This hilly seaside town is twice famous in the annals of contemporary Lebanon. It was well known as a pretty and prosperous Christian community that was the home of former President Camille Chamoun, whose palace is just to the south. And when Damour was sacked in the civil war, it was famous for the totality of the pillage.
Its current inhabitants made news, too. They are Palestinian refugees who survived the siege of their camp at Tal Zaatar last summer. They came with nothing to this place, which offered them nothing but empty ruins and blank walls, and built a kind of life. Now they are being forced to move again.
The Lebanese Christians who were driven out of Damour want it back, and are apparently going to get it. Under pressure from Chamoun, Premier Selim Hoss announced last week that the Palestinians are to be moved to a new camp on a hillside in the far south of the country.
Political analysts in Beirut say this shows the conservative Christian leaders' strength with the postwar government, and the Palestinians' declining power in Lebanese affairs.
The Palestinians have become, in the words of a Lebanese professor, "pariahs in this country." Even the Lebanese inhabitants of the rural where the new camp is to be set up, near Basariyeh, have objected to it, but the government owns the land and the decision appears to be final. The only issue is whether the Palestinians in Damour will be forced to go south within the month and live in tents or allowed to stay here until full facilities are ready.
It means another uprooting, another trek to another temporary home, the very thing their leaders opposed when they insisted on defending Tal Zaatar against all odds, but the Palestinians are not making their own choices in Lebanon any more.
"All of us, knew from the beginning that this was temporary," said Ahmed Daher, the administrator of the Palestinians' makeshift hospital. "But the point is to have a suitable place. We don't want to live in tents and we would like some place closer to Beirut."
What the 6,000 to 7,000 people here would really like, said Asmat Shehada, is to go back to Tal Zaatar.
To us, he said, "Tal Zaatar is Palestine. Most of our boys in school were born there." A teaching assistant in the Damour school, said that "if you ask any student here where is home, he will say Tal Zaatar."
That kind of sentiment may be natural among young people who have lived in a refugee camp all their lives, but it makes the Palestinian leadership uncomfortable. Their view is that the Palestinians have no home but Palestine.
In any case, a return to Tal Zaatar is out of the question. Even before the war, the Lebanese Christians tried for years to get rid of the camp, which was in the hills east of Beirut in a mostly Christian area. Having overrun it last summer, they are not going to allow it to be reestablished, Lebanese sources said.
Both Damour and Tal Zaatar were victims of Lebanon's Political geography: Damour, 12 miles south of Beirut, a Christian town in a Moslem and Palestinian area; Tal Zaatar, Palestinian camp in the Christian zone.
Damour's residents, including Chamoun, fled north to the Christian side of the lines when combined Palestinian and Lebanese leftist forces sacked the town in January 1976, in retaliation for atrocities Christian forces committed against Karantina, a moslem slum area in Beirut.
Damour was completely looted. Every last doorknob and plumbing fixture was ripped out, every window broken, all furniture carted away or burned. But the solid stone walls were left standing, and months later, when Tal Zaatar fell, its occupants fled south to the Moslem-controlled area and moved in here.
Damour is a town without young men. Its occupants are graying olders and widows and children, many of them orphans. The young men of fighting age died at Tal Zaatar or in some other battle, or have gone off to join Palestinian guerrilla units in the south.
The war has left its mark in other ways, too. In a second grade classroom, a dozen boys raise their hands eagerly when the teacher asks who knows how to sketch a gun, and two of them go to the blackboard where they draw remarkable likenesses of the Kalashnikov assault rifle that was the guerrillas' standard weapon.
The health conditions are such that a volunteer doctor from Bangladesh sees 75 patients on an average morning in his clinic. The misfortunes of the Tal Zaatar refugees are evoking little sympathy among the Lebanese, however.
"They brought it on themselves," said a Lebanese political analyst in Beirut. "They should never have moved in there. They knew Chamoun would want it back."
He and other Lebanese agreed that the return of the Christian inhabitants to Damour is an important symbol in eliminating the de facto partition of the country brought on by the war, and the Palestinians who are squatting there are not going to be allowed to stand in the way.