BEIRUT: The Culture Ministry defended Thursday its decision to allow Beirut’s Roman hippodrome to be incorporated into a nearby historic building, arguing that it is the best way to preserve it.
The statement came in response to a statement released the day before by former Culture Minister Tamman Salam, who argued that the agreement reached between Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun and the investors of a historic building near the hippodrome was a “crime.”
The agreement would allow, according to a local media report, the “integration of the south section” and the “dismantling and reinstallation of the central course and northern sections.”
But the ministry’s statement said that integrating archeology is the best method to preserve ancient structures.
“Integration with the historic building does not include any changes to the hippodrome’s stadium; there will only be the dismantling of the middle wall, but this will be rebuilt after restoration of the building,” the statement said.
It added that the owners of the building must notify the Directorate General of Antiquities two months before any proposed changes and must receive the directorate’s approval before beginning the project.
In response, Salam reiterated his position. “Blaming the DGA for this decision is an attempt by minister [Layyoun] to shirk his responsibility on the matter,” said Salam.
Salam urged the Cabinet, Parliament and civil society organizations to take up the issue, and called on the public prosecutors’ office to prevent actions on the ground by the building’s owners.