Tyre & Sidon: Seafood and Sightseeing in Southern Lebanon

Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Saida, Lebanon (map)

Sidon's Sea Castle (قلعة البحر) is in remarkably good condition considering how precarious is its location.
We spent Christmas morning winding southward along the Lebanese coast in a half-filled minibus, with a crisp rain blowing off the Mediterranean. With the beach in sight, plentiful palm trees, aquamarine water, and the mild air, it hardly seemed like Christmas day, I mused. But then again, we are practically in the Holy Land; this is probably more like the original day than any "White Christmas" back in the States.

Julian, Emma, and I disembarked at the southern port of Tyre (صور), some 30km north of the Israeli border, and ate a seafood lunch in a cozy restaurant by the harbor. Outside the window, fishermen mended their nets along the docks.

Hopped up on cold medicine, Julian was borderline delirious and not much use in navigating the town's markets after lunch. Luckily, Lebanon is probably the one country in the world where the
language that I speak—the random mix of French, English, and Arabic that comes out every time I open my mouth—is actually understood!

We meandered through Tyre and, finding little to do or see, grabbed a bus back up the coast to the port of Sidon (صيدا). While we would have liked to visit other destinations in the south, particularly Beaufort Castle, current tensions with nearby Israel make travel in the southern interior unfeasible (visitors require advance permission from the Lebanese army).

In Sidon, however, we were able to spend a few hours poking around the fish market, an impressive old khan (a traditional merchant's hotel and trading center), and Sidon's best site of all—the Sea Castle. Built by the Crusader armies in the 1220s, the stone castle is connected to Sidon's mainland by a long bridge. Before returning to Beirut for the evening, we explored the castle and marveled at how it could remain standing despite the constant battering of the sea.

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