Aalma Ech Shaab
This village is situated in the south on the border with Israel. Since the departure of Israeli troops in May 2000, the citizens of Aalma ech Shaab have taken strides to reinvest in their town and revitalize it. Village highlights include the very beautiful narrow streets running between the old white stone houses and the old churches. Accommodation includes a local guesthouse.
Fortress of Shqif Arnun
Constructed upon a strategic position overlooking the road linking the southern Bekaa to Damascus, stands the Fortress of Shqif Arnun. Shqif is the Syrian word meaning “high rock.” While there is no solid evidence revealing the builder of the fortress or the date of construction, there are two lines of thought on the matter. According to William of Tyre, the fortress was erected by the Crusaders. Other scholars have argued that the fortress was already in existence when the Crusaders arrived, and may date from the late Roman or Byzantine period. Nevertheless, the fortress has exchanged hands several times throughout the 12th and 13th centures. It is one of the best preserved fortresses in Lebanon, and visitors should not miss its impressive view, fortified walls and towers, water cisterns, and dungeon.
Rachaya el Wadi
A village located in southeastern Lebanon near the Syrian border and Mount Hermon. The village is known for its local production of silver and gold jewelry.
Bab Al Saray Mosque
Located near the Khan Al Franj, Bab Al Saray is the oldest mosque in Sidon, dating from 1201 during the Crusader period. A painting found above the mosque’s northern entrance bears this date. The minaret rises 20m above the ground and the mosque is famous for its huge dome. Originally called the Mohtaseb Mosque, it is now referred to as Bab al Saray, meaning “palace,” due to its proximity to the palace of Fakhreddine II. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.
Castle of St. Louis: Qalaa Al Muizz
Located in south Sidon near Murex Hill, this Crusader castle was built on top of the remains of the fortress of the Fatimid caliph Al Mouizz. The castle was later renamed after the French king, Louis IX, who rested Sidon from the Ayyubids in 1253. Only a few architectural vestiges remain.
Great (Omari) Mosque (Sidon)
Originally a 13th century fortress and chapel of the Crusader Knights Hospitaller, the building was converted to a mosque by the Mamluks in the 15th century. The mosque is one of the finest examples of Islamic religious architecture from this period. The mosque was severely damaged during the 1982 Israeli invasion, but has undergone restoration. The restoration of the mosque was honored with the Aga Khan architecture prize in 1989. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.
Grotto of Adloun
The village of Adloun was known in ancient times as Ornithopolis, or “City of the Birds.” An important Phoenician necropolis was discovered here with many anthropoid sarcophagi.
Khan Al Franj
A khan is a two-storied building that served as a cross between an inn, a stable, as storehouse, and a marketplace. It was the center of trade and economic activity in a city. The Khan Al Franj, which means “Caravan of the Foreigners,” was built by Fakhreddine in the 17th century to accommodate merchants and goods. Sidon’s khan is the largest and best preserved khan in Lebanon. There are handicraft and souvenir shops on the ground floor.
Mosque of Barani
This mosque was built by Fakhereddine II in 1634, just outside the walls of Sidon along the seashore (Barani means “outside”). It is a good example of Ottoman era architecture. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.
Phoenician Temple of Eshmoun
Located in a valley of citrus groves on the Awwali River, this Phoenician temple complex is the only Phoenician site in Lebanon which has retained its identity, i.e., with elements added in other time periods, but not constructed over it. The site dates from the 7th century B.C. At this time, it was a very important religious site for the people of Sidon. The temple was dedicated to Eshmoun, the Phoenician god of healing.
The village of Sarafand, or Sarepta, is famous for being the site of two miracles involving Elijah in the Old Testament (1 Kings 17). In ancient times, Sarafand was also known for its blown glass, which it still produces today. A seaside town, Sarafand has many good fish restaurants.
Sea Castle: Qasr Al Bahr
Sitting on a little island 80m off the coast of Sidon is the famous sea castle. There was originally a Phoenician temple on this site. Built by the Crusaders in the early 13th century, the sea castle is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Part of the causeway used to be made of wood in order for the Crusaders to remove these pieces in times of attack. Today, the causeway is made of stone and concrete following reconstruction in 1936. The castle was taken by the Mamluks in 1291 and largely destroyed. However, it was later rebuilt by Fakhreddine.
Shrine of Our Lady of Maghdouché: Saydet Al Mantara
The shrine of Our Lady of Maghdouche is situated on a hill overlooking the sea. According to legend, when Jesus came to Sidon, the Virgin Mary stopped to wait for him on this hill and spent the night inside the cave named “Mantara.” King Constantin the Great transformed the cave into a shrine for the Virgin Mary. He erected a tower topped with a flame, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 550AD, and later rebuilt by King Louis IX. The cave was accidentally rediscovered by a shephard in 1726, and since then the site has become a place of pilgrimage for Lebanese Christians. In the 1960s, a hexagonal chapel, tower, and statue of Mary and Jesus were added to the site. Archeologists who examined the site found the foundation of a Crusader castle and a Phoenician inscription. Festivities take place in the village each year on the 8th of September and 15th of August.
This coastal city in South Lebanon was said to be the most important of the Lebanese city-states in Phoenician times. The height of its commercial and naval power was achieved toward the end of the Phoenician period, which lasted from the 12th century B.C. to 330 B.C., coinciding with the rise of the Persian Empire. Following this period, Sidon was successively conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Umayyids, the Crusaders, the Mamluks and the Ottomans. Today, Sidon’s main thoroughfare bustles with small shops and commerce. A quaint city, visitors enjoy touring the souq (vaulted marketplace), khan (caravanserai), castle, and other historical sites. The city is known for its production of engraved wooden boxes and furniture, copper and brass trays, olive oil soap, and ebony and bone-handled cutlery.
Soap Museum: Audi Soap Factory
This fascinating museum traces the history of soap making in the region. Visitors can see a demonstration of how traditional olive oil soaps are made and learn about the history of the "hammam" (bath) traditions. The Museum building is an old soap factory dating back to the 17th century, located in the old section of Sidon. During the 19th century, this factory produced soap for the hammams (baths) in Sidon. It has recently been restored by the Audi family. There is a gift shop attached to the Museum, where you can buy high-quality soaps and traditional bath products.
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Al Zaatari Mosque
Overlooking the sea, this mosque was built in the 1960s. It is an example of modern Islamic architecture. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.
Qana of Galilee: Qana El Jalil
This is the village where Christ is reported to have turned water into wine at a wedding party. A cave and carvings on the rocks near the cave are evidence suggesting that the event took place here, although it is a matter of scholarly debate. The Ministry of Tourism recently refurbished the site.
This village, located approximately 10km south of Tyre, is known for possessing what local tradition says is the mausoleum of the prophet Umran. He is otherwise known as Joachim, the father of the Virgin Mary.
Shrine of Nabi Chamaa (St. Peter)
This site is sacred because of its domed mausoleum, said to house the tombs of the family of Nabi Chamaa, or St. Peter. The mausoleum is located at the top of a hill, on the remains of a fortress.
Tomb of Hiram: Qabr Hiram
King Hiram ruled the city of Tyre for 34 years beginning in 969 BC. He is credited with fostering Tyre’s development as a major center of commerce and trade. King Hiram established relations with King Solomon of Israel, and their friendly rivalry was famous, especially their exchange of riddles for the other to solve. King Hiram is said to be buried in a 6m high limestone tomb with a pyramid shaped top. The site of the tomb is located near the village of Qana.
Tyre Archaeological Sites
Tyre is famous for its spectacular Roman ruins, which have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With over 5,000 years of history, Tyre also contains remnants of Egyptian, Assyrian, Phoenician, Greek, Byzantine, Arab, and Ottoman civilizations. The ruins are spread over three sites. The Al-Mina Site (Area 1), located near the sea in the city, includes a long colonnaded road with Byzantine-era mosaics, an unusual rectangular Roman pool, and an extensive Roman bathhouse complex. A short distance north is Area 2, with the ruins of a 12th century Crusader cathedral. The Al-Bass Site (Area 3), a 20-30 minute walk east of the other sites, contains the most impressive ruins. Highlights include a monumental stone archway, aqueducts lining an ancient Roman road, a massive Roman and Byzantine necropolis, and the largest and best-preserved Roman hippodrome in the world.
Tyre Coastal Nature Reserve
Established in 1998, the 380-hectare Tyre Coastal Nature Reserve encompasses a variety of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and one of the most beautiful and scenic sandy beaches in Lebanon. The pools of Ras el-Ain, used since Phoenician time, create small areas of marshland that serve as a freshwater habitat. A great variety of birds can be found in the reserve, and its sandy beaches are an important nesting site for endangered sea turtles. Hiking along the sea shore is possible.
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