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Beirut tears down ancient Phoenician port to make way for skyscrapers

Beirut's culture minister green-lighted the destruction of a Phoenician port which dates back to 500 B.C. in favor of three skyscrapers.

Ruins beirut 280612Enlarge
Ancient ruins in Lebanon that reportedly date back to 500 B.C. have been demolished to make way for the construction of three skyscrapers. (Scott Barbour/AFP/Getty Images)

Beirut's civil activists on Thursday protested the Culture Minister's decision to approve the destruction of an ancient Phoenician port so that skyscrapers could be built in its place, the Daily Star reported

Minister Gaby Layoun reportedly removed the site from the Public Inventory List, which protects heritage locations, according to NOW Lebanon

Former Culture Minister Salim Wardy had blocked the demolition while in office in April 2011, designating almost 1,200 square meters of the land as an archeological site that should not be tampered with, and is considered public property, the Daily Star reported.

“My decision was based on a scientific report prepared by a group of archeologists and marine experts ... they concluded the presence of dry docks dating back more than 2,500 years,” Wardy told The Daily Star.

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However, Venus Construction, the company who owns the land and plans to build three skyscrapers on the site, hired a team of experts to refute the claims that the land was formerly a Phoenician port, Green Prophet reported. They argued that the area could not have functioned as a port or ship storage area because the site is eight meters above sea level and 230 meters from the Mediterranean Sea shore. 

Protesters reportedly held a sit-in outside the Culture Ministry on Thursday to protest the demolition.  

"Cultural destruction and Lebanon have become synonymous," wrote news website Bikya Masr's Arie Amaya-Akkermans. "The constant of destruction has shifted not in terms of its magnitude but only of its actors: The militias, armed groups and air attacks by Israel, have now been replaced by developers and politicians that carry the exact same task." 

The ancient Phoenician culture developed a maritime trading culture all along the Mediterranean Sea, including sites in present-day Lebanon, according to the Green Prophet.

According to Bikya Masr, several UNESCO heritage sites in Lebanon are currently being threatened with demolition, including the historical centers of Sidon, Tripoli and Batroun. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120628/beirut-tears-down-ancient-phoenician-port-skyscrapers