Liban : When ancient Roman tombs are turned into Jacuzzis

Myra Abdallah

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Christ walked on this soil.” This is how Hebariye residents convey the historical importance of their city. In fact, the Arkoub villages of southern Lebanon have a large number of archaeological sites – mainly Roman – that can transform the area into a very popular touristic destination.

Unfortunately, the geographical location of this particular area in South Lebanon is not favorable for any touristic activity. The regular security threats –the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, followed by the liberation of the South, the July 2006 war and the Syrian uprising– have not only discouraged tourists from visiting this area, but have also pushed numerous residents, especially the younger generations, to leave their hometowns in search of security and job opportunities, leaving their towns almost totally neglected.

Consequently, the abandonment of the area has also left the majority of these archaeological sites neglected and susceptible to sabotage and destruction.

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Sabotaged Roman temple (Myra Abdallah/NOW)

Img 3070The Roman temple of Baal-gad, located in the center of Hebariye, which was named after a Roman army general, is one of the most ancient Roman temples in the Middle-East. According to Hebariye residents, many foreign experts interested in archaeology attempted to implement restoration projects, however, their projects were never completed due to the unstable security situation. The site has since been vandalized by the young residents of the town who decorated it with graffiti of political slogans and the names of political parties. Residents also reported that some ignorant municipality employees tried to sweep away one of the Columns’ crowns, which was destroyed a few years ago (probably during the July 2006 war) in order to make room for the local festival that takes place in the town’s center.

Unsurprisingly, other sites became private property. For example, a few minutes away from the temple of Baal-gad, two ancient tombs were also destroyed recently. It is believed that these tombs belonged to a Roman king and queen that were buried in the area. The tombs are also one of the most ancient Roman archeological sites. Unfortunately, they are located on a small piece of land owned by one of Hebariye’s residents who is building a house nearby. They were built under the ground’s surface and sculpted from a single solid rock; the land’s owner thought they would make a perfect outdoor pool. Logically, since the tomb is the size of two coffins only, it would be too small to turn into a pool, but they would make a perfect Jacuzzi. Consequently, the wall dividing the two tombs was torn down so that they become a one-box, perfect for a “small” outdoor pool or Jacuzzi. 

Img 3073Ancient Roman tomb turned into a Jacuzzi (Myra Abdallah/NOW)

It is true that war and the savagery of extremist armed groups destroyed the historical statues in Mosul and ancient Muslim shrines in Palmyra for example, but some Lebanese people’s ignorance is destroying ancient sites in Lebanon, sites that need to be preserved and turned into tourist attraction sites.

Unfortunately, the security situation in the area – from Iraq, to Syria and Lebanon – and the ignorance or indifference towards the importance of historical sites is killing history.