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Caretaker Minister of Culture Abbas Mortada, representing Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, along with the Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Nicoletta Bombardiere, inaugurated the ancient Shamaa Castle, whose restoration works were funded by a donation from the Italian government through the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. The inauguration ceremony was organized by the General Directorate of Antiquities at the Ministry of Culture.

The Italian ambassador delivered the following speech: “I am very honoured to attend the ceremony for the handing over and the inauguration of the Shamaa Castle site.

I am even more pleased that this event coincides with the Italian National Day, which this year commemorates the 75th anniversary of the referendum of 1946, which resulted in the creation of the Italian Republic.

The restoration of Shamaa Castle and its site marks the end of an ambitious and challenging project, which is also a testimony of the longstanding bond between the Italians and this historical site.

The castle and the ruins of the fortified village have a long history dating from Roman times, and has maintained its strategic value throughout the different historical phases and continued to be used by the local population throughout its history. Like other sites in Lebanon, this place is a unique representation of the stratification of history and community life around it. A testimony of immense cultural and historical value.

After the site suffered significant damage during the conflict in 2006, several interventions were put in place also by the Italian peacekeepers within Unifil, to consolidate some parts of the Citadel. It is with pleasure that I greet today at this ceremony Unifil Commander Del Col, who was in 2015 the Commander of the Italian Contingent, which finalised reparations works in some areas of the citadel.

In a continuum of efforts, the Italian Government committed to the full restoration project of the castle, thorough a grant of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) in Beirut, in collaboration with the Council for Reconstruction and Development (CDR) and the General Directorate for Antiquities (DGA) in Lebanon.

The aim of the project was to preserve the historical site and to promote the cultural development of the surrounding area, upgrading the location as a cultural tourism destination.

The project, financed with 700.000 Euro, involved various steps, accurate scientific studies and a careful analysis of the historical stratification and of construction techniques, in order to ensure the most appropriate conservation and consolidation interventions, in respect to the international standards for preserving Cultural Heritage.

We can be proud of the results. To this end, let me specifically thank those who have been most involved in the restoration process: the Director of AICS, Donatella Procesi, the Italian expert Marisa Calia, the Director General of Antiquities, Sarkis Khoury, the Director of DGA for the South, Ali Badawi, the CDR Lebanese expert, Jean Yasmine, the Consultant Nathalie Chahine for the design and supervision, and the contractor Ward company.

Thanks to you all for having spared no efforts to successfully conclude the activity.

This ceremony gives me also the opportunity to recall that Italy and the Italian Development Cooperation remain fully committed to preserving and promoting Lebanese cultural heritage. Through the Cultural Heritage and Urban Development programme, we support many projects in this sector at a number of archaeological sites in Lebanon for a value of 12 million Euro. Italian contributions and technical assistance have resulted in significant restoration projects, such as the Tomb of Tyre and the complete renovation of a floor of the National Museum of Beirut.

Our commitment in the conservation and management of Lebanese Cultural Heritage responds to two goals.

The first, preserving what belongs to humankind for the present and future generations. Cultural Heritage, worldwide and here, is an identity value for the nation. The richer is the cultural heritage of a nation the stronger and more resilient is its people.

The second, restoration and promotion of architectural heritage can be a driver for local economic development, increasing the quality of communities’ life, thus contributing to the prosperity of the entire country.

I am proud to say that, thanks to the relentless work of the Italian Agency and DGA and CDR, by 2022, all the restoration projects within the Cultural Heritage and Urban Development programme will be taken to their conclusion, and the monuments will be returned to the full administration and management of the competent Lebanese Authorities. Some of the projects are completed, such as Baalbeck Serail, and Saida Land Castle, while others such as Baalbeck Archaeological Site and Tyre will be completed before the end of the year.

Concluding my speech, I hope that the Shamaa Castle project will represent a model for the cultural and economic development of the area and a driver for promoting sustainable tourism and job creation. I hope that this restored site can be enjoyed by the population and seen as a symbol of the friendship between Italy and Lebanon.”

For his part, Mortada praised the dear friendly Italian state, “which has never failed to support the Lebanese people in all fields,” stressing that culture and national heritage have always had special attention from the Italian government.

“Our meeting today in the sanctuary of a landmark of human heritage linked to heavenly missions, bears witness to the barbarism of the Zionist entity, which did not spare these landmarks the toll of its destruction machine, not once, but successively, in flagrant violation of all international conventions aimed at protecting the world and historical heritage,” Mortada said.

He praised “the depth of the Lebanese-Italian relations, which extend to all sectors,” and said: “Preserving the human and cultural heritage remains one of the priorities of cooperation between the two countries to highlight the importance of dialogue among civilizations and to promote culture in all its forms.”

Source: National News Agency