The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. will delve deep into the history of south Lebanon Wednesday with a comprehensive program of talks entitled the Tyre Day Symposium.
Organized by the American Committee for Tyre, one of 13 committees around the world affiliated with Lebanese UNESCO-accredited NGO the International Association to Save Tyre, the symposium coincides with an exhibition of the library’s publications relating to the ancient Phoenician city.
Founded in 1980, the IAST has a primary mission to raise awareness of the rich history of Tyre, whose settlement dates back to 2750BC. It works to safeguard the city’s ruins, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, to develop the site and to raise funds for diverse projects that seek to highlight the importance of Tyre’s cultural and archeological legacy.
The association organizes an annual forum at one of the 55 Mediterranean cities that form a league of locations with archaeological vestiges of the Phoenician civilization. This year Washington D.C. will take over.
“The Library of Congress proposed a display of the publications relating to Tyre,” Marie Therese Achkar, executive director of the Ligue des Cites Cananeennes, Pheniciennes et Puniques told The Daily Star. “They have a lot of publications on Tyre that don’t exist in Lebanon or the rest of the world ... We said to ourselves, ‘Why not take this opportunity to hold the forum in Washington?’”
The primary aim of the forum is to raise awareness about Tyre’s history. A panel of international experts on Phoenician civilization is scheduled to give talks to the sizable audience registered to attend the free event.
“We are expecting 1,000 people,” Achkar said. “It’s huge. People are coming from Argentina, from Canada, France, Tunisia, Switzerland, London, Lebanon. A lot of Lebanese Americans are also expected to attend.”
The program will begin at 9 a.m. after breakfast and run through until 3.30 p.m., with a break for lunch. It will be followed by an invitation-only cocktail reception.
Expert speakers from Lebanon, Spain, France, the U.S. and Belgium will discuss topics ranging from Tyre’s Phoenician temple, to the diffusion of the Phoenician alphabet, Tyre’s eight civilizations, Phoenician coins, which were among the first currencies in the world, the city’s famous purple dye, Biblical passages relating to Tyre, Phoenician women and Phoenician wine.
“The symposium aims to make Tyre much better known,” Achkar said. “We have a lot of projects to save the heritage and to [ensure that] the Phoenician civilization becomes known everywhere, because it’s a big civilization and we still have a lot of shadow zones to discover. We need to excavate, we need to do studies.
“That’s why we are creating an institute, to do research, and we’re also making a virtual museum and creating a library to collect everything that has been written on the civilization ... The aim is to create a collaboration between researchers, to share their finding.”
The establishment of the American Committee for Tyre in 1980 was part of a plan to create a larger global network. “A lot of American researchers and archeologists are very interested by the Phoenicians, because some people are saying they were the first to visit America,” Achkar said. “There’s still a debate on the matter. The reason we created this committee is to encourage researchers to talk to each other and share information. We have one famous American who’s a specialist on wine during the Phoenician period, for example, and another who studies the purple dye.
“[The 13 committees] also aim to raise money, because we have big projects. We have the online virtual museum, which is going to cost us maybe $200,000 and we are trying to reproduce the purple dye. We also have a project to create a handicraft village, to reproduce Phoenician art.”