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|• City||3 sq mi (7 km2)|
|• Metro||10 sq mi (25 km2)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
Sidon or Saïda (Arabic: صيدا, صيدون, Ṣaydā; Phoenician: 𐤑𐤃𐤍, Ṣdn; Biblical Hebrew: צִידוֹן, Ṣīḏōn; Greek: Σιδών; Latin: Sidon; Turkish: Sayda) is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Tyre and 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital, Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is a son of Canaan, a grandson of Noah. Its name coincides with the modern Arabic word for 'fishery'. Two castles there were cleaned and restored by the French in the early 20th century.
Sidon (Classical Arabic: صَيْدونْ Saydoon) has been inhabited since very early in prehistory. The archaeological site of Sidon II shows a lithic assemblage dating to the Acheulean, whilst finds at Sidon III include a Heavy Neolithic assemblage suggested to date just prior to the invention of pottery. It was one of the most important Phoenician cities, and it may have been the oldest. From there and other ports a great Mediterranean commercial empire was founded. Homer praised the skill of its craftsmen in producing glass, purple dyes, and its women's skill at the art of embroidery. It was also from here that a colonizing party went to found the city of Tyre. Tyre also grew into a great city, and in subsequent years there was competition between the two, each claiming to be the metropolis ('Mother City') of Phoenicia. Glass manufacturing, Sidon's most important enterprise in the Phoenician era, was conducted on a vast scale, and the production of purple dye was almost as important. The small shell of the Murex trunculus was broken in order to extract the pigment that was so rare it became the mark of royalty.
In AD 1855, the sarcophagus of King Eshmun’azar II was discovered. From a Phoenician inscription on its lid, it appears that he was a "king of the Sidonians," probably in the 5th century BC, and that his mother was a priestess of ‘Ashtart, "the goddess of the Sidonians." In this inscription the gods Eshmun and Ba‘al Sidon 'Lord of Sidon' (who may or may not be the same) are mentioned as chief gods of the Sidonians. ‘Ashtart is entitled ‘Ashtart-Shem-Ba‘al '‘Ashtart the name of the Lord', a title also found in an Ugaritic text.
In the years before Christianity, Sidon had many conquerors: Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians , Greeks, and finally Romans. Herod the Great visited Sidon. Both Jesus and Saint Paul are said to have visited it too (see Biblical Sidon below). The city was eventually conquered by the Arabs and then by the Ottoman Turks.
Like other Phoenician city-states, Sidon suffered from a succession of conquerors. At the end of the Persian era in 351 BC, it was invaded by the emperor Artaxerxes III and then by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, when the Hellenistic era of Sidon began. Under the successors of Alexander, it enjoyed relative autonomy and organized games and competitions in which the greatest athletes of the region participated. In the Necropolis of Sidon, important finds such as the Alexander Sarcophagus, the Lycian tomb and the Sarcophagus of the Crying Women were discovered, which are now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.
When Sidon fell under Roman domination, it continued to mint its own silver coins. The Romans also built a theater and other major monuments in the city. In the reign of Elagabalus a Roman colony was established there, and was given the name of Colonia Aurelia Pia Sidon. During the Byzantine period, when the great earthquake of AD 551 destroyed most of the cities of Phoenice, Beirut's School of Law took refuge in Sidon. The town continued quietly for the next century, until it was conquered by the Arabs in AD 636.
On 4 December 1110 Sidon was captured, a decade after the First Crusade, by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem and King Sigurd I of Norway. It then became the centre of the Lordship of Sidon, an important lordship in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin captured it from the Crusaders in 1187, but German Crusaders restored it to Christian control in the Crusade of 1197. It would remain an important Crusader stronghold until it was finally destroyed by the Saracens in 1249. In 1260 it was again destroyed by the Mongols. The remains of the original walls are still visible.
After World War I it became part of the French Mandate of Lebanon. During World War II the city, together with the rest of Lebanon, was captured by British forces fighting against the Vichy French, and following the war it became a major city of independent Lebanon.
Following the Palestinian exodus in 1948, a considerable number of Palestinian refugees arrived in Sidon, as in other Lebanese cities, and were settled at the large refugee camps of Ein el-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh. At first these consisted of enormous rows of tents, but gradually houses were constructed. The refugee camps constituted de facto neighborhoods of Sidon, but had a separate legal and political status which made them into a kind of enclaves. At the same time, the remaining Jews of the city fled, and the Jewish cemetery fell into disrepair, threatened by coastal erosion.
Sidon was a small fishing town of 10,000 inhabitants in 1900, but studies in 2000 showed a population of 65,000 in the city, and around 200,000 in the metropolitan area. The little level land around the city is used for cultivation of some wheat, vegetables, and fruits, especially citrus and bananas. The fishing in the city remains active with a newly opened fishery that sells fresh fish by bidding every morning. The ancient basin is transformed into a fishing port, while a small quay was constructed to receive small commercial vessels. (Refer to the "Old City" and the "Architecture and Landscape" sections below).
According to a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report "data also point to an increase in urban poverty especially in Lebanon's largest cities suburbs such as Beirut, Tripoli and Saida, as illustrated by poverty-driven symptoms (child labour, over-crowdedness and deteriorated environment conditions)."
In another UNDP report, the author discusses the development predominance of Beirut over the rest of the regions of Lebanon (North, South and Beqaa) is a well-known imbalance that can be dated to the early 19th century. With the expansion of Beirut in the 1870s, urban growth in the future capital-city outgrew Tripoli and Saida. Transportation routes, missionary schools, universities and hospitals as well as the Beirut port development and the commerce of silk participated to the fortification of Beirut as a major trade center for Mediterranean exchange (ARNAUD 1993; LABAKI 1999: 23). However, the establishment of Great Lebanon in 1920, under the French mandate, added the poorer areas of the North (Akkar), Beqaa (Baalbak-Hermel) and the South (Jabal Aamel) to the relatively affluent cities of Mount Lebanon. This addition made of Lebanon a country composed of unequally developed regions. This legacy remains a heavy load to bear socially, culturally, economically and politically. Even though the public policies elaborated by the young Lebanese State were attempting to have regional perspectives, the early urban planning schemes reveal a development approach exclusively axed on Beirut and its suburbs.
The post war development policy of the State, promoted by Hariri government (1992–1998), was centred around balanced development and is widely inspired by the 1943 Pact and the 1989 Taef agreement (LABAKI1993: 104). However the application of this policy aims mainly at the rehabilitation and construction of roads and infrastructures (electricity,telephone, sewage). Another of its components is the rehabilitation of government buildings (airport, port, schools, universities and hospitals). Transportation projects (mainly concentrated on the coastal line) constitute 25% of the budget of 10-year economic plan developed by the CDR (BAALBAKI 1994: 90). However, all these projects are predominantly concentrated around Beirut, ignoring the regions.
Near the southern entrance to the city used to be a 'rubbish mountain' called at the time by the locals the Makab; namely, a 600,000 cubic metre heap that reached the height of a four-story building. It was originally created to dispose of the remains of buildings destroyed in Israeli air strikes during the 1982 invasion, but it then became the main dump for the city. Growing out of the sea, it became an environmental hazard, with medical waste and plastic bags polluting nearby fishing grounds.
Sidon politicians, including the Hariri family, failed for decades to resolve the Makab crisis—which has endangered residents health (especially during episodic burning). In 2004, Engineer Hamzi Moghrabi, a Sidon native, conceived the idea to establish a treatment plant for the City's decades-old chronic waste problem. He established IBC Enviro, privately funded, and the treatment plant became operational in 2013.<http://www.ibc-enviro.com/>
The Ministry of Environment came up with a $50,000+ plan to clean the whole area and transform the dump into a green space, along with other heaps in the country. Qamla beach in Sidon, a coast in close proximity to the Sea Castle, witnessed a large municipal cleanup in May 2011, as it was an easy target of rubbish being washed up by the Makab. These plans aim to revive the former glory of the city's coasts and attract tourists who avoided swimming in Sidon's sea before. The project of cleaning the region where the waste dump has already started, and currently a waves-barrier is being built, and the vast bulk of the waste dump being cleared.
The city of Sidon is administrated by the Municipality of Sidon. The municipality is constituted of a council of 21 members including the City Mayor and his Deputy. It has administrative and financial independence but remains under the control and supervision of the central government, specifically the Ministry of Interior. The municipality's jurisdiction is limited to a region of 786 hectares in area and 5 meters in elevation, while each of the city's suburbs is administrated by its own independent municipal council. Sidon is the center of the Governorate of South Lebanon, and hosts the seat of the Governor of Southern Lebanon. The city is also the center of the Sidon District and the Union of Sidon and Zahrani Municipalities (founded in 1978 and contains 15 municipalities). Sidon hosts the southern regional headquarters of a series of governmental facilities like the Central Bank of Lebanon, Électricité du Liban, Central Telecommunications Station and others. It is also the home of the Justice Palace of South Lebanon in its new headquarters on East Boulevard (the old headquarters were an old Ottoman Saray that is currently occupied by the LSF and is planned to be transformed into a cultural center by the municipality).
In the 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections, the Sidon District along with the Tyre and Bint Jbeil districts formed the first electoral district of South Lebanon. However, in the 2009 elections – and due to the reactivation of the 1960 electoral law – the city of Sidon was separated from its district to form a separate electoral district.
Sidon is the seat of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Sidon and Deir el Qamar, and has housed a significant Catholic population throughout its history. Sidon also hosts the seats of the Sunni Mufti and the Shiite Ayatollah of South Lebanon.
|Religion||Voters||Percent (%)||Religion||Voters||Percent (%)|
|Sunni||36163||79.7||Roman Latin Catholic||82||0.2|
|Greek Melkite Catholic||1686||3.7||Syriac Catholic||17||0.0|
|Armenian Orthodox||256||0.6||Other Christians||19||0.0|
In general, the architectural spaces of the old part of the city, with its antique, medieval and Ottoman quarters, are impressive, and are ranked as world heritage. It is adorned with various examples of great architectural legacies since antiquity. This is the case despite the fact that its buildings and alleyways are neglected, and require monumental renovations and organised efforts to prevent them from falling into further ruin. Some international funds were allocated to sponsor the facelifting of certain public spaces and old squares with the provision if minimal infrastructure. There are also individual initiatives to restore specific neighbourhoods as pioneered by the Audi Foundation and its elegantly rehabilitated old soap factory, now turned into a museum. The same applies to the renewal of the Debbane Ottoman mansion or villa, which was originally linked to the Hammoud family trust and was even occupied by a branch of the aristocratic Abaza family towards the end of the 19th century. The old city has great architectural potentials that remain underdeveloped. It has qualities that can put it on par with the old quarters of Antibes if its architecture becomes safeguarded and protected as well as promoted for quality life-styles. Sidon can learn from more modest yet successful examples in Lebanon itself, such as the restoration and adaptive re-use of the old quarters of Byblos and its small seaport entourage, or to be inspired in a humbler scale by the development of Downtown Beirut.
The modern city of Sidon that extends outside the walls of the medieval quarters is generally chaotic, deprived of any notable aesthetics, built with inexpensive material, and lacking in any form of urban planning. There are some minor exceptions to this at the level of individual buildings, especially those erected in the 1950s to the 1960s, in addition to a small number of mosques, commercial malls and villas or buildings designed by proper architects or up-market developers. The sprawl in the built environment has disfigured the cityscape and the landscape around it. Ugly buildings and terrible parking lots replaced the great citrus orchards that once surrounded Sidon and used to perfume it in the springtime. The only highly maintained green-space that has refined qualities is the War Cemetery of the British legions in the Levant during World War I and World War II that fell in Sidon. Beautifully landscaped and managed by the British, this cemetery is surrounded outside its fences by dilapidated buildings and scarred neglected landscapes. Near it remains a large citrus orchard that one hopes will resist the assaults of chaotic and irreverent builders. Moreover, the old city of Sidon that was always connected to the sea and its waves has been separated from its seashores by a very wide highway of asphalt that the locals refer to as the "corniche". These rather defacing aspects are also set against a total lack of green public spaces and gardens. This aggressive degradation in the urban and architectural qualities has furthermore reached a dangerous turn in ecological terms with the disposal of sewage in the seafront and the dumping of refuse material that culminated in a mountain of rubbish known as the "Makab" (as noted in the section above), which threatens not only Sidon's sea and the life within it, but also a vast stretch of the Eastern Mediterranean coastline. In fairness, one still has to note that Sidon is not worse in its urban and environmental conditions than other Lebanese cities like Tyre or Tripoli. The greatest maritime city of Sidon, which was once set in a longstanding marriage with the sea, and that used to be adorned in all sides by gardens and orchids, is now turned against itself, becoming a living threat to the sea that also consumes the remainder of the green landscape and litters it. Maybe the future generations of this once grand city will someday experience the saving awakenings before it is too late. Perhaps the expat immigrant Sidonians who have been exposed to the qualities of life in North America, Europe, and the rich Arab states of the Gulf may bring novel initiatives of more refined development.
The historical core of Sidon is a Mamluk-era old city that extends between the Sea Castle and the Saint Louis Castle. Located on a promontory jutting into the sea, this walled medieval city is very well preserved and is still inhabited today. The old City resembles a vaulted maze with narrow alleyways and winding streets. Arched pathways connect the different neighborhoods of the city. On street level, numerous souvenir shops and mini-markets can be found with old-fashioned bakeries making crunchy whole wheat bread, called "Kaak". A lot of the alleys take the name of their residents' occupations like the "Carpenters' Alley" and the "Tailors' Alley".
Several mosques dating back to the Umayyad Era are still preserved and are open to the public. A number of TV series and Music Videos have been filmed inside the Old city of Sidon. Being of great historical and architectural significance, the Old City went through a lot of renovations and there is still some measure of restoring to be done rather than focusing on face-lifting. Perhaps the potentials of this city in architectural terms exceed those of other Levantine coastal cities. The morphology of old Sidon has resonances in terms of potentials with the French mediterranean resort city of Antibes. However the local Sidonians and the Lebanese in general have not yet recognised the potentials of their city, which is vaster than Byblos the currently most touristic and preserved old city in Lebanon.
Besides it old medieval quarters that contain some small traditional bazars (generally aimed at lower income groups), the modern sector of Sidon contains several shopping venues boasting local and international brands, as well as a handful of food and beverage outlets like the "Spinneys" and "BSAT" supermarkets. Traditional Coffeeshops serving Turkish coffee and the fruit-flavored Hubble Bubble occupy the seafront of the Old City while modern restaurants, especially those that serve Lebanese and Italian cuisine, are centered in the new city. From McDonald's and KFC to Starbucks, Burger King and Pizza Hut, several western chains have opened at least one branch in the city, with more opening in the near future. Traditional Oriental sweets are Sidon's speciality with regionally renowned sweetshops found all over the city.
Shopping is concentrated within two areas: East Boulevard, and the city center. From high-end designer stores to stores directed to low and middle-income consumers, clothing stores in Sidon cater to all tastes and needs. Several international clothing brands could be found in the city. These include ALDO, Jack & Jones, Vero Moda, Springfield, Timberland, Zara, Mango, Pull and Bear, Mothercare, Bossini, H&M, Benetton, and GS. Some of these stores could be found in the 2 malls in the city, Saida Mall (24,000 sq meters) and Le Mall (12,000 sq meters), aside from kids' entertainment facilities, cafes and restaurants.
Sidon also has a large Amusement Park near its southern entrance, but it is utilised seasonally.
|Hammoud Hospital University Medical Center||Private/university|
|Saida Governmental Hospital||Public|
|Al Janoub hospital||Private|
|South Health Complex||Private|
|Al Nakib hospital||Private|
|Al Rai Hospital||Private|
Sidon is home to numerous educational facilities ranging from public elementary schools to private universities. According to a 2006 study, the city is home to 29 schools that serve a total of 18,731 students: 37% are in public schools, 63% are in private schools. Sidon also contains 10 universities, 5 of which are private universities.
|Lebanese International University (LIU)||N/A||Private|
|Lebanese University (LU)||Faculty of Law, Political Science and Public Administration||Public|
|University of Saint Joseph (USJ)||N/A||Private|
|American University of Lebanon (AUL)||N/A||Private|
|Lebanese University (LU)||Faculty of Public Health||Public|
|Lebanese University (LU)||Faculty of Literature and human Science||Public|
|Lebanese University (LU)||Institute of Social Sciences||Public|
|American University of Science and Technology||N/A||Private|
|Lebanese American University||N/A||Private|
|Lebanese University (LU)||Institute of Technology||Public|
The Beirut Arab University declared recently that its future Sidon Campus will host its Faculty of Medicine.
The sectarian division in Sidon became evident towards the last years of the Lebanese Civil War, especially in the period that followed the post-1982 Israeli invasion and occupation. This was mainly between the factions that were in conflict during the civil war, with loyalties divided between Muslim and leftist militias from one side and Christian militias from the other. Other sectarian tensions appeared as a consequence of the recent war in Syria since 2011, mainly between politicised Sunnis and Shiites, and divided along the lines of political loyalties between the factions of 14 March and those of 8 March, with a recent manifestation also of signs of Islamist extremism. Although the locals have found some sort of understanding to settle together, coexist, and intermarry, the division managed to rise to the surface on several occasions since the mid-1980s. The city proper is largely occupied by Sunni Muslims (originally in their majority as moderate Hanafis), while various denominations of the Christian community dwell in the densely populated suburbs, forming an urban belt eastwards of the city. Shiite Muslims live in a large hilly terrain that extends to the east and parts of the south of the city. There is also a vast Palestinian refugee camp (expanded since 1948) to the south-east of Sidon, and it is mostly populated by Sunni Palestinians who are divided in their loyalties between Fateh/P.L.O. and Hamas, with other allegiances to leftist or Islamist marginal factions.
This sectarian and demographic division rose to the surface with violence during the Lebanese Civil War, when armed clashes erupted between the pro-Palestinian leftists and Sunni Muslims and the anti-Palestinian Christian militias in the mid-1980s. The clashes ended with the local defeat of the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, and many Sidonian Christians and those living in Sidon's eastern suburbs were forced to move to east Beirut. After the war ended in 1990, local Christians have gradually returned to Sidon and their neighbouring hometowns.
The city of Sidon since the time of independence has been active in the political arena, especially in the period leading up to the end of the 20th century. It was the center of the 1958 uprising of the fishermen against the government of President Chamoun at the time. It was and continues to be a seat for the Nasserites, and it had a representation of a wide variety of political parties, Arab nationalism, Syrian nationalism, communists, and then a rise of Islamist movements. It was a key city for the P.L.O. during the Lebanese civil war. It clashed with the Syrian army in 1978 in joining ranks with the P.L.O. at the time, and then lived in relative peacefulness with the presence of the Syrian army till the 1980s. It then underwent severe hits during the 1982 Israeli invasion and fell under a brutal occupation. It was one of the first places in Lebanon to contribute to the earliest forms of resistance against the Israeli occupation. It was attacked by the Lebanese Forces militias in 1985 and was able to defend itself until the end of the Lebanese civil war. It was the city from which Rafic Hariri established his power in political and financial terms through initial reconstruction and charity work. The city of Sidon despite its open relation to modernity remained conservative, and like most political practices in Lebanon it is still ruled by families and the social as well as political networks they establish.
The local politics of Sidon in the 20th century was mainly dominated up till the 1980s by allegiances around two main families, the El-Bizri and Saad (with an influence in the broader context of the state institutions by the Solh family), and then most powerfully afterwards by the Hariri family. The El-Bizri politicians were known for their business connections, close ties with eminent Lebanese and Levantine leaders, and their bent on serving the Lebanese state as government ministers, officials and mayors. The Saad politicians tended to be populist and became engaged in violent protests in the 1940s, 1950s and then during the Lebanese civil war as Nasserites (populist followers of Nasser in Lebanon). The local political conflict between these two families was always resolved through amicable means and ties of kinship. Their hold over the political aspects of the city was similar to that of Mediterranean families in Sicily or to being also influenced by the ties of Arab families, clans, and tribes in traditionalist forms. The most notable figures of the El-Bizri family in the first half of the 20th century were: Ahmad El-Bizri (born 1899), Salah El-Bizri, Eizeddine El-Bizri (commonly known as Eizzo) and Anwar El-Bizri (born 1910). These four brothers were businessmen and politicians who dominated the political life of the city up till the late 1940s, using traditional inherited forms of governance since Ottoman times. With intelligence and strength they maintained their power for over 50 years. It is from their ranks that Maarouf Saad started his public life, and their close cousins, Nazih El-Bizri (physician), Amin El-Bizri (architect and urban planner), and Fouad El-Bizri (engineer) became the next generation of politicians and statesmen in Lebanon; holding positions as ministers and members of parliament. The El-Bizri and the Saad political practices were bent on social justice and on local service in public affairs. The El-Bizri were since the Ottoman rule bent on serving the state, and this continued with their loyalty and support to the successive governments of Lebanon since the times of independence. They also helped eminent politicians and statesmen from Sidonian descent such as the Prime Ministers Riad Solh, Taki El-Din Solh and Rashid Solh, they also gave their support to former Prime Minister Saab Salam, father of the current Lebanese prime minister, Tamam Salam. The presence of the El-Bizris was at times intimidating on the local scene, but they were also known for their goodwill and dignified public service. The Saad family developed their links with Nasserism in the 1950s and engaged in the uprising and armed protest of 1958 against the government of the Lebanese President Chamoun. They also became involved in the civil war as part of the left wing politics of the Lebanon (Al-Haraka al-Wataniyya) with PLO connections, and they actively contributed to resisting the Israeli occupation after 1982. They remained populist in their politics and focused on the grassroots, while the El-Bizri were generally appealing to the middle and upper classes. In the middle 1980s, the Hariri family started to rise to prominence and it became the most influential in Sidon in political and financial terms, even though the presence of the Saad and the El-Bizri in local politics remained significant at the level of visibility and activism. The politics of Sidon is similar to that of the traditional old cities of the Levant in the sense of being family-based. In broad terms one could say that the El-Bizri family had an influence since Ottoman times, and then most significantly across almost the entirety of the 20th century. It was local in impact at first, but then the members of this family became influential within the Lebanese state and institutions, and they supported the Solh family that had successive Prime Ministers and that moved its power base from Sidon to Beirut. The Saad family developed its original politics from within the sphere of influence of the El-Bizri family and then became a power to reckon with on its own after 1948, and most powerfully in 1958, then in the civil war and up till today. Maarouf Saad, the leader of his family, and a local influential politician, was assassinated at the eve of the Lebanese civil war in 1975. The Saads retained their populism and grassroots appeal, and attracted a core of loyal adherents since the middle of the 20th century. While the El-Bizri were Levantine in their Arabism (namely focused mainly on Bilad al-Shaam in regional politics), and the Solh being also similar to them in this, the Saad were leaning more towards a broader pan-Arabism (Nasserite, Libyan, and then Syrian). As for the Hariri family, they are regionally focused on Saudi orientations in politics. The Hariri family started to rise to political and economic prominence in the 1980s and became perhaps the most influential family in Lebanon by the middle 1990s. It is now one of the most organized in political terms and it follows modern forms of political practice through a large party (Future Movement) that cuts across various economic classes but that is usually seen as a Sunni political movement with regional weight due to its close ties with Saudi Arabia. The Hariri family came to its political and financial height through the towering figure of Rafic Hariri who became a Prime Minister of the Lebanon in successive terms until his assassination in 2005. His son Saad became a Prime Minister and a leader of the Future Movement, and his sister Bahia a longstanding member of Parliament, while his oldest son, Bahaa focused on his international business with global impact as entrepreneur. The weight of the Hariri family is now measured at the regional and international scene in organizational levels unprecedented for local Sidonians in modern politics.
Sidon I is an archaeological site located to the east of the city, south of the road to Jezzine. An assemblage of flint tools was found by P. E. Gigues suggested to date between 3800 and 3200 BC. The collection included narrow axes or chisels that were polished on one side and flaked on the other, similar to ones found at Ain Cheikh, Nahr Zahrani and Gelal en Namous. The collection appears to have gone missing from the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut.
Sidon III was found by E. Passemard in the 1920s, who made a collection of material that is now in the National Museum of Beirut marked "Camp de l'Aviation". It includes large flint and chert bifacials that may be of Heavy Neolithic origin.
Sidon IV is the tell mound of ancient Sidon with Early Bronze Age (3200 BC -) deposits, now located underneath the ruined Saint Louis Castle and what are also thought to be the ruins of a Roman theatre.
In indication of the high-profile of the old city of Sidon in archaeological expeditions, and mainly in the 19th century, in October 1860 the famous French scholar Ernest Renan was entrusted with an archaeological mission to Lebanon, which included the search for the antique parts of Sidon. The Phoenician inscriptions that he discovered, and his field data, were eventually published in his notebook the: Mission de Phénicie (1864–1874; Phoenician Expedition).
The St. Louis land-castle grounds were excavated in 1914–1920 by a French team. Then eastwards a new site was also excavated by another generation of French expeditions in the 1960s. This same site received renewed attention in 1998 when the Directorate General of Antiquities in Lebanon authorized the British Museum to begin excavations on this area of land that was specifically demarcated for archaeological research. This has resulted in published papers, with a special focus on studying ceramics.
The archaeological fieldwork was not fully undertaken since the independence of the Lebanon. The main finds are displayed in the National Museum in Beirut. The fieldwork was also interrupted during the long civil war period, and it is now resumed but at a timid and slow scale, and not involving major international expeditions or expertise. Perhaps this is also indicative of the general lack in cultural interests among the authorities of this city, and almost of the non-existence of notable intellectual activities in its modern life. There are signs that the locals are beginning to recognise the value of the medieval quarters, but this remains linked to minor individual initiatives and not a coordinated collective effort to rehabilitate it like it has been the case with Byblos, even though the old district of Sidon contains a great wealth in old and ancient architecture.
The Bible describes Sidon in several passages:
Sidon is twinned with:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sidon.|