Vandalism & mismanagement of Lebanon's ancient ruins

eLad

eLad

Legendary Member
Orange Room Supporter
I visited Faqra's ruins this year and was shocked by what I saw! in another country such archeological sites would be guarded, sieged well maintained and litterers would get a huge fine or maybe jailed.

here are some pictures i took. what a shame









 
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    Dry Ice

    Legendary Member
    Elad,

    That garbage and vandalization should be kept on site as historical remnants of current times.
     
    CedarLb

    CedarLb

    Legendary Member
    How about the roman columns? Can't they fix/restore them in a better way? e.g. check the 3rd from left in the image below.

     
    Shev

    Shev

    Well-Known Member
    exactly the same story from baalback to jbeil to tyr and sh2eif. this is our culture :D
     
    D

    Dry Ice

    Legendary Member
    How about the roman columns? Can't they fix/restore them in a better way? e.g. check the 3rd from left in the image below.
    well cement is part of our culture, it is only normal to plaster it over ancient structures.
     
    Picasso

    Picasso

    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    Such pictures show the difference between us and our ancestors, they are the people of the historical sites, and we are the people of the garbage and vandalism!

    How do such people actually think, if they think, when they throw garbage? And why did they visit such places at first hand if they don't value our heritage?

    I like what I read once in an EcoTourism pamphlet: "Take only memories, leave only footprints."
     
    eLad

    eLad

    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    How about the roman columns? Can't they fix/restore them in a better way? e.g. check the 3rd from left in the image below.

    i thought about that too, especially that you see the original columns lying on the ground. why cant they use them instead of building those ugly square cement columns??
     
    eLad

    eLad

    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    من يحمي زوّار المواقع الأثرية؟


    جوانا عازار - سقط الأسبوع الماضي الطفل ع. ب. (14 سنة) من على مدخل قلعة جبيل الأثريّة نحو 14 متراً. الطفل الذي نقل إلى المستشفى على أثر الإصابة، نجا بأعجوبة من الموت. فتحت هذه الحادثة الباب على جملة تساؤلات؛ فمن يحمي زائري المواقع الأثريّة؟ ومن يتحمّل مسؤوليّة وقوع الطفل؟ وما هي الإجراءات المتخذة على المواقع الأثرية لضمان سلامة الزوار؟

    فموقع جبيل يمتد على مساحة 8 هكتارات، وهو من أهم المعالم الأثرية في لبنان وأكثرها زيارة. لكن مدخل القلعة يمثّل خطراً على الزائرين، وخاصة أنها ترتفع عن أرض الموقع أكثر من 14 متراً، ونقطة الخطر الثانية في الموقع هي قبر «أبشيمو أبي»؛ فرؤية الناووس الحجري الذي لا يزال في موقعه داخل البئر المنحوتة في الصخر، تتطلب من الزائر أن يسير على الصخور التي خسرت صلابتها وباتت مساحة اللمس فيها ضئيلة جداً. وصعوبة الوصول هذه تجبر زائري الموقع، وخاصة كبيري السن منهم على التخلي عن النزول إلى داخل البئر ورؤية الناووس.

    لا شكّ في أنّ العامل الطبيعيّ يؤدي دوراً في حدوث الانهيارات، إلا أنّ العامل البشريّ لا يغيب هو الآخر؛ فعدد الزائرين الكبير سنوياً، يسبب تخريباً غير مقصود، ولكنه ظاهر للعلن. فحجارة بعض المساكن التي تعود إلى 5000 سنة وقعت بسبب سير السياح عليها بدل اتباع الممرات المخصصة لذلك. وهذا ما حصل أيضاً لأدراج معبد البعلة الأثري، فباتت زيارة المعلم خطرة بسبب انهيار الأدراج. وخلال أيام التراث، يفتح الموقع أبوابه أمام اللبنانيين مجاناً، فيصل عدد الطلاب إلى المئات في وجود حارسين فقط كلّفتهما مديريّة الآثار حماية المكان.

    ولم يسلم بيت جبيل القديم المطلّ على البحر من الشتاء هذه السنة. فقد ضربت صاعقة قرميده من الجهتين وانهار جزء من السقف. وهذا البيت هو الشاهد الوحيد الباقي من مدينة جبيل في القرنين الماضيين، عندما كانت بيوت المدينة تغطي الموقع الأثري بكامله. أمّا المدرج الرومانيّ فلم يسلم هو الآخر من الانهيارات التي أصابت نحو 4 من صخور مدرجه، وبدأت الخامسة بالتفكك! وعلى بعد أمتار، تظهر بعض الانهيارات لأجزاء من الأسوار.

    من الواضح أن موقع جبيل بحاجة إلى صيانة مستعجلة، ولكنه بحاجة أيضاً إلى خطة جديدة لحماية السياح خلال أوقات الزيارة. قد لا تكون الحوادث داخل الموقع كثيرة (وهذا أفضل)، لكن يبقى توفير حماية الزوار ضرورياً. وتجدر الإشارة إلى أن موقع جبيل يتلاقى مع باقي المواقع السياحية والأثرية في لبنان من مبدأ أنها غير مؤهلة لذوي الاحتياجات الخاصة. فمن المستحيل أن يدخل المكان أو أن يتحرك في داخله مقعد على كرسيه المتحرك.
     
    Comrade Bassam

    Comrade Bassam

    Legendary Member
    Wala yhemmkon chabeb walaw? Ma wazir el siye7a ma3na ma ykenelkon feker!
     
    dodzi

    dodzi

    Legendary Member
    I believe that the vandalism of those ruins are not simply a matter of the protection that is allocated to it, but also a matter of civility and education.

    You can't over protect the ruins. We have tons of them in Lebanon, and protecting them would require an impossible budget.

    Unfortunately it is the people's fault in this topic. When you are your friends go out in a natural or historical environment, or simply when you go out in the streets, do you always litter, make sure not to thrown anything on the streets?

    I can assure you that if you take the same amount of security personnel they use in Western countries, people will still vandalize them.

    Lek I was in Sour/Tyr a few years ago, and I was impressed. People threw things out their windows, on the streets, on the beaches, etc. Yet I saw these trash cans every where, but nobody bothered! It's compulsive! You wanna put a cop on every corner forbidding people to throw garbage on the streets? It would be a wise measure if the police themselves didn't throw things on the streets!
     
    Green_Lebanon

    Green_Lebanon

    New Member
    And the people who actually go there and litter like that are supposed to be more concerned about history and the ruins, or else why would you go to such places.

    This is utterly sad.
     
    Iron Maiden

    Iron Maiden

    Paragon of Bacon
    Staff member
    Reviving this thread, more vandalism of beirut's history and roman heritage in order to satisfy dome prick's ego.

    SGBL tower will be built on top of a literal archeological gold mine.

    Will Renzo Piano's new tower demolish an ancient city buried under Beirut? - Beirut Report

    “We will find where you live,” a watchman yelled at me after taking a picture of ruins on his construction site. He had followed me across the street to issue the threat, claiming to have memorized the license plate number on my car. “Wait and see what they will do to you when they come to your house.”

    Source: Teloduh
    This vast site, believed to be a 1st century artisan workshop (for at least part of its occupation), was uncovered late last year and could help tell the little-known story of Berytus, one of the most influential cities in the Roman empire.

    Source: L’Orient Le Jour


    Instead it is scheduled to become a glass skyscraper, serving as the headquarters of a private bank, SGBL (Société Générale de Banque au Liban).





    The skyscraper is being designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, one of many celebrity architects transforming Beirut’s skyline with high end real estate towers worth billions of dollars and far out of reach of most Lebanese people. Piano is also designing the massive 160,000 square meter Pinwheel Project, which consists of a series of hotel and condo towers in the heart of downtown, as well as a city museum project, which is also to be built atop of a ruins discovery.

    Source: RPBW project conception
    Sadly the type of violent threats and harassment I experienced is not unusual when attempting to document the wonders of the ancient world being unearthed for the first time in contemporary Beirut. One would assume that a 2,000 year old site is one the entire country should be able to see, to learn from, to explore, to be inspired by, to build a sense of place, pride in preservation or national belonging. But in Lebanon, history can be private property. Several journalists and activists have been threatened or physically attacked for documenting the impact of real estate projects across the country.

    To appease critics, some investors have recently pledged to preserve very limited sections of ruins, displayed decoratively as part of their real estate projects or concealed in parking garages. Yet these are often placed out of context or difficult for visitors to access and comprehend. In the case of the Piano project, can the design of such a large building possibly preserve the vast vista of ruins beneath? Can the design be changed in any way meaningful enough to communicate its significance and that of ancient Berytus?

    Upon closer view, we can see the interesting rock patterns in the walls. What do they tell us?

    At the top corner of the site, the stones are entirely different, much larger and better carved, resembling grand Roman structures. Was there an important building near this site?



    Most importantly, will the public ever get a chance to experience this piece of the puzzle of a city and great civilization we are just beginning to understand? With large walls surrounding the permiter, as seen in the photos above, passersby are not allowed even a glimpse of it. (Photos in the post were taken from other buildings or openings in the wall.)

    At any rate, the site might not be around for much longer. Clearance may be closer than we think. In photos taken a few months ago, we can see nearly 20 tents set up in the dig:

    Photo: Timo Azhari
    But today there are only a few tents left, meaning the archeological teams may have largely packed up and left:



    Is this why the developer is so aggressively keeping it off limits to the public? The site workers must have been threatened themselves if anyone is allowed to get a photo out.

    It’s unclear if the diggers have already started to clear the area or penetrate to deeper levels as their position has changed since I first began documenting the site earlier this year.

    Compare this image taken in January 2018:



    To this photo taken from the same vantage point in recent days:



    In addition to the removal of tents, we can also see the position of the two bulldozers is further into the site than they were early this year.

    Here’s another shot from January 2018:



    And the same vantage point today:



    From a closer perspective, we can some of the amazing wall detail on the left section:



    So what to make of the threats issued to me for taking these photos? They were taken from the public street, from the sidewalk, at a brief moment when the door to the site was open. There is no legal basis for banning photography in public space. There is no basis in banning the Lebanese public from seeing their own history. But who was the man who threatened me and why?

    The owner of SGBL bank is known to surround himself with those capable of serious violence. His bodyguards have regularly engaged in alleged criminal acts, including armed assaults and even a shootout in nightclub, according to news reports. In 2015, a bodyguard formerly employed by the owner stabbed a man to death in broad daylight, and was subsequently sent to prison. Is this the type of violence and threats that a Pritzker-winning architect like Renzo Piano would like to be associated with?

    Interestingly, SGBL itself claims to be “a strong advocate of culture and arts in Lebanon,” according to its website. While Piano, who has been involved in several projects across Beirut has said: “Cities are beautiful because they are created slowly; they are made by time. A city is born from a tangle of monuments and infrastructures, culture and market, national history and everyday stories. It takes 500 years to create a city, 50 to create a neighborhood.”

    In fact, the city of Beirut has not been developing just for 50 or 500 years, but for thousands of years and several millennia. Would it be too much to dream that Piano and SGBL live up to their stated ideals? Since both Piano and SGBL have profited so generously from Beirut, could they possibly give something back by preserving a bit of its illustrious past for the coming generations to enjoy?
     
    Muki

    Muki

    Well-Known Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    Reviving this thread, more vandalism of beirut's history and roman heritage in order to satisfy dome prick's ego.

    SGBL tower will be built on top of a literal archeological gold mine.

    Will Renzo Piano's new tower demolish an ancient city buried under Beirut? - Beirut Report

    “We will find where you live,” a watchman yelled at me after taking a picture of ruins on his construction site. He had followed me across the street to issue the threat, claiming to have memorized the license plate number on my car. “Wait and see what they will do to you when they come to your house.”

    Source: Teloduh
    This vast site, believed to be a 1st century artisan workshop (for at least part of its occupation), was uncovered late last year and could help tell the little-known story of Berytus, one of the most influential cities in the Roman empire.

    Source: L’Orient Le Jour


    Instead it is scheduled to become a glass skyscraper, serving as the headquarters of a private bank, SGBL (Société Générale de Banque au Liban).





    The skyscraper is being designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, one of many celebrity architects transforming Beirut’s skyline with high end real estate towers worth billions of dollars and far out of reach of most Lebanese people. Piano is also designing the massive 160,000 square meter Pinwheel Project, which consists of a series of hotel and condo towers in the heart of downtown, as well as a city museum project, which is also to be built atop of a ruins discovery.

    Source: RPBW project conception
    Sadly the type of violent threats and harassment I experienced is not unusual when attempting to document the wonders of the ancient world being unearthed for the first time in contemporary Beirut. One would assume that a 2,000 year old site is one the entire country should be able to see, to learn from, to explore, to be inspired by, to build a sense of place, pride in preservation or national belonging. But in Lebanon, history can be private property. Several journalists and activists have been threatened or physically attacked for documenting the impact of real estate projects across the country.

    To appease critics, some investors have recently pledged to preserve very limited sections of ruins, displayed decoratively as part of their real estate projects or concealed in parking garages. Yet these are often placed out of context or difficult for visitors to access and comprehend. In the case of the Piano project, can the design of such a large building possibly preserve the vast vista of ruins beneath? Can the design be changed in any way meaningful enough to communicate its significance and that of ancient Berytus?

    Upon closer view, we can see the interesting rock patterns in the walls. What do they tell us?

    At the top corner of the site, the stones are entirely different, much larger and better carved, resembling grand Roman structures. Was there an important building near this site?



    Most importantly, will the public ever get a chance to experience this piece of the puzzle of a city and great civilization we are just beginning to understand? With large walls surrounding the permiter, as seen in the photos above, passersby are not allowed even a glimpse of it. (Photos in the post were taken from other buildings or openings in the wall.)

    At any rate, the site might not be around for much longer. Clearance may be closer than we think. In photos taken a few months ago, we can see nearly 20 tents set up in the dig:

    Photo: Timo Azhari
    But today there are only a few tents left, meaning the archeological teams may have largely packed up and left:



    Is this why the developer is so aggressively keeping it off limits to the public? The site workers must have been threatened themselves if anyone is allowed to get a photo out.

    It’s unclear if the diggers have already started to clear the area or penetrate to deeper levels as their position has changed since I first began documenting the site earlier this year.

    Compare this image taken in January 2018:



    To this photo taken from the same vantage point in recent days:



    In addition to the removal of tents, we can also see the position of the two bulldozers is further into the site than they were early this year.

    Here’s another shot from January 2018:



    And the same vantage point today:



    From a closer perspective, we can some of the amazing wall detail on the left section:



    So what to make of the threats issued to me for taking these photos? They were taken from the public street, from the sidewalk, at a brief moment when the door to the site was open. There is no legal basis for banning photography in public space. There is no basis in banning the Lebanese public from seeing their own history. But who was the man who threatened me and why?

    The owner of SGBL bank is known to surround himself with those capable of serious violence. His bodyguards have regularly engaged in alleged criminal acts, including armed assaults and even a shootout in nightclub, according to news reports. In 2015, a bodyguard formerly employed by the owner stabbed a man to death in broad daylight, and was subsequently sent to prison. Is this the type of violence and threats that a Pritzker-winning architect like Renzo Piano would like to be associated with?

    Interestingly, SGBL itself claims to be “a strong advocate of culture and arts in Lebanon,” according to its website. While Piano, who has been involved in several projects across Beirut has said: “Cities are beautiful because they are created slowly; they are made by time. A city is born from a tangle of monuments and infrastructures, culture and market, national history and everyday stories. It takes 500 years to create a city, 50 to create a neighborhood.”

    In fact, the city of Beirut has not been developing just for 50 or 500 years, but for thousands of years and several millennia. Would it be too much to dream that Piano and SGBL live up to their stated ideals? Since both Piano and SGBL have profited so generously from Beirut, could they possibly give something back by preserving a bit of its illustrious past for the coming generations to enjoy?
    There are probably no laws against vandalizing ancient ruins in the process of construction.

    These developers are simply using loopholes in the legal code. It is a risk worth taking. In a few years when the law catches up, they will fine the management a few hundred dollars, and هي كانت. You can't tear down a tower and bring back ancient ruins.
     
    Iron Maiden

    Iron Maiden

    Paragon of Bacon
    Staff member
    There are probably no laws against vandalizing ancient ruins in the process of construction.

    These developers are simply using loopholes in the legal code. It is a risk worth taking. In a few years when the law catches up, they will fine the management a few hundred dollars, and هي كانت. You can't tear down a tower and bring back ancient ruins.
    Hopefully they will feel the wrath of the great emperor Augustus in the after life
     
    Skunk

    Skunk

    Active Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    Reviving this thread, more vandalism of beirut's history and roman heritage in order to satisfy dome prick's ego.

    SGBL tower will be built on top of a literal archeological gold mine.

    Will Renzo Piano's new tower demolish an ancient city buried under Beirut? - Beirut Report

    “We will find where you live,” a watchman yelled at me after taking a picture of ruins on his construction site. He had followed me across the street to issue the threat, claiming to have memorized the license plate number on my car. “Wait and see what they will do to you when they come to your house.”

    Source: Teloduh
    This vast site, believed to be a 1st century artisan workshop (for at least part of its occupation), was uncovered late last year and could help tell the little-known story of Berytus, one of the most influential cities in the Roman empire.

    Source: L’Orient Le Jour


    Instead it is scheduled to become a glass skyscraper, serving as the headquarters of a private bank, SGBL (Société Générale de Banque au Liban).





    The skyscraper is being designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, one of many celebrity architects transforming Beirut’s skyline with high end real estate towers worth billions of dollars and far out of reach of most Lebanese people. Piano is also designing the massive 160,000 square meter Pinwheel Project, which consists of a series of hotel and condo towers in the heart of downtown, as well as a city museum project, which is also to be built atop of a ruins discovery.

    Source: RPBW project conception
    Sadly the type of violent threats and harassment I experienced is not unusual when attempting to document the wonders of the ancient world being unearthed for the first time in contemporary Beirut. One would assume that a 2,000 year old site is one the entire country should be able to see, to learn from, to explore, to be inspired by, to build a sense of place, pride in preservation or national belonging. But in Lebanon, history can be private property. Several journalists and activists have been threatened or physically attacked for documenting the impact of real estate projects across the country.

    To appease critics, some investors have recently pledged to preserve very limited sections of ruins, displayed decoratively as part of their real estate projects or concealed in parking garages. Yet these are often placed out of context or difficult for visitors to access and comprehend. In the case of the Piano project, can the design of such a large building possibly preserve the vast vista of ruins beneath? Can the design be changed in any way meaningful enough to communicate its significance and that of ancient Berytus?

    Upon closer view, we can see the interesting rock patterns in the walls. What do they tell us?

    At the top corner of the site, the stones are entirely different, much larger and better carved, resembling grand Roman structures. Was there an important building near this site?



    Most importantly, will the public ever get a chance to experience this piece of the puzzle of a city and great civilization we are just beginning to understand? With large walls surrounding the permiter, as seen in the photos above, passersby are not allowed even a glimpse of it. (Photos in the post were taken from other buildings or openings in the wall.)

    At any rate, the site might not be around for much longer. Clearance may be closer than we think. In photos taken a few months ago, we can see nearly 20 tents set up in the dig:

    Photo: Timo Azhari
    But today there are only a few tents left, meaning the archeological teams may have largely packed up and left:



    Is this why the developer is so aggressively keeping it off limits to the public? The site workers must have been threatened themselves if anyone is allowed to get a photo out.

    It’s unclear if the diggers have already started to clear the area or penetrate to deeper levels as their position has changed since I first began documenting the site earlier this year.

    Compare this image taken in January 2018:



    To this photo taken from the same vantage point in recent days:



    In addition to the removal of tents, we can also see the position of the two bulldozers is further into the site than they were early this year.

    Here’s another shot from January 2018:



    And the same vantage point today:



    From a closer perspective, we can some of the amazing wall detail on the left section:



    So what to make of the threats issued to me for taking these photos? They were taken from the public street, from the sidewalk, at a brief moment when the door to the site was open. There is no legal basis for banning photography in public space. There is no basis in banning the Lebanese public from seeing their own history. But who was the man who threatened me and why?

    The owner of SGBL bank is known to surround himself with those capable of serious violence. His bodyguards have regularly engaged in alleged criminal acts, including armed assaults and even a shootout in nightclub, according to news reports. In 2015, a bodyguard formerly employed by the owner stabbed a man to death in broad daylight, and was subsequently sent to prison. Is this the type of violence and threats that a Pritzker-winning architect like Renzo Piano would like to be associated with?

    Interestingly, SGBL itself claims to be “a strong advocate of culture and arts in Lebanon,” according to its website. While Piano, who has been involved in several projects across Beirut has said: “Cities are beautiful because they are created slowly; they are made by time. A city is born from a tangle of monuments and infrastructures, culture and market, national history and everyday stories. It takes 500 years to create a city, 50 to create a neighborhood.”

    In fact, the city of Beirut has not been developing just for 50 or 500 years, but for thousands of years and several millennia. Would it be too much to dream that Piano and SGBL live up to their stated ideals? Since both Piano and SGBL have profited so generously from Beirut, could they possibly give something back by preserving a bit of its illustrious past for the coming generations to enjoy?

    This site is still not considered world heritage for some reason.
    If we the Lebanese are not able to protect it, then maybe the UNESCO should interfere.
    This doesn't simply concern the Lebanese people, Beirut or our History as we are not the only people to study the history of the Roman empire.

    Anyway, I think it's a lost battle for Mr Sehnaoui once the word reaches the correct audience.
     
    Iron Maiden

    Iron Maiden

    Paragon of Bacon
    Staff member
    This site is still not considered world heritage for some reason.
    If we the Lebanese are not able to protect it, then maybe the UNESCO should interfere.
    This doesn't simply concern the Lebanese people, Beirut or our History as we are not the only people to study the history of the Roman empire.

    Anyway, I think it's a lost battle for Mr Sehnaoui once the word reaches the correct audience.
    In order to get unesco into the ballgame there should be a national archeological commission that will evaluate the site and decide whether to ask unesco to put it on their list if orotected sites.

    Ya3ne fi majel commissionet w bakhchich so am very doubtful it would ever reach that stage
     
    Muki

    Muki

    Well-Known Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    This site is still not considered world heritage for some reason.
    If we the Lebanese are not able to protect it, then maybe the UNESCO should interfere.
    This doesn't simply concern the Lebanese people, Beirut or our History as we are not the only people to study the history of the Roman empire.

    Anyway, I think it's a lost battle for Mr Sehnaoui once the word reaches the correct audience.
    The work against these developers should begin in Parliament, not government.
    You can't do anything if what these developers are doing is not illegal. Well, I mean, you can but it's short-term and incident-specific (with many bumps along the road), whereas making the practice illegal in Parliament, through legislation, deals with all cases.

    Of course, theoretically speaking, as this is Lebanon and enforcement of laws is sometimes not existent and 100% selective.
     
    Skunk

    Skunk

    Active Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    The work against these developers should begin in Parliament, not government.
    You can't do anything if what these developers are doing is not illegal. Well, I mean, you can but it's short-term and incident-specific (with many bumps along the road), whereas making the practice illegal in Parliament, through legislation, deals with all cases.

    Of course, theoretically speaking, as this is Lebanon and enforcement of laws is sometimes not existent and 100% selective.
    Agreed,
    But first this needs to be put on the parliament's agenda.
    Anyway, if we really want to stop this, we can, and we will easily find a way.
    but apparently, we don't, because Mr Sehnaoui has big balls and got politicians in his pocket.
    If this doesn't attract international interference then the ruins are going to disappear very soon.
     
    My Moria Moon

    My Moria Moon

    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    This is so orcish, and if you look closely you'd sense daeshi shadows hovering over the place.
    Because the only words I have left to express my views about the dirty ugly ****s in charge of the country, are extremely hard core mnel zennar w nezil, I say no more.
     
    Indie

    Indie

    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    Reviving this thread, more vandalism of beirut's history and roman heritage in order to satisfy dome prick's ego.

    SGBL tower will be built on top of a literal archeological gold mine.

    Will Renzo Piano's new tower demolish an ancient city buried under Beirut? - Beirut Report

    “We will find where you live,” a watchman yelled at me after taking a picture of ruins on his construction site. He had followed me across the street to issue the threat, claiming to have memorized the license plate number on my car. “Wait and see what they will do to you when they come to your house.”

    Source: Teloduh
    This vast site, believed to be a 1st century artisan workshop (for at least part of its occupation), was uncovered late last year and could help tell the little-known story of Berytus, one of the most influential cities in the Roman empire.

    Source: L’Orient Le Jour


    Instead it is scheduled to become a glass skyscraper, serving as the headquarters of a private bank, SGBL (Société Générale de Banque au Liban).





    The skyscraper is being designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, one of many celebrity architects transforming Beirut’s skyline with high end real estate towers worth billions of dollars and far out of reach of most Lebanese people. Piano is also designing the massive 160,000 square meter Pinwheel Project, which consists of a series of hotel and condo towers in the heart of downtown, as well as a city museum project, which is also to be built atop of a ruins discovery.

    Source: RPBW project conception
    Sadly the type of violent threats and harassment I experienced is not unusual when attempting to document the wonders of the ancient world being unearthed for the first time in contemporary Beirut. One would assume that a 2,000 year old site is one the entire country should be able to see, to learn from, to explore, to be inspired by, to build a sense of place, pride in preservation or national belonging. But in Lebanon, history can be private property. Several journalists and activists have been threatened or physically attacked for documenting the impact of real estate projects across the country.

    To appease critics, some investors have recently pledged to preserve very limited sections of ruins, displayed decoratively as part of their real estate projects or concealed in parking garages. Yet these are often placed out of context or difficult for visitors to access and comprehend. In the case of the Piano project, can the design of such a large building possibly preserve the vast vista of ruins beneath? Can the design be changed in any way meaningful enough to communicate its significance and that of ancient Berytus?

    Upon closer view, we can see the interesting rock patterns in the walls. What do they tell us?

    At the top corner of the site, the stones are entirely different, much larger and better carved, resembling grand Roman structures. Was there an important building near this site?



    Most importantly, will the public ever get a chance to experience this piece of the puzzle of a city and great civilization we are just beginning to understand? With large walls surrounding the permiter, as seen in the photos above, passersby are not allowed even a glimpse of it. (Photos in the post were taken from other buildings or openings in the wall.)

    At any rate, the site might not be around for much longer. Clearance may be closer than we think. In photos taken a few months ago, we can see nearly 20 tents set up in the dig:

    Photo: Timo Azhari
    But today there are only a few tents left, meaning the archeological teams may have largely packed up and left:



    Is this why the developer is so aggressively keeping it off limits to the public? The site workers must have been threatened themselves if anyone is allowed to get a photo out.

    It’s unclear if the diggers have already started to clear the area or penetrate to deeper levels as their position has changed since I first began documenting the site earlier this year.

    Compare this image taken in January 2018:



    To this photo taken from the same vantage point in recent days:



    In addition to the removal of tents, we can also see the position of the two bulldozers is further into the site than they were early this year.

    Here’s another shot from January 2018:



    And the same vantage point today:



    From a closer perspective, we can some of the amazing wall detail on the left section:



    So what to make of the threats issued to me for taking these photos? They were taken from the public street, from the sidewalk, at a brief moment when the door to the site was open. There is no legal basis for banning photography in public space. There is no basis in banning the Lebanese public from seeing their own history. But who was the man who threatened me and why?

    The owner of SGBL bank is known to surround himself with those capable of serious violence. His bodyguards have regularly engaged in alleged criminal acts, including armed assaults and even a shootout in nightclub, according to news reports. In 2015, a bodyguard formerly employed by the owner stabbed a man to death in broad daylight, and was subsequently sent to prison. Is this the type of violence and threats that a Pritzker-winning architect like Renzo Piano would like to be associated with?

    Interestingly, SGBL itself claims to be “a strong advocate of culture and arts in Lebanon,” according to its website. While Piano, who has been involved in several projects across Beirut has said: “Cities are beautiful because they are created slowly; they are made by time. A city is born from a tangle of monuments and infrastructures, culture and market, national history and everyday stories. It takes 500 years to create a city, 50 to create a neighborhood.”

    In fact, the city of Beirut has not been developing just for 50 or 500 years, but for thousands of years and several millennia. Would it be too much to dream that Piano and SGBL live up to their stated ideals? Since both Piano and SGBL have profited so generously from Beirut, could they possibly give something back by preserving a bit of its illustrious past for the coming generations to enjoy?
    I once tried to take a picture of a random dekeneh because it looked cute and the buildings around it were painted in pretty colors. But there were a lot of cars passing by so it was taking some time for me to get a unblocked shot. This security guy came over from the building behind me and was behaving like I was some security threat or something. What a country of nutcases.
     
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