The Beirut National Museum can be traced back to Raymond Weill, a French officer stationed in Lebanon during World War II. During his time here, he began collecting ancient artifacts. In 1923, a committee was created to create a permanent museum to house these and other antiquities. Construction began in 1930 and was completed in 1937. By the time the civil war began, the museum had assembled an excellent collection of near Eastern artifacts. Unfortunately, the museum just happened to be located right on the Green Line that separated Beirut. Extraordinary measures were taken to protect the collection. Mosaics were buried in concrete. Most of the collection was relocated to the basement and walled off.
By the time the war ended, the museum was in terrible shape. Many items had been destroyed, and the building itself was barely standing. Restoration work began in 1995 and it was reopened in 1999. The renovations were not entirely complete until 2010, when the basement was reopened to the public. The museum has a collection of more than 100,000 objects, though only about 1,300 are on display. The collection is arranged chronologically and split up into prehistory, the bronze age, the iron age, the Hellenistic/Roman/Byzantine period, the Arab conquest, and the Ottomans. The highlight is the sarcophagi displayed in the main hall.
This is the finest museum in Lebanon and definitely worth a visit. It won’t be crowded – in 2009 it received less than 50,000 visitor – so you can enjoy your time there in peace.
Location: Rue de Damas, Ashrafieh
Telephone: +961 1 612 295
Hours: Open Tuesday-Sunday 09:00-17:00
1.000LP Students/Children (<18)