On Saturday, I took an excursion down south to Sidon and Tyre. Common belief dictates that the south of Lebanon is unsafe. The Shia presence, and the prior border conflicts with Israel has contributed to the perception of the media that flows over to the public. I found that this perception is untrue; southern Lebanon is safe as the North. I experienced people to be friendly, and helpful, though poorer than in Beirut, the common people either Palestinian or Shia Muslim is the same as other places I have traveled. However, there is a strong UN presence in Tyre.
Sidon dates from the fourth millennium BCE, Sidon the son of Canaan settled in the land. Sidon is situated on the coast that formed strong trade links with Egypt in the 14th and 15th centuries. In Addition, Sidon, like Tyre, had an off shore island that provided a defense and refuge during war. In 1200, the start of the Iron Age, the Philistines destroyed Sidon; Tyre became the predominant city on the coast of Lebanon. The Assyrians destroyed Sidon in 675 BCE by King Esarhaddon. Throughout the years, Sidon survived through the Romans, and the Byzantine era. Saladin razed its ramparts and took the city from the Crusaders in 1187. The Crusaders retook the city; though fell to the Mamluks after the fall of Arce in 1291.
Sidon was the birthplace of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri who was assassinated in 2005. Everyone comments and expresses their sorrow about Rafiq Hariri, the public respected him, and it’s still a mystery who was behind the assassination. During the civil war, The Syrians, Palestinians, Hezbollah, and Amal fought over the city with great suffering.
The sea castle in the above picture situates on a small island offshore that housed the temple to Melkart, the Phoenician Hercules. There is no comparison to the castles in Syria, although the location on the island is of interest.
Getting out of from Beirut was a pleasure, though the heat was intense. The sun is relentless, and unforgiving if a person must walk a far distance in the middle of the day. I did not thoroughly tour the area because of the heat. The women that cover Muslim style can impress anybody in this type of heat. Traveling was a painless process. The minibus was only 2000LP from Beirut to Sidon. A transfer is needed for traveling to Tyre at the minibus station in Sidon.
In Beirut, the Taxi system is simple as long as a person understands the system. The service taxis will drive a person from one neighborhood to your destination (two neighborhoods at the most) for 2000LP. Many guys will try to rip off the foreigner, although cognizant of the system is crucial. The traveler can stand on the street and call out the neighborhood wanted and then say “service”, and confirm that the driver agrees as service taxi. When a driver says Taxi, he is referring to a regular, costly personal taxi; service taxis stop and pick more people up on the route.