Located in North Lebanon, more precisely in Chekaa, the Nabu Museum, resulting from a private initiative, is a newcomer to the Lebanese cultural and heritage scene.
Named after Nabu, Mesopotamian god of knowledge and writing, this museum, opened on the initiative of Jawad Adra offers a collection of pieces from different origins and eras, ranging from the Bronze Age to paintings of more contemporary era.
We can thus admire some exceptionally rare pieces outside the major world museums and their countries of origin, including a series of tablets with cuneiform writing from Sumer and Babylon. Other tablets, more local, those with Phoenician scriptures.
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On the painting side, the public will be able to admire, a rare thing today, paintings by Lebanese artists, including Amine Bacha, Adam Hneineh, or even most of the works of the famous Saliba Douaihy, also from North Lebanon.
The Museum is also a fairly eclectic and modern work of art. Built by an Iraqi-Canadian artist, Mahmoud Obaidi, in collaboration with Dia Azzawi, it is an almost raw block, open on large interior spaces, on a superb view of the Mediterranean Sea, the rust used for the facade reminiscent of the “industrial” side of the locality.
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A Museum which is however controversial
However, the Nabu Museum is controversial as to the alleged fraudulent acquisition of some of its masterpieces resulting from the looting of sites and museums in Iraq and Syria during the civil war. This controversy concerns in particular the famous Sumerian tablets, numbering 136 and which are said to have originated from the Irisagrig site between 2003 and 2009. . The Iraqi government is reportedly calling for the return of these artifacts. For now, the Lebanese authorities would still turn a deaf ear.
On the other hand, d articles published by the Lebanese press , indicates from another part of its collections – including the famous Phoenician funerary stelae – would even come from the archaeological site of Tyr El Bass looted in the 1990s.
For his part, the private owner of this museum relies on Decree 3065 of 12/03/2016, adopted at the end of the mandate of the former minister Roni Arayji. This decree legalizes their private collections on condition of declaring them to the competent authorities. However, it expired in March 2019.
For now, the owner of the Museum refuses to answer as to the provenance of these problematic pieces . As for the Lebanese authorities, they refuse to take up the issue, indicating that the detention of these collections is currently legitimized by the decree of the former Minister of Culture.
However, according to experts, this decree contradicts international treaties and regulations to which Lebanon is a signatory and which are preponderant in relation to local law.
Indeed, resolution 1483, dated 2003 and adopted by the UN Security Council specifically protects Iraqi cultural property.
According to the text of this resolution:
Decides that all Member States shall take the necessary measures to facilitate the return, in good condition, to Iraqi institutions of Iraqi cultural property and other objects of archaeological, historical, cultural, scientific or religious value which have been illegally removed from the Iraqi National Museum, the National Library and other sites in Iraq since the adoption of resolution 661 (1990) of 6 August 1990, in particular by prohibiting the trade in or transfer of these objects and objects of which it is there are good reasons to believe that they have been illegally removed and calls on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Interpol and other relevant international organizations to facilitate the implementation of this paragraph;
Also, resolution 2347 adopted by the UN Security Council in 2017 calls for prohibiting the illegal trade in antiques to finance the purchase of weapons by terrorist groups and insists on the protection of these antiquities in the event of conflict. armed. This resolution therefore calls on UN member countries to investigate, seize and return stolen cultural property.