"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

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Lebanon's cultural sector was blown apart by the devastating explosion last week. Can it be rebuilt? [via Samia Nasser]

At the moment that one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history blasted outwards from Beirut's port and swept across the city, Zeina Arida, the director of Sursock Museum, was standing outside her office with two colleagues. The force of the explosion, less than a mile away, threw them into the museum's stairwell, as all around them windows shattered and glass and debris rained down. "We have escaped by a miracle," Arida said over the phone three days later. "The museum is blown away, very simply... There is no door, no window, no glass left in the building." 


Interior shot of Sursock Palace.

The force of the explosion also brought down parts of the ceilings and internal walls in the museum, housed in an ornate white mansion dating from 1912. Less than five years after it reopened in October 2015 -- following a seven-year renovation costing more than $10 million -- the museum is a wreck. The enormous explosion, reportedly caused by 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut's port, killed more than 170 people and injured over 6,000. More than 300,000 have been displaced from their homes. The explosion sent up a gigantic mushroom cloud and let loose a vast circle of destruction, damaging buildings miles away t the moment that one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history blasted outwards from Beirut's port and swept across the city, Zeina Arida, the director of Sursock Museum, was standing outside her office with two colleagues. The force of the explosion, less than a mile away, threw them into the museum's stairwell, as all around them windows shattered and glass and debris rained down. "We have escaped by a miracle," Arida said over the phone three days later. "The museum is blown away, very simply... There is no door, no window, no glass left in the building." The force of the explosion also brought down parts of the ceilings and internal walls in the museum, housed in an ornate white mansion dating from 1912. Less than five years after it reopened in October 2015 -- following a seven-year renovation costing more than $10 million -- the museum is a wreck. 


A crooked painting hangs on the wall of the Sursock Palace, heavily damaged after the explosion. Credit: Felipe Dana/AP

The enormous explosion, reportedly caused by 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut's port, killed more than 170 people and injured over 6,000. More than 300,000 have been displaced from their homes. The explosion sent up a gigantic mushroom cloud and let loose a vast circle of destruction, damaging buildings miles away.  

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Lebanese volunteers clear the rubble in the devastated Gemmayzeh neighbourhood, on August 7. Credit: AFP/Getty Images



The front of Marfa' Projects after the blast. Credit: Courtesy Joumana Asseily


A view from the roof of an apartment building overlooking the ravaged port of Lebanon's capital Beirut in the Mar Mikhael neighborhood. Credit: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images




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