Tripti Joshi (Editor)


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3 sq mi

Sidon District

South Governorate


Sidon or Saida (Arabic: ?,Arabic: ?, Sayda; Phoenician: , Sydwn; Biblical Hebrew: ???????, Sidon; Greek: ; Latin: ; Turkish: ) is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Tyre and 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is a son of Canaan, a grandson of Noah. Its name coincides with the modern Arabic word for fishery.


Map of Sidon


Sidon (whose name in classical Arabic is: ???????? (Saydoon)) has been inhabited since very early in prehistory. The archaeological site of Sidon II shows a lithic assemblage dating to the Acheulean, whilst finds at Sidon III include a Heavy Neolithic assemblage suggested to date just prior to the invention of pottery. It was one of the most important Phoenician cities, and may have been the oldest. From here, and other ports, a great Mediterranean commercial empire was founded. Homer praised the skill of its craftsmen in producing glass, purple dyes, and its womens skill at the art of embroidery. It was also from here that a colonizing party went to found the city of Tyre. Tyre also grew into a great city, and in subsequent years there was competition between the two, each claiming to be the metropolis (Mother City) of Phoenicia. Glass manufacturing, Sidons 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.

Sidon in the past, History of Sidon

In AD 1855, the sarcophagus of King Eshmun’azar II was discovered. From a Phoenician inscription on its lid, it appears that he was a "king of the Sidonians," probably in the 5th century BC, and that his mother was a priestess of ‘Ashtart, "the goddess of the Sidonians." In this inscription the gods Eshmun and Ba‘al Sidon Lord of Sidon (who may or may not be the same) are mentioned as chief gods of the Sidonians. ‘Ashtart is entitled ‘Ashtart-Shem-Ba‘al ‘Ashtart the name of the Lord, a title also found in an Ugaritic text.

In the years before Christianity, Sidon had many conquerors: Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and finally Romans. Herod the Great visited Sidon. Both Jesus and Saint Paul are said to have visited it too (see Biblical Sidon below). The city was eventually conquered by the Arabs and then by the Ottoman Turks.

Like other Phoenician city-states, Sidon suffered from a succession of conquerors. At the end of the Persian era in 351 BC, it was invaded by the emperor Artaxerxes III and then by Alexander the Great in 333 BC when the Hellenistic era of Sidon began. Under the successors of Alexander, it enjoyed relative autonomy and organized games and competitions in which the greatest athletes of the region participated. In the Necropolis of Sidon, important finds such as the Alexander Sarcophagus, the Lycian tomb and the Sarcophagus of the Crying Women were discovered, which are now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.

When Sidon 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. In the reign of Elagabalus a Roman colony was established there, and was given the name of Colonia Aurelia Pia Sidon. During the Byzantine period, when the great earthquake of AD 551 destroyed most of the cities of Phoenice, Beiruts School of Law took refuge in Sidon. The town continued quietly for the next century, until it was conquered by the Arabs in AD 636.

On 4 December 1110 Sidon was captured, a decade after the First Crusade, by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem and King Sigurd I of Norway. It then became the centre of the Lordship of Sidon, an important lordship in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin captured it from the Crusaders in 1187, but German Crusaders restored it to Christian control in the Crusade of 1197. It would remain an important Crusader stronghold until it was finally destroyed by the Saracens in 1249. In 1260 it was again destroyed by the Mongols. The remains of the original walls are still visible.

After Sidon came under Ottoman Turkish rule in the early 16th century, it became the capital of the Sidon Eyalet (province) and regained a great deal of its earlier commercial importance. After World War I it became part of the French Mandate of Lebanon. During World War II the city, together with the rest of Lebanon, was captured by British forces fighting against the Vichy French, and following the war it became a major city of independent Lebanon.

Following the Palestinian exodus in 1948, a considerable number of Palestinian refugees arrived in Sidon, as in other Lebanese cities, and were settled at the large refugee camps of Ein el-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh. At first these consisted of enormous rows of tents, but gradually houses were constructed. The refugee camps constituted de facto neighborhoods of Sidon, but had a separate legal and political status which made them into a kind of enclaves. At the same time, the remaining Jews of the city fled, and the Jewish cemetery fell into disrepair, threatened by coastal erosion.

Main sights

  • Sidon Sea Castle, a fortress built by the Crusaders in the early 13th century. It is located near the Port of Sidon.
  • Sidon Soap Museum. It traces the history of the soap making in the region and its different manufacturing steps.
  • Khan el Franj (“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. This is a typical khan with a large rectangular courtyard and a central fountain surrounded by covered galleries.
  • Debbane Palace, a historical residence built in 1721, an example of Arab-Ottoman architecture. It is currently in the process of being transformed into the History Museum of Sidon. This villa was earlier occupied by the Hammoud family in the 18th century and also by members of the famous Abaza clan in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The vaults at the ground level being originally stables for the villa residents and then turned into shops as part of the old souks.
  • Old Souk, a historical vaulted market stretching between the Sea Castle and the Castle of St. Louis.
  • The Castle of St. Louis (Qalaat Al Muizz). It was built by the Crusaders in the 13th century on top of the remains of a fortress built by the Fatimid caliph Al Muizz. It is located to the south of the Old Souks near Murex Hill.
  • Eshmun Temple, dedicated to the Phoenician God of healing. Built in the 7th century BC, it is located in the north of Sidon near the Awali river.
  • The Ziri, a tiny rocky island located 1.5 km (0.9 mi) off the coastline of Sidon. In ancient times, it was used as a breakwater for the protection of ships and fleets. The island is a preferred destination for the locals who come here for picnics and swimming. The island is accessed by several ferry boats from the port of Sidon.
  • The Corniche is a seaside promenade that extends for about 7 km (4 mi) along the citys coast. The Corniche is a popular destination for walkers, joggers, skaters and bikers. Push cart vendors offer an array of local snacks and drinks.
  • The Sidon Resthouse (Istirahat Saida), a traditional architectural structure that houses an elegant and well-known Lebanese restaurant, overlooking the Sea Castle and the old port, with a view of the Ziri from its long terraces and garden. It also features a courtyard interior with a fountain and ornamented walls with masonry archways.
  • The Largest Lebanese Flag. On Lebanons 66th Independence Day, Sidon witnessed the erection of the largest Lebanese flag. The flag is 12 meters long and 6 meters wide, and was erected on a 21 meter high pole. The flag was raised on the intersection of Rafik Hariri Boulevard and Riyad Solh Street, and is easily accessible from the Corniche. The flag was painted by 66 students from the city.
  • The Bahaa El-Dine Mosque. Financed by Rafik Hariri and named after his father, the mosque is a 21st-century take on Istanbuls Ottoman Mosques. Located on a roundabout on the citys northern entrance, the mosque is an architectural gem that dots the citys skyline. The mosque with its authentic Arabesque designs, interior Islamic inscriptions, inner courtyards, Mecca-styled minarets and awe-inspiring 36-meter-high dome is a non-miss landmark in the city.
  • The British War Cemetery in Sidon. Opened in 1943 by units of His Majestys (King George VI) British Forces occupying the Lebanon after the 1941 campaign against the Vochi French troops. It was originally used for the burial of men who died while serving with the occupation force, but subsequently the graves of a number of the casualties of the 1941 campaign were moved into the cemetery from other burial grounds or from isolated positions in the vicinity. The cemetery now contains 176 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and nine war graves of other nationalities. It was designed by G. Vey. It is perhaps that only garden in modern Sidon that is elegantly kept and cared for. It is not a public garden but can be visited when the wardens have its gateways opened
  • Architecture and landscape

    In general, the architectural spaces of the old part of the city, with its antique, medieval and Ottoman quarters, are impressive, and are ranked as world heritage. It is adorned with various examples of great architectural legacies since antiquity. This is the case despite the fact that its buildings and alleyways are neglected, and require monumental renovations and organised efforts to prevent them from falling into further ruin. Some international funds were allocated to sponsor the facelifting of certain public spaces and old squares with the provision if minimal infrastructure. There are also individual initiatives to restore specific neighbourhoods as pioneered by the Audi Foundation and its elegantly rehabilitated old soap factory, now turned into a museum. The same applies to the renewal of the Debbane Ottoman mansion or villa, which was originally linked to the Hammoud family trust and was even occupied by a branch of the aristocratic Abaza family towards the end of the 19th century. The old city has great architectural potentials that remain underdeveloped. It has qualities that can put it on par with the old quarters of Antibes if its architecture becomes safeguarded and protected as well as promoted for quality life-styles. Sidon can learn from more modest yet successful examples in Lebanon itself, such as the restoration and adaptive re-use of the old quarters of Byblos and its small seaport entourage, or to be inspired in a humbler scale by the development of Downtown Beirut.

    The modern city of Sidon that extends outside the walls of the medieval quarters is generally chaotic, deprived of any notable aesthetics, built with inexpensive material, and lacking in any form of urban planning. There are some minor exceptions to this at the level of individual buildings, especially those erected in the 1950s to the 1960s, in addition to a small number of mosques, commercial malls and villas or buildings designed by proper architects or up-market developers. The sprawl in the built environment has disfigured the cityscape and the landscape around it. Ugly buildings and terrible parking lots replaced the great citrus orchards that once surrounded Sidon and used to perfume it in the springtime. The only highly maintained green-space that has refined qualities is the War Cemetery of the British legions in the Levant during World War I and World War II that fell in Sidon. Beautifully landscaped and managed by the British, this cemetery is surrounded outside its fences by dilapidated buildings and scarred neglected landscapes. Near it remains a large citrus orchard that one hopes will resist the assaults of chaotic and irreverent builders. Moreover, the old city of Sidon that was always connected to the sea and its waves has been separated from its seashores by a very wide highway of asphalt that the locals refer to as the "corniche". These rather defacing aspects are also set against a total lack of green public spaces and gardens. This aggressive degradation in the urban and architectural qualities has furthermore reached a dangerous turn in ecological terms with the disposal of sewage in the seafront and the dumping of refuse material that culminated in a mountain of rubbish known as the "Makab" (as noted in the section above), which threatens not only Sidons sea and the life within it, but also a vast stretch of the Eastern Mediterranean coastline. In fairness, one still has to note that Sidon is not worse in its urban and environmental conditions than other Lebanese cities like Tyre or Tripoli. The greatest maritime city of Sidon, which was once set in a longstanding marriage with the sea, and that used to be adorned in all sides by gardens and orchids, is now turned against itself, becoming a living threat to the sea that also consumes the remainder of the green landscape and litters it. Maybe the future generations of this once grand city will someday experience the saving awakenings before it is too late. Perhaps the expat immigrant Sidonians who have been exposed to the qualities of life in North America, Europe, and the rich Arab states of the Gulf may bring novel initiatives of more refined development.

    Festivals and celebrations

    Sidon Festival of Sidon
  • The "Nights of the Khan" festival, consisting of a series of concerts and performances held in the Khan El-Franj in the Old City of Sidon. The festival takes place during the holy month of Ramadan. It is organized by the International Sidon Festivals Committee and the Hariri Foundation. The Festival hosts a wide array of artists and performers; it features Sufi art, poetry recitals, religious song medleys, Folkloric Lebanese and Palestinian dance groups. The festival was frequently attended by the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Tourism Minister, Education Minister, Culture Minister aside to numerous social, political and religious Lebanese figures.
  • The "Wedding of the City" is a street carnival held in Sidon in the El-Fitr Muslim Holiday. The carnival runs for three consecutive days and is organized by the International Sidon Festivals Committee and the Hariri Foundation. The Carnival takes place on a 300-meter-long section of the Coastal Highway -extending between the Sidon Sea Castle and the Port- that gets closed and transformed into a Pedestrian-only zone. Last summer, the carnival attracted more than 30,000 spectators on its 3rd day. The carnival features European and Local Acrobats, giant floating balloons, exotic dancers, a light and sound show...etc.
  • Independence Day Celebrations. Sidon played a significant role in Lebanons quest for Independence in the early 1940s whether through its nationalist politicians or through its citizens protests and demonstrations demanding Independence. Hence, On 22 November of every year, Sidon celebrates Lebanons Independence through a series of festivities that involve: a Military Parade in the Barracks of the Lebanese Army, an honorary reception in the citys serial held by the Governor, and a tribute to Sidongs independence figure Adel Osseiran. 2009s Independence day celebrations featured an extra festivity which is the erection of the largest Lebanese flag, on the citys northern entrance.
  • Prior to these events, the 1960s witnessed the famous "Spring Festival", especially during the Republican term of President Charles Helou and mainly under the direction of the illuminated Governor of the South Lebanon region (muhafaza), Ghalib El-Turk. One of the main features of this festival was commemorated with a special edition stamp by the postal services in Lebanon in 1965. It shows the local mariners boat converted into decorated small Phoenician ships, which took a large audience in formal dress (black-tie stylish gala of formal soiree attire) to the small island facing Sidon (the so-called "Zireh" or "Ziri" [abbreviations of "al-Jazira"). The island itself was transformed into a large amphitheatre facing a theatrical stage floating on the sea waves, with the backdrop of the island shaped like a large white cruiser ship with chimneys. Then the famous Lebanese artist Sabah (singer) performed that evening, and she descended unto the floating sea-stage on a large model of a lit crescent moon, sparkling in this eastern Mediterranean summer night sky. These elegant features of the performing space and of the procession were at the time designed by the local artist Mohammad Mouhib El-Bizri (aka: Mouhib El-Bizri). The locals and visitors at the time thought of this festival as being akin to a "one thousand and one night" fairytale of glamour that was nonetheless done under a limited budget, and yet yielding a memorable spectacle of visual effects that many of the elderly of the city still recall to date. These festivals of the "belle epoque" dwindled soon after the war of 1967 and were terminated by the early 1970, and none of the subsequent ceremonials lived up to these bygone standards in refinement and quality.
  • References

    Sidon Wikipedia (,),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),),)

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