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Rehabilitation work on

the Sursock Museum

in Beirut

took twenty years

to erase the ravages of the civil war in which Lebanon was submerged between 1975 and 1990 and to reopen it to the public.

On August 4, a few seconds were enough to return this historical gem to its darkest times.

The explosions originating in a warehouse with 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate shattered its crystals and colored stained glass, dislodged paintings, smashed statues, smashed vessels, collapsed roofs, damaged coffered ceilings and covered everything with ashes and debris.

Sursock Museum dates from 1912 and stands, surrounded by gardens, opposite the palace of the same name that this Greek-Orthodox dynasty erected in the historic center of Beirut.

Built in 1860 by Musa Sursock, the magnificent Venetian-Ottoman-style palace has always been

a landmark of the most cosmopolitan Beirut


The Sursocks were a wealthy family of landowners and merchants who treasured works of art for three generations.

Nicolas Sursock bequeathed his house to the city of Beirut when he died in 1952 to be converted into a museum.

The family mansions survived two world wars and, although badly damaged, the Lebanese civil war.

Now, to the untold loss of human life - almost 200 people died from the explosions - and the enormous pain of the injured - more than 6,000, many with serious consequences that will accompany them forever - is added the terrible loss of the cultural wealth of the Lebanese capital.

Like the Sursock Palace and Museum, hundreds of Beirut's historic buildings, archives, museums, places of religious worship or art galleries have been mortally wounded by the explosions.

According to the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, at least 8,000 historic buildings have been affected by the shock wave.

Most are concentrated in the Gemayze and Mar Mikhael neighborhoods, the districts hardest hit by the tragedy, and in Ashrafiyeh, where the Sursock Museum stands.

Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane

symbolizes the drama of this memoricide.

She died on August 31, as a result of the injuries she suffered from the explosions, which surprised her having tea, as she used to, on the terrace of her mansion.

Lady Yvonne was 98 years old, almost the age of her country, which celebrated its first centenary on September 1.

The aristocrat had devoted her life to the preservation of the local architectural heritage and founded, in the 1960s, the Association for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and Enclaves.

Her death, coinciding with a new cycle of destruction in historic Beirut, leaves the once refined and cultivated Lebanon in darkness.

A new threat: water

Following the explosions, the latest threat to Beirut's cultural heritage is impending rainfall.

"We must cover 100 historical buildings before the rains come,"

Sarkis el Khoury, director general of Lebanese Antiquities

, warned

at a press conference last week.

If not in time, "there will be a lot of damage to the painted ceilings and some buildings could collapse."

Khoury affirmed that they have "days or weeks at most to undertake the works" and concluded: "We are playing against time."

As specified,

45 buildings need a complete shoring

and another 55, a partial reinforcement.

The country needs 300 million dollars for the restoration of damaged heritage, according to the Ministry of Culture.

Unesco is committed to leading efforts to "recover and rebuild the culture and heritage of Beirut."

According to their assessment,

652 of the 755 properties classified as historical heritage have been hit by the explosions


Huge losses are also lamented in important museums such as the National or the Archaeological.

International organizations dedicated to caring for historical heritage are already getting involved to help the Lebanese to preserve theirs.

One of them is the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (Aliph), which has signed an agreement to carry out rehabilitation projects worth five million dollars.

Together with the Louvre Museum, it will help the Lebanese National Directorate of Antiquities to

rescue the treasures of the National Museum


No lime for rebuilding

But not everything is money.

Lebanon also needs materials such as lime, a rare commodity in the country.

The NGO Live Love Lebanon has warned that the lack of lime is complicating the reconstruction work.

"We have a problem: there is no lime. All historic houses are made of


. Sandstone needs lime, which does not exist in Lebanon," the organization's president, Edouard Bitar, told the France-Presse agency.

Even before the explosions, there was a clamor among Lebanese society to preserve the historical heritage, which was being fed by real estate speculation.

After the civil war, many old buildings were sold to large construction companies who were seeking their

demolition to build high-rise apartments


Some resisted - such as the Barakat building or the Beirut City Center cinema, nicknamed 'The Egg' because of the shape of its dome - exhibiting their war wounds, waiting, in some cases, for a rehabilitation to recover its former splendor.

As in a déjà-vu of the Solidere times in the 90s, in the days after the port explosions, contacts have been reported with owners of damaged historic buildings who are being offered to buy the buildings for astronomical amounts.

It is feared that these houses will end up being lost.

Given this, the Ministry of Culture has affirmed that it works to prevent construction magnates from benefiting from this situation and has sent technicians to inspect the buildings and draw up rehabilitation plans.

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

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