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National Museum: Beirut holding the secrets of time

You cannot live in Beirut or visit the city without taking a glance at its precious History “fortress”: the National Museum. Answer the mermaids’ spell and take a 15-minute walk from Sodeco Square along Damas Road, and delve into the pace of time.

What is it all about?

The National Museum of Beirut is the main museum of archaeology in Lebanon. Its collection started right after World War I, and the museum was officially inaugurated in 1942. It is one of the most noteworthy Near Eastern museums thanks to its collections.

Where did the tale start?

It all started back in 1919 with a little group of ancient artifacts, which had been collected by Raymond Weill, a French officer stationed in Lebanon. These objects were displayed in the German Deaconesses building’s room, located in Beirut on Georges Picot Street. This show-room was used as a provisional museum. In 1923, a committee led by Bechara El Khoury, at that time Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Fine Arts, planned to build the museum near the hippodrome. Architects Antoine Nahas and Pierre Leprince Ringuet’s architectural plans were accepted.

The execution started in 1930 and was achieved in 1937. The inauguration took place on May 27, 1942 under the presidency of Alfred Naccache, President of the Lebanese Republic back then. Until 1975, the museum featured collections dating from Prehistory to the 19th c. AD.  

When the Lebanese war broke out in 1975, the National Museum closed its doors. When it reopened in 1991 it was in dreadful condition. In 1995, restoration projects started. It reopened for good in 1999.

Not to be missed

While visiting the National Museum, don’t miss “Revival”, a short documentary on how the collection was saved from the civil war devastation and how the museum was brought back to its former glory. It is screened each and every hour, between 9 am and 4 pm. It is truly moving and fascinating.

Apart from that, the National Museum’s impressive collections include the ones of Prehistory, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Hellenistic period, Roman period, Byzantine period, Arab conquest, Mamluk period. The collections consist of archaeological artifacts, statuettes and sarcophagi.

Almost all exhibits are labeled in English, Arabic and French and you will be handed a floor plan at the entrance, as it is included in the admission fee. Another possibility is to invest in a museum guide who will take you through the walls of time, from Prehistory to recent times.