Founded in 1961, the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) was initially established as a base of German Oriental Studies abroad by the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft), an academic association founded in 1845 to promote the study of the languages and cultures of the “Orient”. In 1963, the institute gained the legal recognition of the Lebanese government and moved to its present premises in the former Villa Maud Farajallah in the quarter of Zokak al-Blat, near the downtown area of Beirut.
Academic activities at the institute continued even during the most turbulent periods of Lebanese history, although in 1987 the German staff had to be temporarily evacuated to Istanbul.
In 1994, the directorate and parts of the research staff returned to Beirut, but as a result of the evacuation the institute developed de facto into a bi-local entity, with branches in both Istanbul (OII) and Beirut (OIB).
In 2003 the institute joined the Foundation German Humanities Institutes Abroad (since 2012: Max Weber Foundation – International Humanities), a non-profit foundation established by German Federal Law in 2002.
In 2009 the Orient-Institut Istanbul (OII) became an independent research center, but it continues to cooperate with the OIB as part of the Max Weber Foundation. Since 2010, the OIB has also maintained an office in Cairo.
In July 2021, the OIB has been largely rebuilt after the painful damages and destructions it suffered in considerable parts of its beautifully ornamented and old premises from the devastating explosion of August 4, 2020 in the Port of Beirut.