Luxury Trumps Culture in Lebanon

The construction of luxury apartments over 1st century Roman hippodrome ruins signifies a larger trend of cultural destruction occurring in Lebanon.

  1. The dismantlement of 2,000 year old ruins in Beirut resumed on September 29. Government approval was issued earlier this summer for the construction of luxury homes over the ruins of Beirut's Roman Theater, a 1st Century Roman chariot racing hippodrome. 

    The hippodrome reportedly hosted up to 1,400 gladiator fighters in a single day. It is thought to have looked like this.
  2. But this is what it actually looks like.
  3. The site is located in the Wadi Abou Jamil neighborhood-- a quickly developing urban center. The developer, Marwan Kheireddine, who runs Al Mawarid Bank and the local Virgin megastore franchise, believes that the historical claims have been exaggerated. "The overall consensus is that what we found is not worth preserving," he said. 

    But locals seem to disagree.
  4. #Beirut Roman Hippodrome survives 2000 years & countless wars only to be destroyed by contractors bbc.co.uk/news/world-mid… via @habib_b #shame
  5. Beirut is known all over the world for its old heritage, it's phenomenal nature, and most of all, it's...
  6. The battle over the preservation of the hippodrome is not an isolated issue. It appears that after Beirut's civil war, the destruction of cultural heritage became a widespread problem. An architectural redevelpment spread throughout Beirut, and property development reigned over cultural heritage. 

    Over 70 sites have been destroyed in Beirut over the last decade, and nearly nothing was reported or saved. Compared to 1,600 historic structures in the 1990s, there are only 200 left in Beirut today, according to the Association for the Protection of Lebanese Heritage. 

    The APLH managed to halt the construction of luxury homes over Beirut's Roman Theater in August. But the decision to resume construction over the hippodrome on September 29 signifies another loss for Beirut. 

  7. "It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind." Save Beirut's Hippodrome @mar1_k
  8. So true and so sad, Lebanese are destroying their heritage at more than one level
  9. Rising discontent over the lack of preservation of cultural heritage found an unlikely supporter: scotch.  

    Dewar's, a Scotch whiskey owned by Bacardi, launched a campaign to rally widespread support for cultural preservation. The campaign, named Worth Doing, gained the support of both individuals and activist groups. 
  10. Dewar's: A HERITAGE WORTH REVIVING
  11. The campaign, as strange as it seems, spurred a whirlwind of support for the cause. The biggest effect may have been the outstanding response this sequestered from social media circles. 

    Worth Doing followers flooded Twitter and Instagram with images of their favorite cultural spots. 
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  16. Despite uproar, Lebanese heritage faces a gloomy future. As Beirut shifts its priorities towards profits, cultural capital suffers the consequences. For archaeologists, this is an even more extreme loss. 

    “They have ripped out the soul of the city,” fumes Giorgio Tarraf, spokesperson for the cultural heritage organization Save Beirut Heritage. “The only value they understand is the dollar sign.”