National Museum of Beirut

National Museum of Beirut information

Location
Beirut , Lebanon
Address
cnr Rue de Damas & Ave Abdallah Yafi
Telephone
+961 1 426 703
More information
www.beirutnationalmuseum.com
Prices
adult/student under 18 LBP5000/1000
Opening hours
9am-5pm Tue-Sun
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Located on the former Green Line, this is Beirut's major cultural institution and is an essential stop for all visitors to the city. Its impressive, magnificently displayed collection of archaeological artefacts offers a great overview of Lebanon’s history and the civilisations that made their home here. Highlights include the famous, much-photographed Phoenician gilded bronze figurines found buried near the Obelisk Temple at Byblos, and a moving group of Phoenician marble statues of baby boys (from Echmoun, 6th century BC).

At the start of your visit, leave your passport at the front desk and borrow one of the museum's complimentary iPads so that you can scan labels on significant pieces in the collection to receive a commentary about each (bring your own headphones if possible). You may also wish to view the 12-minute documentary that is screened in the audiovisual room off the foyer, which plays every hour on the hour between 9am and 4pm. This details how curators saved the museum's collection during the civil war and subsequently restored it to its former glory.

Entering the exhibition area, you will encounter a huge Byzantine mosaic depicting Calliope, the muse of philosophy, and two wonderful carved sarcophagi from Tyre dating from the 2nd century AD: one depicts drunken cupids and the other the legend of Achilles. In the hall to the right there is a marble throne from Echmoun (350 BC) depicting an assembly of gods and a procession of dancers. Also here are the Phoenician statues of the baby boys; these were commissioned by Sidonian aristocrats as ex-votos to Echmoun, the Phoenican god of healing, to thank him for saving their children. In the next room, the exquisite statue of Hygeia, the goddess of health, came from Byblos and dates from the 2nd century AD.

The two rooms to the left of the entrance hall hold Egyptian and Phoenician artefacts. The most interesting of these is the sarcophagus of Ahirim, the 10th century BC king of Byblos, which displays the earliest known examples of the Phoenician alphabet.

Upstairs, you'll find pieces from the Bronze and Iron ages, as well as from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Mamluk periods. Highlights include Egyptian gold pectorals encrusted with semiprecious stones (these were found in the royal necropolis at Byblos); an extraordinary Attic drinking vessel in the shape of a pig's head that dates somewhere between 6th and 4th centuries BC; a marble head of Dionysis from the Roman period; a magnificent collection of Phoenician glass; and the gilded bronze figurines from Byblos.

The museum is a 15-minute walk south of Sodeco Sq along Rue de Damas.