Historic house renovation pays tribute to people of Beirut

A former Beirut snipers nest which became notorious during the Lebanese Civil war is being renovated and turned into a monument to the resilience of the city and its people.

A joint project between Lebanon and France, the site was visited by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo (pictured) who inspected the work at the ‘Beit Beirut’ (the House of Beirut) in the neighbourhood of Sodeco.

In Arabic the word “hell” is written on its walls – a stark reminder of the murderous conflict which lasted from 1975 – 1990 and claimed an estimated 250,000 lives with around a million people forced to flee the country.

The building was originally designed in Ottoman style with elements of Art Deco and Rococo in 1924 by architect Youssef Afandi Aftimos with two further storeys added in 1932 which were the work of Fouad Kozah.

It was the home of the wealthy Barakat family and their history is being told in the museum via manuscripts and photographs. Also on display will be graffiti etched into the walls by the snipers, whose stories will also be told following interviews conducted in the last few years with those who survived the fighting.

Architect Youssef Haider is overseeing the restoration work. He said: “We didn’t do our memorial duty for our history. We just went from general amnesty to general amnesia. In this project the idea was to preserve all the traces of time.”

Campaigner Mona Hallak has fought for years to preserve the building. She said: “It’s not a museum of war. It’s a museum of the memory of the city, including the war because that was a big chunk of our modern history.”