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Saving the nation's treasures by Lebanon Traveler Magazine


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Saving the nation's treasures by Lebanon Traveler Magazine
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Saving the nation's treasures by Lebanon Traveler Magazine Issue 6 March - June 2013

Curator and museum specialist, Juliana Khalaf, takes a trip down memory lane and talks about the preservation of the nation's artifacts

The National Museum of Beirut, better known as 'the Mathaf' (Arabic for Museum) was inaugurated in 1942, its mission being to house and preserve artifacts found through excavations on Lebanese soil.

The building, which stands on what was called the demarcation or green line created between enemy forces during the 1975 civil war, was turned into barracks and a sniper station. Most objects in the collection were fortunately safeguarded by concrete cases until the war ended in 1995.

After extensive renovation and a state-of-the-art refurbishment of displays, the museum reopened in 2000.

The collection

Nearly all exhibits are labeled in English, Arabic and French, however it is advisable to purchase a museum guide from the gift shop (located by the reception) before you enter the museum.

Begin your tour on the second floor where the exhibition of enthralling objects follows the ancient history of Lebanon from the Early Stone Age (1 m – 3000 B.C.) leading up to the Islamic Period (7 – 13th C.A.D.). The collection includes prehistoric hunting tools, terracotta pots and jars utilized for domestic purposes, bronze figurines servicing religious ceremonies, gold jewelry recovered from tombs, coins, ivory sculptures, ceramics and even make-up boxes.

In the pursuit to uncover the history of the Phoenicians, the Sarcophagus of Ahiram, King of Byblos (1000 B.C.), (located in the main exhibition hall) is an important source of information representing early ''Lebanese'' art, writing and history – most notably their transmission of the alphabet to the world and their strength in trade with the West through the Mediterranean Sea and the East through the mountains.

The Hellenistic marble sculptures are evidence of the Greek conquest (333 B.C.) when Greek became the spoken and written language in Lebanon. The Roman Empire (64 B.C.) saw the development of silversmith, glass, textile and ceramic industries in Tyre, Sidon and Byblos. When Christianity became the state religion in 392 A.D., the Byzantines built basilicas with floors covered in rich mosaics of which the museum holds exceptional pieces.

Finally, with the advent of Islam in the 7th century A.D., Arabic became the language of the administration and a large number of civil and religious buildings: mosques, madrasas, khans and hammams were erected in Tyre and Beirut- their existence immortalized by remains in the museum's collection.

One should consider dedicating at least two hours to tour the entire collection and another 15 minutes to visit the gift shop, where you can find creations by famous local designers made exclusively for the Museum.

Good to know

Entrance fee: 5,000LL - regular admission. 1,000LL - students and children under 18. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9am - 5pm Closed on Mondays and public holidays

Gift shop: Open Tuesday through Sunday 10am - 5pm

What not to miss
. Every hour, between 9am and 4pm, the museum screens 'Revival,' a short documentary on how the collection was protected from the destruction of the civil war and the renovation efforts made on the building (first floor- audiovisual room)
. Sarcophagus of Ahiram, King of Byblos (first floor)

Location & contact

Museum Road Badaro, Beirut - Tel + 961 1 426704
Mon Jun 17, 2013 6:24 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
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