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City: Sidon / Country: Lebanon / World Region: Middle East

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      09.11.2011 08:55
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      worth visiting!

      == Introduction ==

      Lebanon has almost over 851 cities; Sidon (saida) is one of the biggest main cities in Lebanon.

      Sidon, Saidon or Saida in Arabic is considered to be one of the major cities in the south of Lebanon; it is the capital of the south and it is the main entrance to the rest of southern cities in Lebanon. This ancient city is well over 5000 years old and even though it has been revitalised recently it still has the old aura about it.

      Sidon has gone through pastures old and new from the Chalcolithic period right until today which has moulded its distinctive identity.

      Sidon is not only the capital of the south, people of mount Lebanon regularly visit the city to buy clothes, food and visit the city's attractions .

      The name Sidon is a Phoenician name, however, it was named Saida by the Arabs and Sagette by the Crusaders. The name saida happen to coincide with modern Arabic for fishery (Saiyad in Arabic means fisherman and Saida or Sidon is derived from this word).

      The city went through a lot of incidents and underwent a lot of changes. The 1956 earthquake particularly tormented Sidon as it destroyed many of its old historical buildings in addition to the civil war which brutally destroyed most of the city. The city was rebuilt again and some of the old buildings were restored.

      Now Saida is classified as a part of international heritage because of its archaeological sites, castles, mosques, museums, old souks (khans) and the traditional soap factory which is a must visit place in Sidon.

      == Sidon location ==

      Sidon city is a Lebanese city and it considered to be a seaport city, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea with lovely sandy beaches and it is 48 km away from the capital Beirut. The city has a well over 250,000 inhabitants.

      == Sidon, quick facts ==

      Sidon is considered to be one of the most important cities for the Phoenicians. The first time this city was recognised was the 3rd millennium BC where the city worked with trade and fishery and it was also very famous of glass making. There are still some traces of this industry until now.

      Lots of cities in Lebanon were mentioned in the bible several time, Sidon was mentioned around 50 times in the bible alone.

      == The Legend of the Bird Phoenix - Sidon ==

      The Phoenix is a legendary bird, it is known as the bird that never dies, some legends say that it lives for thousands of years. It is a symbol of love, life and death. According to legend, it comes from the Far East every fifty or hundred years just to burn its self and it resurrects itself from the ashes. It chose the temple of secrets in Sidon that is located in Lebanon to burn above it.

      The myth said that everyone who receives the ashes of the bird lives forever, the ashes can bring the dead back again!

      == Business ==

      Sidon is a home of trade and business. It's a very busy commercial centre with a pleasant traditional atmosphere which is usually hosted by local and foreign companies and individuals. There are spacious shopping areas and malls like Le Mall and Saida Mall in addition to Restaurants, cafes and entertainment for kids too.
      Sidon doesn't depend on trade only, it's very well known for their fishery, hence having the best sea food in Lebanon. It is also famous for their foul (fava beans), bananas, citrus and tree palms that surrounding the city.

      == Education ==

      As I mentioned in my previous review, Lebanon is a multilingual country. Arabic, English and French are spoken broadly by Lebanese people who are the most highly educated people in the Arab world as only 7% of the adult population are illiterate while the 93% are highly educated. In Sidon there are 100's of private and government funded educational facilities, from elementary schools to highly ranked universities.

      ==Port of Sidon and the boat ride ==

      The port of Sidon is relatively close to the sea castle. The port is a lovely place where you can hang out with the family, do some fishing or take a boat ride. The fares for the boats can range from 3000 L.L to 10000 L.L depending on the quality of the boat and the person so that would calculate to about £1-£3. The boats usually tour you within saida but some of them a bit further. You can even have the chance to swim in the water if you wish to do so.

      == Places to visit in Saidon ==

      There are so many beautiful places to visit in Sidon but I'm going to review the most visited places by tourists

      == The Sea Castle or Crusader sea Castle ==

      This fortress was built by the crusaders in 1228 where they would have the perfect view of the port as it sits around 85 meters offshore. It was later destroyed by certain people but was later renovated by Fakhanni. This castle is a massive castle which is composed of 2 towers joined together by one big wall. Inside the rocks are perfectly formed and this was used as a fortification for the crusaders. It is a lovely site where you can find the old, rusty cannonballs and the weapons and see the ottoman tradition implemented in the castle. For example you can see the small mosque inside the castle by climbing the spiral staircase. The entrance fee is less than £3 and this is a wonderful place which is certainly value for money.

      Some reports by archaeologists suggest that there is still way more to be discovered about the castle as in the summer rose granite lays along the ground.

      == Sidon's Corniche ==

      This is a seaside esplanade in Sidon where you can do whatever you want. You can jog, ride your bike, skate on the roller skates, take a ride on the boat, rent tables and chair and eat various snacks in addition to the various cafés available. It is surrounded by palm trees and it is great if you just grab yourself a plastic chair and absorb the nature around you. There is also a train which takes a fare of 1000 L.L which is around 30 p which takes you across the entire 7 km esplanade.

      == The Souks ==

      Entering the old souk is one of my favourite things to do in Sidon. My boys were astonished just looking at the old and narrow alleys, the floors were made of stone, the houses and the shops still remain in its original state. You can only get there by walking as there is hardly space for a bicycle or baby's pushchair let alone a car.

      When you go to the south of Sidon souks you will find the great mosque. The mosque was previously a church that was built by the Crusaders in the 13th century. It looks like a fortress from outside and even from inside it still has stained glass windows and eye catching, carved woodwork made out of solid Cedar wood.
      I liked watching sweets and pastries being made, it is just a mouth -watering scene and I couldn't resist the smell or the look of freshly made mix of maamoul, especially the one mixed with honey and pistachios.

      You can buy souvenirs for display from the souk and some old fashion traditional clothes made out from black velvet and decorated with golden sequences for you or your children. You could opt for the new fashions of clothes some new clothes like Armani RL etc.

      == Debbane` Palace Museum ==

      Sadly, some people who visited Sidon were charmed with the Sea Castle or some modern places and night clubs and completely ignore this historical palace.
      Debbane Palace was built in 1721 by Agha Hammoud then by the year 1800 Joseph Debbane was the new owner of the palace. Sadly during the years of the civil war, the palace was taken over by refugees who occupied the palace from 1978 until 1983; they left the palace in a bad state hence it needing restoration. The palace was restored in 2000 and it officially opened to public in 2001 and became a member of the international council of museums. The palace is spacious and has so many rooms that I lost count of them. Lots of its original furniture was destroyed over the years however, the remaining furniture was made of Cedar wood and pine wood and you can still smell the pine in the furniture. The ceiling and the carpets in addition to everything else in this house was following the ottoman standards of living and furniture.

      == Opening time ==

      Debbane` palace is open for public every day except Friday from 9am until 6pm. Free admission.

      == The Soap Museum or The Audi Foundation==

      The soap Museum is located in the old Souk (Khan as sabun). It used to be a traditional soap factory before the Audi family rehabilitated it. During the transformation, they discovered a great architectural wealth. They discovered that parts of the old factory date back to the 17th century so in order to keep this architectural wealth alive they transformed the old soap factory into thematic museum showing only handmade soaps. In this old factory they also show you how they used to cut the soap, fix the roughness of the sides etc. All the equipment which is used in the process of the manufacturing of the soap are displayed to view.

      === What can the visitor see inside the museum? ===

      Visitors of the museum can see soap making process, from saponification vats to cutting and drying techniques. It was very long and tiring process but watching them doing it step by step was enjoyable and very memorable. The ingredients of the soap were almost natural, it was made out of pure olive oil, one piece of soap is so bulky but the smell of it was amazing. They stack the finished soaps into pyramids or towers to let them dry. There are special equipment, moulds and special tanks that have been renovated recently which they used to make soap and the worker should wear special clothes and special clog to avoid slippering.

      At the end of the visit, you will see the "Hammam" or the bath and the explore the hammam customs and view the items related to the bath including a great collection of some architectural elements and models.

      You can buy soap as a souvenir, in different colours and shapes for $5 which is around £3.

      Before you go, you might like to buy some of their variety of food products from thier "Matbakh" or kitchen. The kitchen is like a small cafeteria with the same theme as the soap factory. You can dine there if you want or buy their special products such as sweets, pickles, Labneh, olives, olive oil, sage water, mint water, orange blossom water, their very special handmade jams, pastries and of course Loukoums which is a bit like Turkish delight but taste miles better, some of them made out of roses, gum Arabic, tangerine, walnuts or mint.
      I'm sure that you will enjoy the visit!

      == Some other places to visit ==

      * The Temple of Eshmoun
      * The Resthouse - Istiraha
      * Khan El-Franj
      * Khan as-Sabun
      * The Great Mosque
      * The Castle of St. Louis
      * The Murex Hill
      * Port North Channel Harbor
      * The Necropoli of Sidon
      * Down Town Sidon
      * Sidon Marina


      == Sidon famous Sweet "Sanioura" not the former prime minister of course! ==

      Every Lebanese city has its own famous dessert or sweets. Sidon is famous for a variety of sweets such as kounafa, riz bi haleeb, halwat al jazar (A special sweet made of carrots) and many, many more mouth - watering desserts and sweets but there is one very tasty sweet that I have to mention which is Sanioura. Sanioura is one of most famous local sweet in Sidon. It is a very tasty diamond shaped crumbly cookie that dissolves quickly in the mouth leaving an unforgettable sweet - nutty flavour. A Sanioura can be stuffed with pistachio nuts or can be plain. I have tried it in many places in Lebanon but I have to say that no one produces is better and makes it more crumbly than Sidon.

      What I like about visiting Sidon is the ability to see the sweets being prepared in the shops just in front your eyes, I can't describe the smell of the sweet shops, it's an amazing and unforgettable experience.

      == Transportation in the city ==

      You can always stop a taxi and there are plenty of them. Try to negotiate with the taxi driver and don't let him take what he wants and don't worry most if not all taxi drivers speak very good English and fluent French. You can take the bus for only 750-1250 LP which is less than 50p max.



      == And finally ==

      Sidon is a lively and very modern city; however a large part of the city remains defined by its historical characteristics. There are so many places to see and explore and don't forget they have the most delicious sea food in Lebanon. There is a newly opened weekly organic farmers market, called "Earth Market" where you can buy all kinds of food and drink.

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