This post is part of a series called Lebanon July 2018
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Sidon and Tyre

After leaving Jezzine in the Chouf Mountains we drove east on a nice road to Sidon, on the Mediterranean Sea. Sidon is the 3rd largest city in Lebanon, and claims to be one of the first Phoenician cities built, and like most other such cities in Lebanon, suffered a lot of conquerors including Alexander the Great, Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Saracens, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, and finally the British & French.

Sidon is locally known as Saida, a Syrian-Aramaic name meaning fishing town. We had called and booked at a local B&B at the Latin Church, in the ancient old town souk; another use of a convent by the church to generate some revenue. Katia, the caretaker, told us to park by the Khan el Franj (literally the Caravanserai of the French; built by Emir Fakhreddine in the 17th century to accommodate French merchants and goods in order to develop trade with Europe). The GPS took us to the Khan el Franj and we found side street parking; so we parked and walked into the souk as directed and found the entrance to the accommodations

Sidon and Tyre Our digs in Sidon
Our digs in Sidon

The “doorbell” was a rope that pulled on a traditional bell inside the convent area. Katia came and let us in and showed us our room. Very basic, with private bathroom, but no AC and no internet 🙁 ; but cheap at $35 per night 🙂 ; including breakfast at Katia’s café that she ran in the middle of the old souk.

After settling in, we decided to go check out the main attraction of Sidon Castle, since it was 3:30PM and the old souk was basically closed for the day. We went over to the Govt run restaurant nearby which we were informed had internet.

Sidon and Tyre Govt restaurant on the waterfront overlooking the Sidon Castle
Govt restaurant on the waterfront overlooking the Sidon Castle

The Govt restaurant was on the waterfront, so it was pleasant, and we ordered a drink and tried their internet. The internet was not very good, so after our drinks, we went over to the Sidon Castle to check it out. The Sidon Castle was built by the Crusaders in the early 13th century. A small entrance fee was required, and we then crossed over the stone bridge to the castle ruins. Some views of the castle below

Sidon and Tyre Fishermen and modern Sidon in the background
Fishermen and modern Sidon in the background
Sidon and Tyre Some privacy time for young lovers at Sidon Castle; complete with matching jeans & shoes
Some privacy time for young lovers at Sidon Castle; complete with matching jeans & shoes
Sidon and Tyre Beauty amongst the ruins
Beauty amongst the ruins

We walked over to an alcove in the castle and there was a nice family, who were friendly and tried to converse with us; but they only spoke Arabic. However, we were able to understand that they were Syrians who had come to Sidon as refugees. They offered and shared with us the food snacks & drinks they had brought with them as a picnic to the castle outing. The snack was like a small mini pizza pita, stuffed with a meat and vegetable filling inside and then baked. Very nice of complete strangers once again. Lebanon is definitely a very hospitable place.

Sidon and Tyre Syrian family (mother, son, daughter-in-law and kids) who befriended us and shared their snacks with us
Syrian family (mother, son, daughter-in-law and kids) who befriended us and shared their snacks with us
Sidon and Tyre Castle Alcove where the Syrian family was picnicking; ancient and modern Sidon
Castle Alcove where the Syrian family was picnicking; ancient and modern Sidon
Sidon and Tyre Modern Sidon from the Sidon Castle
Modern Sidon from the Sidon Castle
Sidon and Tyre Old Sidon, also from Sidon Castle
Old Sidon, also from Sidon Castle

We then went back out, and found a nice restaurant on the waterfront for a dinner of fresh seafood

Sidon and Tyre Waterfront dining of fresh seafood
Waterfront dining of fresh seafood

By this time, it was getting sunset.

Sidon and Tyre Sunset at the castle, diehard fisherman
Sunset at the castle, diehard fisherman

We went back to the car, and decided to drive around a little to check out other areas of Sidon before calling it a day. We drove around the seafront a little and there did not seem to be much night life here, so after dark, we drove back and parked near the Khan el Franj and got out. The Khan was closed, but there were a couple of soldiers there, guarding the place, presumably security since the Khan was home to a French Cultural Center. One of the soldiers was using a Tasbih (Rosary), and I stopped to admire it as it looked interesting. He showed me the tasbih, and then gestured me to take it. I assured him I did not want it, but he came after us trying to give it to me. I politely thanked him and refused again; and we walked back to the Latin Church to call it a night.

What nice people everywhere; It almost seems like the culture here that if you see something personal you like that belongs to someone else, they want to give it to you; this has happened to us a few times during this trip, and it is very pleasant and refreshing behavior of complete strangers.

We did not get restful sleep at night, as it was warm and humid, and though there was a breeze and fans, the open windows meant we could hear the night-time Adhan (calls to prayers) from the nearby mosques. Next morning, we got up and went to find Katia’s café for breakfast. Most of the souk was still closed, and just starting to open for the day. The souk is another very old souk, just like the souk in Tripoli, and was a warren of narrow alleys with shops all around. This was again, not touristed at all, which was refreshing. For breakfast, we were served Manouche and tea. The Manouche was being baked in a bakery in the basement across the alleyway from Katia’s café. She uses this bakery as it uses whole wheat flour that she prefers.

Sidon and Tyre Fresh Manouche from the basement bakery
Fresh Manouche from the basement bakery

From here, we decide to head to Tyre for the day. Tyre is another city about 25 miles south of Sidon. It has similar origins and history as Sidon, and was also a port city for the Phoenicians. Tyre’s local name was Sour. The waterfront here was very nice; some scenes below from Tyre

Sidon and Tyre Local name for Tyre
Local name for Tyre
Sidon and Tyre Sour (Tyre) harbor
Sour (Tyre) harbor
Sidon and Tyre Getting ready for the next day’s fishing
Getting ready for the next day’s fishing

We then headed into the souk in Tyre, to check it out

Sidon and Tyre Tyre souk
Tyre souk
Sidon and Tyre Everything available for sale in Tyre souk
Everything available for sale in Tyre souk
Sidon and Tyre Fish market
Fish market

We then drove to other parts of Tyre, including their famous Roman ruins

Sidon and Tyre Roman ruins
Roman ruins
Sidon and Tyre Beach area in Tyre
Beach area in Tyre
Sidon and Tyre Mobile book store
Mobile book store

We then drove back to Sidon, where the plan was to check out more of Sidon including the souk, stay till early morning call for prayer, and then drive into Beirut for an early morning flight back to the USA. So we drove back to Sidon, and late lunch was at Falafel Abou Rami

Sidon and Tyre Late lunch at Falafel Abou Rami’s
Late lunch at Falafel Abou Rami’s

Video below of how Abou Rami makes his famous falafels

Sidon and Tyre Patrons at Abou Rami
Patrons at Abou Rami

We then went into the Sidon souk, which was open and alive

Sidon and Tyre Sidon souk
Sidon souk
Sidon and Tyre Busy souk
Busy souk
Sidon and Tyre More souk area
More souk area
Sidon and Tyre A working hamam in the souk
A working hamam in the souk

We also visited the 13th century El-Omari great mosque in Sidon old town area; the restoration of this old mosque had received an Aga Khan award for architecture

Sidon and Tyre Entrance to the El-Omari Great mosque, Sidon
Entrance to the El-Omari Great mosque, Sidon
Sidon and Tyre Inside the El-Omari great mosque
Inside the El-Omari great mosque

There were several nice squares in the old town with shops and locals going about their daily business. Pleasant way to people watch and pass the time.

Dinner was local fresh fish again, at one of the many restaurants lining the waterfront area

Sidon and Tyre Dinner of fresh fish, fries and salad
Dinner of fresh fish, fries and salad

After dinner, we went to a nice park built on the sea-ward side of the El-Omari grand mosque, where may families and children were enjoying the cooler evening air

Sidon and Tyre Nice park with local families chilling, el-Omari Grand mosque in the background
Nice park with local families chilling, el-Omari Grand mosque in the background

After this, we went back to our B&B for a few hours of sleep, before driving to Beirut airport at 3:30AM, to head back to the US; end of another very pleasant vacation.

Some thoughts about Lebanon. Lebanon is part of the Levant, and hence has a lot of old history of all 3 religions of this area (Judaism, Christianity & Islam). In Lebanon, we came across a lot of cultural diversity between the Muslims (Sunni), Christians, Druze, Hezbollah, Muslim Shia, and a lot of geographical diversity between the Lebanon Mountains, Quadish, Bekaa valleys, Chouf mountains and the coastline. The Lebanese people have been through a lot of turmoil, in the olden times with the many conquests and occupiers, and in the recent times with the multiple civil wars and internal strife they have endured. The Lebanese people were the best part of our experience; with spontaneous hospitality, everywhere; it seems to be a cultural trait which is very refreshing. The country is not very “tourist friendly” because the tourist places are not always well signposted, people don’t all speak English, and decent hotels are not to be found everywhere. We came away with great warm experiences, and can highly recommend visiting Lebanon if you are able to put up with a less luxurious and less organized and more spontaneous vacation.

Sidon and Tyre Map
Map
This entry was posted in Lebanon July 2018, Middle East

12 thoughts on “Sidon and Tyre

  • AmirT November 21, 2018 at 2:18 am Reply

    Hi Ali..Thanks! Excellent! Enjoyed going thru it. amirT

    • Ali Karim November 23, 2018 at 11:46 am Reply

      Thanks Amir; glad you enjoyed it. Thanks always, for the feedback

  • shahida dhanani November 23, 2018 at 11:57 am Reply

    Hi Ali/Dilshad
    I have been following your trip to Lebanon Very interesting
    read and great photos You sure write a good blog with a lot
    of research and work put in Wish I had your patience
    to write about our travels

    • Ali Karim November 23, 2018 at 11:58 am Reply

      Hi Shahida, thanks for the feedback; glad you enjoyed our trip through Lebanon

  • Muslim Harji November 24, 2018 at 8:19 am Reply

    Thank You Ali & Dilshad,
    Loved every image….Rich & Vibrant…Asante
    My favorite…. Castle Alcove
    Muslim

    • Ali Karim November 25, 2018 at 11:17 am Reply

      THanks Muslim, for your feedback always.
      My favorite picture was Beauty in the ruins 🙂

  • Zahir Dharsee November 24, 2018 at 8:54 am Reply

    Hi Ali – a good write up – very informative. Enjoyed reading it. All the best and Thanks. Zahir

    • Ali Karim November 25, 2018 at 11:19 am Reply

      Thanks Zahir, for the feedback. SO glad you enjoyed it.

  • alnasir jivraj November 24, 2018 at 6:10 pm Reply

    wow.. nice going.. so now thru you I have visited another old city

    • Ali Karim November 25, 2018 at 11:20 am Reply

      Hi Alnasir, thanks for following us on our journey….

  • Mahamud Jinnah November 25, 2018 at 11:23 am Reply

    Awesome as usual. Amazing that Syrian refugees shared their meal. So human and refreshing. And the guy trying to give u his tasbih. Just amazing. Plus the beach looked beautiful.

    Looking forward to hear about India next.

    • Ali Karim November 25, 2018 at 11:24 am Reply

      Thanks Mahamud; appreciate your feedback always.

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