Sidon, is a small and beautiful town on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is located at the meeting point of three continents and, as such, has been the crossroads of many civilizations whose traces may still be seen today.
Sidon, on the coast 48 km south of Beirut, is one of the famous names in ancient history. But out of all of Lebanon’s cities, this is the most mysterious, for its past has been tragically scattered and plundered. In the 19th Century, treasure hunters and amateur archaeologists made off with many of its most beautiful and important objects, some of which can now be seen in foreign Museums. In this Century too, ancient objects from Sidon (Saidoon is the Phoenician name, Saida in Arabic), have turned up on the worlds antiquities markets. Other traces of history lie beneath the concrete of modern construction, perhaps buried for ever. The challenge for today’s visitor to Sidon then, is to recapture a sense of the city’s ancient glory from the intriguing elements that still survive.The largest city in the south Lebanon, Sidon is a busy commercial center with a pleasant conservative atmosphere of a small town. Since Persian times this was known as the city gardens and even today it is surrounded by citrus and banana plantations
Sidon, Zidon or Saida, is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km (25 mi) north of Tyre and 50 km (30 mi) south of the capital Beirut. Its name means a fishery.
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 and purple dyes. It was also from here that a colonising party went to found the city of Tyre.
In 1855 CE, 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 BCE, 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 Jesus 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. The city was eventually conquered by the Arabs and then the Ottoman Turks.
On December 4, 1110 Sidon was sacked in the First Crusade. It then became the centre of the Lordship of Sidon, an important seigneury in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. During the Crusades it was sacked several times: 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.
The shell of the Castle of St. Louis sits atop the Phoenician acropolis near Murex Hill, so named after the Murex shell from which the famous Phoenician purple dye was extracted. In the old town more recent buildings worth a visit are Khan as-Sabun, Khan el-Franj and the Great Mosque above the Egyptian Harbour which still retains the 13th Century walls of the fortress Church of the Hospitallers of St. John.
After Sidon came under Ottoman Turkish rule in the seventeenth century, it 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.
Sidon is known as the capital of the South. It is surrounded by beautiful orchards of oranges, lemon, banana and loquat trees. The city’s northern harbour is graced by Castle of the Sea, erected in the early 13th Century by the crusading Knights of St. John of the Hospital of Jerusalem on an islet at the mouth of the harbour.
Sidon unparalleled natural splendor is enhanced by Lebanon’s moderate, Mediterranean climate. Lebanon enjoys about 300 days per year of sunshine. The winter is mild on the coast and snowy in the mountains, while the summer is hot on the coast and mild on the mountains. It is possible during the spring months to ski in the mountains and swim on the coast in the same day!
Average Temperatures for Sidon in Centigrade
As the region’s center of trade and business, Sidon is a host to several foreign companies. Lebanon offers one of the most liberal investment climates in the Middle East. The government offers incentives to attract foreign and domestic investment, including low income tax rates for individuals and corporations.
At the outset of the 19th century, professors, poets, journalists, and historians convened in Sidon cultural institutions to revive old Arab traditions and extol the value of modern culture. Sidon’s seven major universities and numerous specialized colleges were thus founded.
Because Lebanon is a country where three languages are commonly spoken, Sidon has schools that teach in Arabic, French, and English. Sidon provides a wide variety of schools from which parents can choose, depending on which language of instruction they prefer.