Newly renovated Roman theatre in Sabratha contributes to fostering national identity and social cohesion

Posted February 9, 2022

A panoramic view of the newly renovated Roman theatre in Sabratha . Photo: ©UNDP Libya

9 February 2022, Sabratha (Libya). The Ministry of Local Government, the Municipality of Sabratha, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) inaugurated the Roman theatre in Sabratha recently renovated with the support from the EU.

In 2016, clashes within and around the archaeological site destroyed parts of this invaluable cultural heritage. The World Heritage Archaeological Site of Sabratha has a long and important history and has been inscribed to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage List since 1982. The landmark was once a Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland, and later Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. In modern times, the site serves as a landmark and symbol for all Libyans as well as a destination for tourists, locals and students who come from all parts of the country.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Local Government, the Department of Antiquity and UNESCO (through the International Council on Monuments and Sites – ICOMOS), UNDP provided support to the Municipality of Sabratha to restore the historical and non-historical buildings of the Roman Theatre. The restoration works consist of rehabilitation of service offices to manage the monuments, rehabilitation of the Roman theatre stage, maintenance, and improvement of three entrance gates, as well as installation of solar streetlights.

Sabratha Roman theatre is expected to attract around 500,000 visitors every year, generating critical economic activity and thousands of jobs.

This initiative is part of UNDP’s efforts, since 2017, to accompany public institutions, local governments, civil society, and communities to build peace and resilience in 65 municipalities throughout the country.

During the ceremony, Mr. Mohamed Alhasluk, Mayor of Sabratha stated: " This place is a historic-millennia old site that needs maintenance for its sustainability. We are grateful to UNDP and other partners for their contribution including installation of solar streetlights and renovation of all facilities within this archaeological site. "

Mr Mohamed Abouhalga, International Cooperation Advisor to the minister of Local Government affirmed: "The historic city of Sabratha has been an umbrella of many civilizations. The support from international organizations to renovate this edifice is an indication of prevailing peace and the desire of Libyans to enjoy its dividends. The ministry of Local Government continues to work with international partners to enable municipalities to provide better services to their residents. "

Mr. Marc-André Franche, UNDP’s Resident Representative said: " The Roman Theatre is a symbol of how common values and culture may unify communities and contribute to peace and reconciliation in Libya.  UNDP is proud to partner with Libyan authorities and the EU to help preserve the rich cultural heritage of the country as an essential pillar of recovery and development.,

Mr. José Antonio Sabadell, Ambassador of the European Union in Libya, stated: "Libya’s shared cultural heritage has all the potential to become an important driver for sustainable development. Extraordinary archaeological sites like the Roman Theatre in Sabratha offer immense opportunities for the communities to create jobs and boost the local economy. The EU is glad to be able to contribute to the work of Libyan authorities and our partners in preserving Libya’s rich cultural heritage."

On his part, Mr. Mohamed Aboageila, the Head of Sabratha Antiquity Office, declared: Renovation of the service offices including restoration plant will allow to restore coins artifacts and pottery pots. Grateful to partners for their interest in the city's cultural heritage."

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This project was implemented in the framework of the programme "Managing mixed migration flows in Libya through expanding protection space and supporting local socioeconomic development" financed by the North of Africa Window of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The main objective of this programme is to comprehensively reinforce protection and resilience of migrants, refugees and host communities in Libya while supporting an improved migration management along the migration routes in the country.