Around 2 days after I wrote a very widely circulated post about the matter, which referenced a L’Orient Le Jour article on the issue, Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture decided to take notice of the 500 or so Roman Columns entrusted to its care, and it has begun transferring them to warehouses for safe keeping.
The actions of the Ministry of Culture were brought to my attention by SkyNews Arabia reporter Larissa Aoun who tweeted the above referenced picture from the site where the Roman Columns were thrown away when their warehouse was dismantled earlier this year.
Minister of Culture Ghattas Khoury, on the other hand, is not happy that the issue got this much attention, especially with MP and head of Kataeb Samy Gemayel discussed the issue in a Facebook live video, which you can view here:
In a statement from the site where the Ministry of Culture was doing its job, Minister Khoury issued the following statement:
The statement’s essence translates to: “we’re here to assert that the columns here are under the care of the Ministry of Culture. I had said on Twitter that we were monitoring the columns and would transfer them to Horsh Beirut soon.”
Of course, the definition of “soon” in Lebanese politics and governance would’ve been months if not longer, hadn’t the issue gained the traction that it did, forcing the Ministry to save face by acting on the issue as promptly as it did, and transferring the columns – especially those with inscriptions and other decorations – for safe keeping.
As I mentioned previously, the columns were supposed to be transported to different locations across Beirut to make Jbeil-esque entrances or streets in the city, but such plans were changed for reasons that have not been detailed.
The columns, according to Minister Ghattas Khoury, are now set to be transferred to Horsh Beirut, which is the last green space available in Beirut – if they keep it of course. What will happen to them in Horsh Beirut is probably uncertain as sections of it are going to be transformed to a hospital, because that’s exactly what Beirut needs: less green spaces, more buildings.
It’s a shame that our history and heritage needs viral blog posts for our system to governance to act on protecting it. It’s not just about these columns. It’s also about the many ancient houses around Beirut, the many sites uncovered at various construction plots around the city, among others. How many more times are we supposed to cry out for such landmarks and historical sites to be studied and preserved when it should be a reflex for concerned ministries to do so?
It doesn’t make sense that in a country with as much history, a lot of it is wiped to ease the way for businessmen, without Lebanese people even becoming aware of it in the first place, and to have that history’s last frontier be social media, not authorities who should be the main defender of the heritage of the country they’re serving.
Until the next archeological crisis, I hope these columns beautify Beirut. We all know it needs it.