BEIRUT: The National Museum of Beirut is in darkness as the diesel allocated by the Ministry of Culture to turn on the generators at this major tourism facility has run out.
The museum has seen fewer tourists since the beginning of the summer.
Its management has changed its opening hours, based on the sunlight that bathes its halls through the windows.
It is now open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — it used to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
An Arab News photographer saw tourists using their cellphones to shine light on artifacts.
During a ministerial meeting, Culture Minister Mohammed Mortada complained that he was unable to provide funds allocated for buying fuel to turn on the museum’s generators after they ran out of fuel, and that the credit allocated for fuel was used up.
“Just like many other institutions, the national museum is suffering from the power crisis,” Mortada told Arab News. The crisis has become acute at a time when the tourism season is in full swing with the arrival of thousands of expats in Lebanon for the summer holidays, he said.
“It’s unacceptable that they can’t visit the museum,” he added. “It’s a reflection of the poor state of affairs of the country.”
Apart from the power crisis, the museum also lacks a proper security system, such as the ones found worldwide that link a museum’s cameras to the nearest police station.
An official from the caretaker government told Arab News: “The problem with the government is that it’s working without a budget. There are no credits to buy fuel and operate the state’s institutions.”
The official said: “During the ministerial meeting, it was suggested that a support committee for the museum be established to raise the entrance fee to 100,000 Lebanese pounds ($3) from its current 15,000 … It’s true that this suggestion is bad. However, this is one way out to collect funds to buy diesel and ensure the continuity of this important tourism facility.”
However, Mortada said the suggestion is “illegal as any entry fee received must directly go to the Ministry of Finance. This can’t work.”