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Beirut's archaeological heritage threatened by construction

The new construction sites in Beirut are built without taking into consideration the archaeological heritage of the capital.
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The capital of Lebanon is considered to be over 5,000 years old, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. Phoenicians, Hellenists, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders and Ottomans built and lived in Beirut, leaving behind different layers of civilization that are still being discovered. Construction cranes have been a common site in Beirut since the end of the civil war, and today, private investors are quick to rid plots of land of ancient remains.

What kind of city should be built? This decision was taken away from Lebanese citizens a long time ago. In 1994, for instance, Solidere, a Lebanese joint-stock company, founded by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, made an agreement with the government to rebuild Beirut's central district. “Try to imagine a destroyed city, with no water or electricity, a few refugees,” Leila Badre, an archaeologist who teaches at the American University of Beirut (AUB), told Al-Monitor. “Solidere used $1 billion to rebuild as fast and as much as they could, starting with piping and electricity. Their plan was established without considering the archaeological aspect.” After an international call from UNESCO to see what was going on on the ground, archaeologists from all over the world, the Lebanese University (LU), AUB and the French institute interfered in the project, which led to push “the developers to conduct excavations and pay their own excavations,” Badre said. A special solution come from Decrees 2786/92 and 4830/94: For very important monuments or ruins by Solidere and kept in situ, the company must compensate the developer by giving him a substitute land instead at no extra charge to him nor the Lebanese state.

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