Lebanon is booming with culture and whether you’re visiting its great city or currently living here, the National Museum of Beirut is definitely a must-visit. Even if you weren’t a history nut (NUT, get it?), this museum will give you an entirely new take on more than 100,000 ARTiFACTS that are available on display showing our country’s amazing treasures.
First, let’s rewind back to the beginning. The National Museum of Beirut started in 1919 with just few collections of ancient artifacts which had been given by Raymond Weill, a French officer who was stationed in Lebanon. Back then, its main exhibition hall was the entire museum, which didn’t leave much room for objects that were to come. Moving through its years to 1930, the building began to grow and house many antiques uncovered on Lebanese territories. It wasn’t until 1975 that visitors could experience large collections of magnificent objects, ranging over a period that dates all the way back to the Prehistoric ages.
Upon entering this vast building, located in the Mathaf district of Beirut which literally translates to Mueseum, you’ll be welcomed at the counter with an iPad that you can be used as your own personal tour guide. You can even bring your own headphones and listen to the commentary of each piece as you walk through its halls. This is where a wave of beautiful history will wash over you as you step into the main exhibition hall and look around in amazement. Yeah, turning your head left and right will show you exactly how many ancient artifacts are displayed since every nook and cranny of the hall is covered by an object with an inspiring background.
Your eyes will, firstly, be enchanted by two large sarcophagi that were found in Tyre, dating back to 2 A.D. On either side of you, the Sarcophagus of Drunken Cupids and the Legends of Achilleus were crafted from Roman Marble and hold several tales that explain the journey of those Gods.
Your next big eye-catcher, is a mosaic piece that you will find laid out on the ground. We know you might be standing over the Seven Wise Men piece with awe written all over your face, but grab a chair and listen to the origin of this piece. This mosaic was used to decorate the dining room of a Roman Villa in Baalbek back in 3 A.D. The center represents Calliope, Muse of epic poetry, surrounded by seven politicians or well-distinguished philosophers. We could go on about it, but we’ll leave the rest to the voice in your headphones once you visit.
What is also worth your time is the vast collections of Egyptian and Phoenician artifacts that you can find in rooms to the left of the exhibition hall. Their most interesting piece was the Sarcophagus of Ahiram who was King of Byblos in 10 B.C. It was discovered in 1923 with Phoenician inscriptions that are still clearly visible that give the artifact a really gorgeous feel. In these rooms you can even find several beautiful objects ranging from ancient amulets or containers, all the way up to a large limestone statue of a colossus.
The museum is quite vast and houses a complete structure of three floors. Each organized in a chronological pattern and created so that you can easily find any time period that you like best. Taking the stairs will bring you to many pieces from the Bronze and Iron Ages that include Egyptian gold, Roman Marble, or even Phoenician glass.
We are going to stop here and give you a chance to discover the rest of its collections on your own and spend hours and hours staring at the ancient history discovered in Lebanon. Before us, were the historical remains of our country. Don’t forget to check out a documentary in the audiovisual room by the entrance that will take you through a process of how the museum survived Lebanon’s civil war to keep its historical pieces alive and available for everyone to see.
The National Museum of Beirut is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00am – 4:00pm – Contact them on 01-426 703 for more information.