SIDON, Lebanon: A $165,000 project to restore Sidon’s Sea Castle was launched Saturday as part of ongoing efforts to promote tourism in the historic southern Lebanese city.
The American Embassy contributed $100,000 of the funding from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation project, while the rest will be supplied by the Directorate-General of Antiquities.
“We are proud of this cooperation between us and the Directorate-General of Antiquities and the Culture Ministry. We have been able to make a contribution to the restoration and rehabilitation of this historic castle, and this shows the strong ties that link Lebanon to America,” Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut Ed White said at the project’s launch.
The U.S. Congress established the AFCP in 2000, and funding has gone to support projects aimed at preserving cultural heritage in over 130 countries. The restoration of Sidon’s Sea Castle, a 13th-century crusader fortress connected to land by a stone causeway, is the AFCP’s 18th project in Lebanon.
The initiative will see the restoration and strengthening of the castle’s archaeological structures in addition to providing visitors with information about the site’s historical significance, and will address inadequate work done in previous restoration attempts.
These include strengthening the castle’s walls, all of which suffer from cracks; preventing water seepage into various archways; replacing concrete mortar with traditional lime mortar; and strengthening architectural features that have been loosened, in particular the entrance gate.
Recent additions will be removed to draw attention to the site’s original features, and safety handrails will be installed to prevent visitors from falling.
Boards around the site will present visitors with information, and a guardroom will be built outside the castle.
The last time the Sea Castle was renovated was about 20 years ago, when a new lighting system was installed. But in recent years, strong waves have caused some of the stones from the castle walls to crumble off.
For several months last year, tourists were prevented from visiting parts of the castle after several large rocks in the structure’s upper southwestern section collapsed.
The project is part of a broader strategy to revamp tourism in Sidon's Old City. Sidon MP Bahia Hariri met with municipality members and Tourism Ministry officials last summer to discuss ways of doing so, including by erecting information kiosks around the city for tourists; restoring certain old, privately owned buildings; lighting historical monuments; and training tour guides. – Writing by Jacob Boswall