Like many of his compatriots, Michel Chiha had to leave Beirut during the 1914-1918 Great War and settle in Cairo where he studied law and obtained his law degree.
With an inherent interest in politics and foreseeing the defeat of Germany and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, Michel Chiha and a few similarly engaged friends took it upon themselves to prepare the groundwork necessary for a future free and independent Lebanese nation-state. With this purpose in mind, he became a founding member of a literary coterie of like-minded individuals whose efforts resulted in the publication of a french-language journal featuring the voluntary contributions of its committed members. Titled “Ébauches” or drafts, the journal prided itself on being non-partisan.
Alongside the title was the motto “take me as you find me”. In a letter addressed to Hector Klat, one of the few letters found in the family archive in which he describes his life in exile, he gives details of visits to friends, of changing residences between Helouan, Cairo, and Alexandria and describes an enforced retreat to Ras-el-Bar.
Most of his time was spent preparing for his law degree and editing ‘Ébauches’. Although the account is fairly typical of the lifestyle of a young bachelor of the day, it also highlights an early interest in art, music, and literature. Indeed in time, Michel Chiha would become a keen archaeology enthusiast and a great collector who maintained an amicable correspondence with the leading archaeologists of the day.
After a three-year exile in Egypt, Michel Chiha returned to Beirut at the end of the Great War.