Nahr al-Kalb is a historic site located in Keserwan, at the edge of Dbayeh in Mount Lebanon. The name literally translates into “The Dog’s River” and it’s considered a unique site with religious iconography dating back to the 2nd century BC.
The site contains 22 steles, which are tablets of religious text and iconography, and also many writings that are important to the history of Lebanon, including the memorial of Lebanon’s Independence.
In 1933-1934, the Lebanese government declared Nahr El-Kalb a historical site by decrees number 166 and 225. In 2005, it was recognized by UNESCO in its Memory of the World register.
However, it is reported that the Free Patriotic Movement is working on building a large headquarters for their political party within the immediate vicinity of the pathways that contain several hundreds of meters of steles.
FPM, which is headed by recently-former Minister Gebran Bassil, had apparently acquired permission from the former Minister of Culture Ghattas Khoury to build on the site. For a few months, the site has been home to the noises of bulldozers and excavators.
FPM’s Vice-President May Khoreiche claimed that these activities on the site are harmless and that the construction will have “no negative impact on the site”.
In an interview with L’Orient Le Jour, she said, “The preliminary studies of the construction operations have been approved by the General Planning Directorate as well as the relevant authorities. Proof of this is the approved construction permit.”
However, in 2003, the General Planning Directorate, due to its inability to purchase the surrounding land, had declared the area a “non-buildable zone.”
As opposed to what the FPM said, according to Jad Tabet, president of the Order of Engineers and Architects, the project “will certainly have an impact.”
The project was presented to the Higher Council for Urban Planning 2 years ago and it was set to be built on the ground closer to the ruins. However, the GDA refused to give them the permit, insisting that it should be built further away behind the hill.
From its side, the FPM announced that “the excavation work allowing the expansion of the construction area has been completed for a while now, and it has not spoiled the archeological and historical site,” adding that “no damage has been recorded.”
They also clarified that they will move the complex an additional 20 meters away from the historical site.
A video by activists recording the site under construction has circulated on February 19th on social media with unfavorable responses from commenters on Twitter.
According to the post, the construction project includes the building of a port and a major FPM headquarters.