowledge, Peace, Honor, Religion, Education, Poetry, and Literature that had a profound effect on him personally.

He engraved a verse of the Koran on a 5mm X 5mm ring with the letters embossed in gold. This ring was exhibited at the Iraq National Fair and the Second Arab Fair in Jerusalem in 1934.

He engraved four verses of the Koran on a grain of rice that consisted of 110 words. It was exhibited in the Iraq National Fair in 1934.

He also engraved two Koranic verses on a grain of rice that was exhibited in the first Arab Fair in Jerusalem in 1934.

He engraved a poem composed of 113 words on a grain of wheat that was exhibited in the Damascus Museum.

Sheikh Nassib also engraved the first two parts of the French National Anthem, The Marseillaise, on a grain of rice made of marble. This particular grain was exhibited in the fair of the "Beaux Arts" in Paris, the Syrian Industrial Fair, and the 1939 New York World's Fair.

He also engraved the same two parts of the Marseillaise on another grain of rice that included the map of France as well. Sheikh Nassib was awarded the military medal when this grain was presented to Marshal Fosh during the French mandate of Lebanon.

In 1928, inspired by the Industrial Revolution, Sheikh Nassib Makarem also created a grain of rice honoring the contributions to American Industry made by Henry Ford. He engraved on one side of the grain of rice the first three Model T cars Henry Ford produced and the model year of each car. On the other side, he inscribed Henry Ford's famous phrases praising hard work and success.

Praising man's affection, Sheikh Nassib engraved a poem on a grain of rice composed of 65 words by the French poet Victor Hugo. That grain was also exhibited in the Fair of the "Beaux Arts" in Paris.

Sheikh Nassib lived most of his life in peace. He glorified peace by engraving two poems on a grain of rice by the English poets Shakespeare and James Thompson.

In 1919, Sheikh Nassib presented the Museum of the American University of Beirut, known at that time as the Syrian Protestant College, with a grain of rice praising education.

In 1926, he engraved the map of Spain along with a poem in Spanish by the Spanish author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, composed of 79 words.

In Lebanon, Sheikh Nassib Makarem, was honored by the President of the Republic, President Slyman Frangieh, for The Fine Writings he made throughout his lifetime. The President bestowed upon Sheikh Nassib the highest honor for a civilian. Before that, Sheikh Nassib received numerous awards from other governments and heads of state for the fine writings he did for them, as well as for their governments. He received twenty-two medals in all and ten honors from the Heads of countries, as well as, from their governments.  In Lebanon, as well as in many countries in the Arab World, one has only to look at the skyscrapers to see the name of the building in Sheikh Nassib’s fine writing.  The stationary of the American University of Beirut is also the fine writing of Sheikh Nassib. The numerous awards he has received, along with Sheikh Nassib’s masterpieces, can be found on a website dedicated to his Fine Writings at: www.nasibbmakarem.org.  His fame is ‘carved in stone’ and his memory will live on for generations. Sheikh Nassib made my name for me in an ‘inverted heart’ shape.  It is part of my logo for this web site.  Another Nassib Makarem, my son, made the other part of my logo for this web site. My son, Nassib, like his grandfather, and his father, does beautiful Arabic calligraphy as can be seen by some of his works on this web site.

The picture of Mrs. Julia Makarem's name by her father-in-law,  Sheikh Nassib