From left, Areiji, Cantini and Morabito tour the underground floor of the National Museum in Beirut, Friday, May 16, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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Descending into the National Museum's basement, one is instantly struck by the dimness, the low ceiling and the large empty space – a striking contrast to the bright lights, high ceiling and rows of unique exhibits just one level up.Plans to rehabilitate the museum's underground rooms have been on hold since Lebanon's 1975-90 Civil War. That was until Friday, when a project was launched to rehabilitate all 700 square meters of the basement.The Italian Development Cooperation, a government organization, is providing 1.2 million euros (about $1.6 million) of funding for the project, with work scheduled to begin next month and finish in a year and a half.The pieces to be put on show, some of which have never been seen before, are all funerary art – anything associated with the dead and burial rites.
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