Rachid Karame Cultural Center in Tripoli rehabilitated with the support of United Nations and European Union

Committed to safeguarding cultural heritage and fostering community engagement, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in partnership with the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (MoIM) and the Municipality of Tripoli, with the financial support of the European Union, and under the patronage of H.E. Mohammad Wissam El-Mortada, Minister of Culture, inaugurated the newly rehabilitated Rachid Karame Cultural Center, known as the Nawfal Palace. This achievement marks an important step in the preservation of Tripoli’s cultural heritage.

The protracted socio-economic, financial, and political crises in Lebanon have severely impacted municipalities, including the Municipality of Tripoli. Amongst many impacts of these crises on the cities in Lebanon, the maintenance and upkeep of historical buildings, such as the Nawfal Palace have suffered, resulting in much damage and structural deterioration.

The library, home to over 10,000 volumes spanning diverse disciplines and including century-old documents, has also suffered. In response and through the Municipal Empowerment Resilience Project, the Municipality of Tripoli proposed a comprehensive restoration project, aimed at revitalizing both the palace and its public library, creating an inclusive cultural space for all.

The rehabilitation of the cultural palace was made possible through the European Union’s funding of US$ 145,000. This contribution not only facilitated the restoration work but also equipped the palace with different amenities, including the installation of CCTV cameras, a sound system, a high-definition projector, and other essential equipment that underpinned the center’s modernization. A significant accomplishment in this process involved eliminating water leaks, restoring compromised sections, waterproofing, and restoring the historical ceilings, building facades, windows, and walls. A forthcoming second phase of restoration, scheduled for completion in the final quarter of 2023, will culminate in the renovation of remaining parts of the palace’s ceiling.

In the ensuing months, an additional activity will hopefully see the palace’s library transformed into a dynamic learning hub. Subject to identifying a service provider who can provide this expertise, an automated archiving system will be installed to archive and monitor the usage of the library’s books. This endeavor will facilitate access to invaluable content and ensure the safekeeping of historical volumes and documents.

“This morning I signed the decision to form the cultural committees that will be in charge of organizing the events to be held as part of Tripoli the capital of Arab culture in 2024,” said H.E. Minister Mohammad Wissam El-Mortada, Ministry of Culture.

“Due to the considerable costs of restoration, the municipality sought support from international organizations, including UNDP and UN-Habitat, with funding from the European Union. Through successful collaboration, the palace’s rehabilitation became a reality. Thank God, the project was implemented to very high standards, and everyone who visits the palace, including foreign embassies, is amazed by its beauty. Because the quality of the rehabilitation was excellent,” said Mayor Ahmad Kamareddine, Municipality of Tripoli.

“The renovation of the Nawfal Palace is an impactful intervention that will help to preserve a vital cultural space for the city of Tripoli. I am grateful to the Municipality of Tripoli for their partnership in this project, and to the European Union for their generous funding. I am confident that this project will help to boost the cultural and economic vitality of Tripoli, and the transformation of this palace serves as a testament to the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage in cities across Lebanon to maintain their historical richness and preserve it for future generations,” said Taina Christiansen, Head of UN-Habitat Lebanon.

“Today’s event is a chance to celebrate Tripoli’s rich cultural heritage. We take pride in contributing to restoring this historic place and connecting Lebanon’s past with its present needs. This space is open to all, serving as a hub for knowledge, culture, and gatherings, bringing people in their diversity together.” said Alessia Squarcella, Deputy Head of Cooperation, Team Leader – Economy, Green Deal and Local Development, the European Union Delegation to Lebanon.

Located in Tripoli, the Rachid Karame Cultural Center, known as the Nawfal Palace, is rich with a history dating back to 1898. Transformed into a cultural center in 1967, the place includes offices, a central hall for events, and a public library. Home to an invaluable collection of over 10,000 volumes spanning diverse subjects, including century-old texts, the library attracts learners and explorers alike. The cultural palace is open to public, students seeking collaborative spaces for group study, and overall communities. Already a hub for many organizations and youth groups, the palace accommodates meetings, trainings, and events that enrich the community fabric.

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