[Please note that this is a diatribe and not an apology of the death penalty.]
De la disparition du passé, on se console facilement ; c’est de la disparition de l’avenir qu’on ne se remet pas. Le pays dont l’absence m’attriste et m’obsède, ce n’est pas celui que j’ai connu dans ma jeunesse, c’est celui dont j’ai rêvé, et qui n’a jamais pu voir le jour.
First he facilitated the destruction of the Phoenician harbor of Beirut in June 2012 claiming the site had no archaeological value. So we laid the blame on those stupid Phoenicians for building their harbor on an estate worth tens of millions of dollars. Now the Medawar family is to blame for having erected, in the 1920s, a beautiful house on a piece of land now worth millions. Thanks to the Minister of the Culture of Destruction Gaby Layyoun, the “Villa Medawar” in Badaro, which was later inhabited by the family of Amin Maalouf, has been destroyed. True story.
The Daily Star, “Maalouf House yields to skyscraper plans“, Friday, January 4, 2013.
BEIRUT: Bulldozers began demolishing the three-story Medawar Building, also known as the Maalouf House, in Beirut’s Badaro neighborhood Thursday afternoon.
The demolition of the 80-year-old building comes less than three months after Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun approved the Kettaneh Group construction firm’s request to replace the building with a 22-story-high skyscraper.
Layyoun’s October decision came four months after he rejected the firm’s request to demolish the building, arguing that the structure adds unique architectural value to the city.
In a letter addressed to Kettaneh Group on June 22 of last year, Layyoun said: “The Culture Ministry does not approve the destruction of the building on plot 3696 in the Mazraa area [Badaro] since the building continues to represent a unique architectural pattern in the area.”
But on Oct. 23, Layyoun said: “The Culture Ministry approves the destruction of the building on plot 3696 in Mazraa since the building belongs to the transitional period of the French mandate and its architecture does not have any unique traditional techniques.” [I grant you that it’s not traditional, but it’s still original and beautiful.]
Although the precise date on which the building was built is unknown, architects say that its features embody the art deco style found in Italian and French architecture. Such architecture, adopted by Lebanon’s rising bourgeoisie, became famous in Lebanon in the 1930s and 1940s.
In the early 1960s, Amin Maalouf, Lebanon’s renowned writer and a member of France’s Academie Francaise, moved into the second floor of the building in Badaro with his family.
Maalouf’s mother was the last to leave the building in 2011 after the 1,600 square meters of land was purchased by the Kettaneh Group. Activists say that the judiciary should open an investigation to uncover the reasons behind the Culture Ministry’s two contradictory decisions. [Hint: look for a generous money transfer from Kettaneh to Layyoun’s bank account.]
While France has welcomed Maalouf in the Académie Française, raising him among the Nation’s greatest men, the Lebanese government razes his former residence to the ground. As Maalouf rightly said: “I have gone nowhere, it is my country that has gone.” A country not worthy of its heritage and of those who bear its name across the world.