8 Sept 2014

Incredible archive of ancient unseen photographs discovered in Lebanon

While working at a soup kitchen in London a few months ago, I made a startling discovery that revealed a secret archive of photographs from Lebanon dating back for millennia that I am now sharing with the world. A very, very old man approached me and I detected a hint of a Phoenician accent in the way he spoke English and I quizzed him I realised he is also from Lebanon. Over the next few weeks I built a relationship with the man, Abdeshmun of Byblos, and he revealed to me his fascinating story, and in the process revealed the vast archive of six photographs that he possessed which today we are publishing for the first time.

I wasn't going to make the story public but the appearance of this similar story in the press (A lost Lebanon caught on camera) recently convinced me that people are much more willing to believe fantastic stories, especially if they are accompanied by old photographs. Obtaining the permission of the reluctant Abdeshmun, I convinced him to share this unprecedented trove of archival photographs which he clung onto throughout his travels in the ancient and modern worlds.

Julius Caesar at Place de l'Etoile, Beirut
Abdeshmun worked as a photographer in ancient Phoenicia, (that explains why all the photographs are black and white), his first scoop was getting a photograph of Alexander the Great after he conquered the Phoenician city of Tyre. Over the centuries, Abdeshmun managed to take photographs of such fantastic historical figures as Ramesses II the Egyptian Pharaoh, Richard the Lion Heart, Julius Caesar, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and Napoleon as they toured Lebanon, skiing and swimming in the same day, eating tabbouleh and hummus and haggling for trinkets with the locals in the traditional souks where the spice smells mingled with the aroma of roasting coffee.

Abdeshmun had ended up in Britain during a trading trip when the ship he was on was destroyed, and when he tried to go back to Lebanon the government refused to acknowledge his Phoenician travel documents after the Ta'if Agreement which decreed that Lebanon is Arab. Abdeshmun thus remained in the UK, earning little money by performing Phoenician one-man shows on street corners but was never able to make much money because not many people speak the language in the UK. Admire these fantastic photographs as you reflect on this fascinating almost unbelievable story.

Nebuchadnezzar at the beautiful city of Zahle

Napoleon at the Roman ruins in the city of Baalbeck

Alexander the Great at the city of Tyre

Ramesses II skiing at the Cedars in north Lebanon 

Richard the Lionheart near Raouché rock in Beirut. 

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Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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