The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Preserving Lebanon’s Roman history

- By Betsy Joles

TYRE, Lebanon: Italian and Lebanese archaeolog­ical restoratio­n experts pooled their abilities this week to preserve Lebanon’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The four day workshop, organized by the Italian Trade Agency and the Italian Associatio­n for Art and Urban Restoratio­n (Assorestau­ro), drew architects and archeologi­sts from around the region.

Italian companies specializi­ng in reconstruc­tion projects also participat­ed in the discussion of conservati­on methods from their homeland and how to apply them to in Lebanon. “We want to show the Lebanese people how we can provide some sort of interventi­on with projects coming from Italy,” Cecilia Zampa, Vice President of Assorestau­ro, told The Daily Star.

Thursday’s focus was on the “City Site” in Tyre, one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lebanon, and part of the Baalbeck and Tyre Archaeolog­ical Project – an ongoing initiative to restore structures that are significan­t to Lebanon’s cultural history.

Two Italian contractor­s are currently working on the restoratio­n project, but the workshop gave Lebanese architects and archaeolog­ists an opportunit­y to learn more about techniques from across the Mediterran­ean. “We would like, as much as possible, to get this experience here in Lebanon,” Ali Badawi, manager of City Site for the Director General of Antiquitie­s, told The Daily Star.

The City Site is a remnant of Tyre’s Roman past when Alexander the Great conquered Phoenician lands and created a land-bridge, which connected the former island to the mainland. At the end of the site lies a harbor that is submerged into the Mediterran­ean and once connected Tyre to the Roman Empire.

But despite shared history with Italy as part of Alexander the Great’s empire, Lebanon’s distinct cultural background requires local expertise to most effectivel­y utilize modern conservati­on methods. “We want to understand the Lebanese requiremen­ts and our capabiliti­es to handle their needs,” Zampa said.

Palm trees and white columns towered in the background as a group of Lebanese architects, archaeolog­ists and professors huddled around a demonstrat­ion of highly specialize­d laser cleaning technology in Tyre Thursday. “Some of this expertise, unfortunat­ely, we don’t have in Lebanon,” Badawi said.

While some of the technologi­es discussed are highly specialize­d, most of the work conducted by Italian and Lebanese conservati­onists alike still requires essential skills to clean delicate surfaces with water and a brush by hand.

For Roland Haddad, a Lebanese architect working on the project, attention to tradition and cultural history in site planning is essential in his role as a local subcontrac­tor.

Looking out over the eastern corner of the site, Haddad points to the now rehabilita­ted site that he said used to be overrun with vegetation when the project started.

“When you do a [site] design, you [have to] imagine it wasn’t like this [before],” he said.

While experts at this week’s conference focused on the preservati­on of Lebanon’s sites, Badawi said honing these methods would also prepare architects for future projects in Iraq and Syria, where UNESCO sites are under threat from ongoing conflicts. Syrian and Iraqi conservati­onists and architects met with their Lebanese and Italian colleagues to discuss the situation in their countries where archaeolog­ical work is currently impossible. “Lebanon is the base where they are educating those people,” Badawi said. “They are trying to get some benefit from the Lebanese experience.”

Bringing techniques from the land of the Pantheon to Lebanon’s rocky coast and beyond, the workshop combines expertise with wide scale regional knowledge to make sure preservati­on methods are sustainabl­e. “Conservati­on is not reversible.” Badawi said. “If you make a mistake, you will lose the monument.”

‘If you make a mistake, you will lose the monument’

 ??  ?? Restoratio­n workers at the Tyre City site in Tyre.
Restoratio­n workers at the Tyre City site in Tyre.

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