Source: Rayya Haddad

A series of structures have been recently discovered in central Beirut. They include several arched buildings or chambers. Here is a zoom out from the previous photo:

Source: Rayya Haddad
Source: Rayya Haddad

The site is adjacent to the Bank Audi headquarters in downtown Beirut– the yellow stone building just outside the white construction wall below:

Here’s a Google map of the same location. Again we can see Bank Audi on the right on Bab Idriss Street. The site is green patch, meaning this current Google maps satellite image is actually a few years old:

Interestingly the green patch site also borders a second archeological site, seen toward the bottom of the photo, which is believed to be the location of the ancient Roman theatre of Beirut:

And if we zoom out a little more, we can see the remnants of what is believed to be the Roman Hippodrome (chariot race track) of Beirut, which occupies the green spaces around the capital’s only surviving synagogue:

Map of the projected Roman hippodrome (left) and Roman theatre (right) based on artifacts found on site.

Readers of this blog will know that I have written extensively about the hippodrome, from its discovery and unearthing last summer, after a century of searching:

Beirut Report
…to the fight waged by activists for its preservation and what it says about transparency and archeology in Lebanon in a major piece I wrote for the BBC; to the wall’s eventual removal a few weeks later with the controversial approval of the Culture Ministry.
I bring all this up because today’s Bank Audi site is only a few meters from the hippodrome and theatre area. As you can see in the photo below, it lies just outside the white and black construction walls:
Source: Rayya Haddad
Source: Rayya Haddad
It’s not clear if there is any connection between the Roman ruins and the ones above. They may also be Ottoman ruins with the possibility of Roman ruins buried beneath. The area also may be close to the colonnaded Roman road believed to have linked the theatre to the hippodrome, two grand Herodian attractions that made ancient Berytus the envy of other cities in the empire.
Most of the photos in this post were taken by photographer Rayya Haddad, who happened to be visiting someone in a nearby building. Check out her site here:
We wouldn’t have been able to see much if it were not for Rayya’s pictures. From the street level the site is blocked by black walls:
I tried to get a glimpse a few months ago, but couldn’t see more than a single arch through a crack in the wall:
Note the blue crates above are used to store artifacts, so several dozen may have been recovered from the site already.
I was also able to get a shot when the door was briefly open:
Compare this to a photo I shot last summer, before excavation works had begun:
Hopefully the heavy machinery on site did not affect the ruins. (See steam shovel in second photo as well). And hopefully some day there will be a level of government transparency to communicate to citizens what history is being discovered here and at sites across central Beirut and the rest of the country.
In the meantime, it’s up to citizens to document these findings.
  1. What an incredible site. Maybe I just haven’t seen enough proper images of the various sites, but this looks much more intact than many others. Do you know what happens to the artifacts after they go into the blue bins? What happens to the structures themselves? (e.g. reburied, demolished, removed?)

  2. Thanks, those are good questions, unfortunately there is little transparency in the process as I noted in the BBC piece I linked to above. Ruins are preserved on site only in rare cases, mostly they are packed up and stored, sometimes even bulldozed. Government officials (not archeologists) decide these matters and private interests are likely to play a role in the decision-making. See the BBC piece for more details.

  3. Il est remarquable de trouver encore de si beau site à Beyrouth ! Espérons qu’il soit préservé !

  4. Thanks for the answers, Habib — I read the BBC piece when it came out, guess I need to go back and look at it again 🙂 I find this whole issue fascinating (if usually depressing!).

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