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Faraya Mzaar
Faraya Mzaar
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About Lebanon

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SIDON

Sidon, the largest city in South Lebanon, is one of the famous names in ancient history, and was inhabited as early as Neolithic times (6,000-4,000 B.C.)
The city was built on a peninsula facing an island, sheltering its fleet from storms and served as a refuge during military incursions from the interior. Many of its remains and ancient objects can now be seen in foreign museums.

Like all other Phoenician city states, Sidon suffered from a succession of conquerors.
Sidon's Phoenician period began in the 12th-10th Century BC and reached its height during the Persian Empire (550-330 BC). The city provided Persia, a great land power, with the ships seamen to fight the Egyptians and Greeks, a role that gave it a highly favored position. The Persians maintained a royal park in Sidon.
Glass manufacture, Sidon's most important enterprise in the Phoenician era, was conducted on a vast scale and the production of purple dye was almost as important. The small shell of the Murex trunculus was broken in order to extract the pigment that was so rare it became the mark of royalty.

Under the successors of Alexander, Sidon, the "Holy City" of Phoenicia, enjoyed relative freedom and organized games and competition in which the greatest athletes of the region participated.

When Sidon, like other cities of Phoenicia, fell under Roman domination, it continued to mint its own silver coins. The Romans also built a theater and other major monuments in the city. During the Byzantine period when the great earthquake of 551 AD destroyed most of the cities Phoenicia, Beirut's School of Law took refuge in Sidon. The town continued quietly for the next Century, until it was conquered by the Moslems in 636.

Today, it is a growing city with a modern seaport, and the south's commercial and financial center, with the following main attractions:

Crusader Castle
One of the most outstanding remains are the ruins of the Crusader sea castle built in the 13th century to protect the harbor and the Castle of Saint-Louis, known as the land castle. Today, the Castle consists primarily of two towers connected by a wall. In the outer walls Roman columns were used as horizontal reinforcements, a feature often seen in fortifications built on or near former Roman sites. The west tower is the best preserved out of the two.
Old prints of the fortress show it to be one of great beauty, but little remains of the embellishments that once decorated its ramparts.

Resthouse
A government Resthouse on the water front next to the castle offers good food and refreshment. Situated in a restored medieval building, the Resthouse is set in a landscape seaside terrace. The interior has vaulted ceilings and medieval decor. There is also a fine patio with a fountain.

Khan El Franj
Large khanis (inns/warehouses) were constructed to serve the principal port for Damascus. Khan El Franj (Inn of the Foreigners) was built by Emir Fakhreddine to receive French traders and travelers from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Grand Mosque
Not far and almost on the coast is the Grand Mosque which was built on the foundations of the Church of St. John of the Hospitalers, originally built by the Crusaders in the 13th century.

The Souks
Not far from the Sea Castle is the picturesque vaulted souk of Sidon, where workmen still work their trades. On the edge of the souk is a traditional coffee house where male clientele meet to smoke the narguileh (water pipe) and drink Turkish coffee. Fishermen sell their latest catch at the market near the port, not far from the souk's entrance.

Castle of St. Louis
The Castle of St. Louis was erected on the emplacement of a Fatimi fortress during the Crusade led by French King Louis IX, popularly known as St. Louis.
Built in the mid-13th Century, the present state of the Castle makes it easy to observe various stages of the restoration carried out in the Mamluke era, particularly work done in the 17th Century by Emire Fakhreddine II. At the foot of the hill are a dozen or so Roman columns scattered on the ground.

Murex Hill
To the south of the citadel is a mound of debris called Murex Hill. This artificial hill (100 meters long and 50 meters high) was formed by the accumulation of refuse by the purple dye factories of Phoenician times. Mosaic tiling found at the top of the mound suggests that Roman buildings were erected there. The hill today is covered by houses and buildings as well as a cemetery. Broken murex shells can still be seen on the lower part of the hill, but because of extensive construction, it is extremely inaccessibly to the public.

Old Ports
Opposite the Castle of St Louis and Murex Hill, is the ancient Egyptian Port, so called because it faced south towards Egypt. An active harbor in Phoenician times, it has upsurged over the Centuries.
Today the north channel harbor is used only for local fishing boats because Fakhreddine filled it in during the 17th Century to deny entry to the Turkish fleet. What remains of this harbor goes back to the Roman era.

Necropolis of Sidon
The three main necropoli of Sidon lie beyond the ancient city limits and were in use until the late Roman and early Christian eras..

Dekerman Cemetery
Dekerman Cemetery is an archaeological site with an extensive collection of objects, mostly sarcophagi and tombs in situ, as well as fragments, inscriptions and sculptures. A number of circular Chalcolithic (4000 BC) foundations can also be seen here.

 

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