A native of Tyre, in South Lebanon, Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi grew up surrounded by the prestigious vestiges of this ancient city, on which eight successive civilizations have laid their imprint.
For almost twenty years, Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi has dedicated herself to making Tyre, that Mecca of history and art, better known to the public. She has graduated in Social Sciences at the French Faculty of Medicine in Beirut, and in Political Sciences at the Faculty of Law of Saint-Joseph University in Beirut.
In a Resolution dated 19th December 1979, the U.N. Security Council declared that Tyre formed part of the "Patrimony of Humanity" and that it was imperative that it be safeguarded.
In 1975, with the outbreak of war, the Festival was discontinued; Tyre and her subsoil, six thousand-year-old witnesses of greatness became the scene of violence and depredation. Fearful of the danger facing this archaeological site, Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi alerted various international organizations and, in particular, UNESCO, the League of Arab States and the United Nations. At her insistence, and with the support of the Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations, the Security Council included a paragraph in a Resolution dated 19th December 1979, declaring that Tyre formed part of the "Patrimony of Humanity" and that it was imperative that it be safeguarded.
Strengthened in her resolve by these decisions, emanating from the world’s highest political body, Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi decided, together with Lebanon’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, to create the « International Association to Save Tyre » which assembles eminent personalities from the worlds of culture and science, all deeply concerned about the future of this ancient metropolis. On 5th May 1980, during the « Day for Tyre » held at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters, the International Association to Save Tyre received official recognition and Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi was elected Secretary General.
On 27th May 1980, UNESCO’s Executive Board included Tyre on of the World Heritage list.
On 27th May 1980, UNESCO’s Executive Committee recognized the necessity of safeguarding the whole of the archaeological site of Tyre, as well as the surrounding countryside. Following the example given by the United Nations Security Council and UNESCO’s Executive Board, the European Parliament, the American Senate, the League of Arab States, the House of Lords, the World Federation of Twinned Towns, etc., all unanimously agreed to declare Tyre part of our World Heritage.
An International Non-Governmental Organization accredited to UNESCO with consultative status, the International Association to Save Tyre now consists of several National Committees throughout some of the world’s most important capitals: Washington, London, Paris, Bonn, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna, Tokyo, Madrid, Cairo, Tunisia, Beirut, and Geneva. These committees are responsible for heightening public awareness to the problem of safeguarding the archaeological patrimony of Tyre by laying on major cultural events.
On 8th November 1983, UNESCO’s General Conference decided to launch an International Campaign for the Safeguard of Tyre, similar to those for Venice and Abou Simbel. In 1984, Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi managed to register Tyre on the World Heritage List, as well as the Lebanese cities Byblos, Baalbek and Anjar.
Taking culture as leverage, the Foundation is set to promote ‘Dialogue among civilizations, cultures and people’, through concrete projects.
Since 2009, Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi has been bringing together over 47 historic cities around the Mediterranean in her “League of Canaanite Phoenician and Punic Cities – LCCPP” labelled by the Cultural Council of the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM). A real link between sister cities, sharing a common history and culture, and a mutual set of values, the LCCPP promotes effective cooperation for sustainable development, based on the sharing of skills, know-how and experience.
Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi has succeeded in drawing the attention of all those for whom History is not a mere compilation of past facts, but the point of intersection between the past and the future. She has published a thesis defended at the "Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes” at the Sorbonne-Paris, entitled “Eastern / Western Relationships through Tyre travelers, XVI to the IX centuries" in which she gathered important documents, living memory of the glorious past of Tyre.
She also revealed, in a second book entitled "Phoenician Art, Neo-Phoenician Expressions", six thousand years of genius, a manual in which she invites us to discover the Phoenician Art through history, cultural beliefs of the people, but also through the myths and legends. She does not overlook the social aspect with the aim to help revive Phoenician handicrafts towards sustainable development.
In February 1986, the French President awarded Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi the "Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite" medal for exceptional services rendered for the cause of Franco-Lebanese relations.
In March 1986, the French Minister of Culture named her "Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres".
In 1988, the Lebanese President Amine Gemayel named her "Officer of the National Order of the Cedar".