Back in March, I told you about two ancient landmarks in Lebanon that were facing an impeding threat by the fangs of real estate contractors, vying to destroy them in order to build fancy high-rises in their location.
Back in March as well, we marched in support for these landmarks. Many blogs spoke against their destruction. Many media outlets highlighted the government’s attempts at destroying these valuable parts of our heritage. We thought we had gotten somewhere.
Today has proven that we did not. Nowhere near that in fact.
This picture shows bulldozers working their way around a 4000 year old Phoenician port earlier yesterday, tearing it down stone per stone.
An agreement was supposedly reached with minister of culture Gabriel Layoun so the destruction of the port came as a shock for many – a bulldozer hitting them in the fact, out of the blue. The government had been talking about a mitigation approach, which I had previously explained to be a way to preserve ancient sites while making way for new development.
Even that did not happen with the Phoenician port. It was simply destroyed in its entirety.
Minister Layoun said that the site had been removed from the list of protected sites in Lebanon and as such this act is in no way backing the law. Previous ministers of cultures, such as Salim Wardeh, Tamam Salam and Tarek Metri, had worked relentlessly on protecting these sites.
It all came crumbling down with Layoun.
What Layoun doesn’t understand is that for someone who supposedly calls for “change and reform,” this reeks of corruption beyond anything we’ve been exposed to before. How can a minister of culture rationalize a real estate company destroying an ancient site and pass it as another thing that happens? Is it every day that countries discover 4000 year old ancient landmarks on their soil?
How can Mr. Layoun expect us to be so gullible as to believe that this happened in a very innocent manner, not because the real estate company in question, in a country as corrupt as Lebanon in that regards, had substantial political backing, the type of which doesn’t care about identity but cares more about its bottom line?
I’d call for Layoun’s resignation and possibly that of the whole government with the incredibly atrocious job it’s doing at every single level possible. But where would that lead? Nowhere. A minister of culture who can’t see the importance of, well, culture is doing his job how exactly?
Out of all of the things we have problems with in Lebanon, this is perhaps the most troubling.
Electricity? It can be fixed.
Water? It can be provided.
Internet? It can be upgraded.
An ancient site demolished? It can never be replaced.
The land of the Phoenicians has one less Phoenician site to boast about.
Let’s hope we can save the Roman Hippodrome next to the Maghen Abraham Synagogue in Wadi Bou Jmil.