SIDON, Lebanon: Sidon is set to have its own national museum on site a leading archaeological dig, with donors and developers ready to sign a contract for its construction Monday.The museum project will be built on land owned by the Directorate General of Antiquities at the Frère site. The British Museum has been conducting excavations at the Frère site for the past 14 years, and it is considered one of the most important archaeological digs in the region.
A 1,550-square-meter museum will be built at the site and a two-story, 19th century building already at the location will also be rehabilitated.
Two thousand square meters of roofing will be built to protect the archaeological finds.
The project includes the development of visitor walkways and gardens. The museum is especially designed to connect with the old neighborhoods of the city, to highlight the historical importance of the location.
A pedestrian bridge will also be built inside an on-site historic crypt to give the visitors a unique perspective on the historical remains as they enter the museum. Additionally, two strong thick walls will be constructed besides the excavation site to protect it and support the existing historic wall.
The museum will house archaeological finds that demonstrate the contribution of various civilizations to the city of Sidon. Excavations at the site have shed light on the city’s history, and the remnants discovered date back as far as 4000 B.C., according to the head of the British Museum expedition, Claude Doumit Sarhal.
“The artifacts provide insight into historical phases of the city and highlight the importance of the Mediterranean civilizations and cities in communicating with other civilizations,” she said.
“The number of the archaeological pieces excavated reaches almost 1,000,” Doumit Sarhal said. “You can imagine what could be buried under the historical site of the whole city, and under the 22 hectares of land that constituted the ancient city-state.”
Officials overseeing the project hope it will give a boost to socioeconomic conditions in the Sidon area, as they expect it will generate no fewer than 50 direct employment opportunities as well as hundreds of indirect jobs.
The officials added that the museum would return life to the city’s old neighborhoods and transform Sidon, along with its cultural, historical and economical components, into a major tourist attraction in the region.
The formal announcement is scheduled to take place at Sidon’s municipal building, at an event held under the patronage of the city’s MPs, Bahia Hariri and Fouad Siniora. A contract for the project will be signed by Lebanon’s Council for Development and Reconstruction, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development.
The Kuwaiti fund’s contribution is $4 million, while the Arab fund will donate $850,000.
However, these contributions amount to just half of the funds necessary for the museum. The Kuwaiti fund will oversee the process of gathering donations to finance the extra $5 million needed, with finances to be overseen by the Ernest & Young international auditing firm.