Sidon, called ‘Saida’ today, is the third largest city in Lebanon situated on the Mediterranean coast. The city has been inhabited since prehistoric era & remained a very popular commercial hub for several centuries. It was the oldest & the most influential city in ‘Phoenician Dynasty’ which has garnered opulent wealth through maritime trade. The city is referred on several occasions throughout the Bible & it is believed that both Jesus & St. Paul had visited this city.
Sidon was renowned for producing the finest quality of glass & purple color dye which was one of the most expensive objects in Phoenician era. The purple dye was used to prepare by extracting the pigment from the small shells of the ‘Murex trunculus’. The pigment was so rare that thousands of shells would require for making a mere single ounce of purple dye. Because of the rarity of the raw material & several intricate processes associated with its making, the purple cloth became the symbol of wealth & the mark of royalty! Sidonian women also had earned the great reputation for their impeccable skills at the art of embroidery.
Image Credit@ Habeeb.com
HISTORY IN BRIEF:
The city of Sidon has received its name from the name of the first son of Canaan & a grandson of Noah. The opulence of this commercial hub in the Phoenician kingdom had allured several kingdoms & emperors throughout the history. Even before Christianity, this most powerful city-state of Phoenicia had witnessed several invasions from number of different kingdoms, including the Syrians, the Persians followed by ‘Alexander the Great’ who marched upon the entire Phoenicia in 332 BCE.
Back to back raids from several kingdoms severely paralyzed the Phoenician civilization which eventually got soaked up by the mighty Romans. Sidon experienced a century of peace during the Roman reign until it was conquered by the Arabs in 636 AD.
Sidon came into limelight once again during the Crusades that were started in 1110 AD. It remained the center stage for most of the time when the Crusades were fought. Sidon experienced some serious alternative possessions from both the battling sides. On some occasions, Muslim conquests successfully took it under their influence while, on other occasions, Sidon was taken over by the Christian Crusaders. However, it remained in the Christian’s iron grip for most of the time until it was severely destroyed by the Saracens (the Muslim invaders) in 1249 AD.
The misery of Sidon continued from the previous pages & it saw another invasion by the ‘Mongols’. In the early 16th century, Ottoman Turks brought Sidon under their regulations & it became the capital of the ‘Sidon Eyalet’ (province) & regained its earlier commercial significance.
- Old City: The historical part of Sidon is located between the Sea Castle & the St. Louis Castle. This ancient Mamluk-era city is still in good shape & inhabited even today. Intricate web of narrow alleys & streets, arched pathways, veteran bakeries & ancient mosques of this old city takes you to the medieval period. As much of the historical architecture still looks great, lots of TV series & music videos have been filmed at this place.
- Sidon Sea Castle: This early 13th century built fortress was built by the Crusaders & is located near the Port of Sidon.
- Debbane Palace: The Debbane Palace was built in 1721 & was occupied by the Hammoud family as well as the members of Abaza Clan. The Palace is considered as a good example of Arab-Ottoman Architecture.
- Sidon Soap Museum: The museum exhibits the history of soap making as well as various steps associated with its manufacturing.
- The Castle of St. Louis: This castle was built in the 13th century by the Crusaders & is located near the Murex hill.
- Eshmun Temple: This 7th century BC built temple is located near the Awali River in northern Sidon. The temple was dedicated to the Phoenician God of Healing.
Apart from the historical importance & ancient monuments, Sidon contains myriad shopping complexes as well as plenty of restaurants & cafes. It also takes good care of the visitor’s entertainment in the form of a huge amusement park, which is built near its southern entrance.
All in all, Sidon is a great place to hang out at. Blessed with the company of the Mediterranean Sea, this tranquil city with glorious past is worth visiting at least once!