Saida, Lebanon

Saida is located 48 km south of Beirut. It is the largest city in southern Lebanon and an important commercial center on the coast. These places began to be inhabited as early as 4000 millennium BC. Under the Phoenicians, the city was called Sidon and was an important trading center in the Mediterranean. The heyday of Sidon fell on the 10th-6th centuries BC, when glass and the famous purple paint began to be produced here. Purple was obtained from the pigment of rare molluscs. The paint was unique and very expensive, so it became a sign of wealth. In addition, Sidon is mentioned in the Bible as one of the places visited by Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul. Since ancient times, Said known as the city of gardens, and today it is surrounded by orchards and banana plantations. The old city of Saida is located in the area of ​​the city harbor. During the time of the Crusaders, in 1228, on the coastal island, on the site of the Phoenician temple of Melqart, the impregnable fortress of Qalaat al-Bahr was erected. After the crusaders were defeated by the Egyptian Mamluks, all medieval fortresses were destroyed, including the fortress of Sidon. Until today, only 2 towers connected by a wall have survived from it. From the western tower you have a beautiful view of the city. There is a stone road leading to the island where the fortress stands, along which you can see the remains of Roman columns used by the crusaders to build the fortress. In the center of the Old Town of Sayda is interesting caravanserai Khan El-Franj. It was built under Emir Fakhr Ed-Din II. In the 19th century, the caravanserai was the commercial center of the city. It has a vast courtyard with a fountain surrounded by galleries. Next to the Khan El-Franj caravanserai stands the Bab El-Saray mosque of the early 13th century, it is considered the oldest mosque in Saida. In the vicinity there is an area of ​​ancient markets. The Great Mosque is located in the southern part of the Old City. It was erected in the 15th century on the site of the Church of St. John, built by the crusaders in the 13th century. Also worth visiting in the southern part of the Old City is the 17th century Fakhr Ed-Din Palace, the oldest Maronite church of Saida, the Church of St. Elias, which was rebuilt from a soap factory in the 17th century, and the middle of the 17th century Audidy soap factory, which now houses the soap museum, which tells about the history of soap making in the region and the tradition of visiting hammams (baths).

In the eastern part of the Old Town, the remains of the fortress of St. Louis have been preserved. The fortress was built by the crusaders in the middle of the 13th century by order of the French king Louis IX. Now at the base of the church you can see the remains of Roman columns used as building material. To the south is Murex Hill, formed during the time of the Phoenicians as a result of the accumulation of waste from the production of purple dye. The hill has a length of 100 m and a height of 50 m. Once there were Roman buildings here, and now there are residential buildings and a cemetery on the hill.

1 km north of Saida, surrounded by orange orchards along the banks of the sacred Avali River, there is a unique archaeological site – the temple complex of Eshmun, which the locals call Bustan Ash-Sheikh. The temple complex was built by the Phoenicians and was dedicated to the heavenly patron of Sidon, the god of health and longevity – Eshmun. Most of the buildings date back to the 4th century BC. Also, during the archaeological excavations, structures of the Roman and Byzantine eras were found here. A road decorated with a Roman colonnade leads to the temple complex, and then a staircase. At the stairs you can see an altar with images of bull heads, characteristic of the culture of the ancient Persians. The stairs will take you to the pyramidal podium, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Eshmun complex. Behind it is the largest podium built in the 5th century BC. In the eastern part of the podium, the remains of water channels can be traced, which converge at the sacred pools. A little to the north is the Temple of Astarte. It was erected in the 3rd century BC. under the Seleucids. Inside the temple are the remains of a stone throne flanked by sphinxes.

Sandy beaches stretch for 40 km between Saida and Sur , where you can have a great rest in the summer. In addition, in the coastal waters of Saida, the ruins of Roman buildings and ancient objects lie at the bottom, which attract numerous divers.

Saida, Lebanon

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