NABATIEH: A decade after the Israeli pull-out from the majority of south Lebanon, plans are under way to renovate Beaufort Castle, an archaeological site that has been a symbol of warfare and occupation for nearly a millennium.
On Saturday, a host of MPs from south Lebanon joined the head of the Kuwait Fund for Economic Development, Mohammad Sadeqi, for a ceremony to announce the initiative at the foot of the castle, known as Al-Shqeef in Arabic.
The fund is contributing 70 percent of the total $3 million cost of the renovation project.
The wife of Speaker Nabih Berri, Randa Berri, welcomed the officials by saying that “we are all concerned with creating group awareness of historical and strategic sites in our country, not in terms of stones, columns and towers … but also humanity, culture and history.”
Culture Minister Salim Warde acknowledged efforts to renovate Beaufort have undergone considerable delay.
“The reasons for the delay have been due to the circumstances that Lebanon has experienced,” Warde said, “but the process begins today, and we have great hope that the completion of renovation will take place in less than two years, so that the castle returns to being a cultural and tourist landmark, and most importantly, a symbol of liberation and steadfastness.”
He thanked the Kuwaiti Fund, as well as Berri for her efforts to boost development in various parts of south Lebanon.
The Council for Development and Reconstruction tendered the project to local firm Ward, and it is slated to cover a renovation of cracks and fissures in the structure, excavation for antiquities, a rebuilding of the tower’s main tower and entrances, reworking the surrounding area of the castle, and the installation of lighting and drainage networks.
The castle has been in a state of neglect ever since the Israeli pull-out of May 2000, when Lebanon conducted an intensive diplomatic effort to counter Israeli threats to destroy the site as part of its withdrawal.
Beaufort’s name comes from the Crusader era-castle, but the site is believed to have been used prior to their 12th century arrival. The Franks and Ayyubid princes traded control over the castle, which was finally captured by the Mameluke Sultan Baibars in 1268.
Over the last four decades, Palestinian forces in the castle launched rockets against Israeli forces and it was finally captured by the Israelis in June 1982. The Israelis made extensive use of the site during their occupation and the castle was attacked by Hizbullah on many occasions.