Southern Lebanon is one of the most historically rich places on earth. The first city of Tyre along with Sidon, and Byblos were dominant centers of trade and culture in the 3rd millennium BC. It is in this land King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, Alexander the Great, and Romans were defied bringing death and destruction to cities like Tyre. It is the same land where it was mentioned several times in old testaments and new testaments and visited quite often by Jesus and his apostles. Landmarks and attractions are abundant in this section of Lebanon such as in Siddon, Tyre, Maghdoucheh, Arnoun, Jiyeh and Naqoura beaches, Jeszzine, Hasbaya, Qana, and many others.
Tyre (Sour) is an ancient Phoenician port city which, in myth, is known as the birthplace of Europa (who gave Europe its name) and Dido of Carthage (who gave aid to, and fell in love with, Aeneas of Troy). The name means ‘rock’ and the city consisted of two parts, the main trade center on an island, and ‘old Tyre’, about a half mile opposite on the mainland. The old city, known as Ushu, was founded c. 2750 BCE and the trade center grew up shortly after. The prosperity of Tyre attracted the attention of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, Alexander the Great, Romans, and Arabs who lay siege and conquered the city over time. Tyre was burnt, destroyed, and rebuilt many times in the course of history. Tyre is referenced in Old and New Testament where it is claimed that both Jesus and St. Paul visited the city.
Tyre is renowned for having the cleanest beaches in Lebanon, and is also known for the authenticity of its souks and wealth of Roman ruins. In addition to the Monumental Arch which once served as the entrance to the city, the most notable ruin in Tyre is the massive Roman hippodrome set in the Al Bass Archeological site. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest ever constructed in the ancient world, the hippodrome staged raucous chariot events for crowds numbering over 20,000.
Sidon (Saida) is the Greek name (meaning ‘fishery’). Sidon was the most powerful city-state of ancient Phoenicia and first manufactured the purple dye which made Tyre famous and was so rare and expensive that the color purple became synonymous with royalty. The area of Sidon was inhabited as early as 4,000 BCE and Homer, in the 8th century, notes the skill of the Sidonians in producing glass. Glass production made Sidon both rich and famous and the city was known for being very cosmopolitan and ‘progressive’. Sidon Princess Jezebel got married to King Ahab of Israel in the 9th Century BC. The city is mentioned a number of times throughout the Bible and both Jesus and St. Paul are reported to have made visits there. Sidon is considered the ‘seat’ of the Phoenician Civilization in that most of the ships which would ply the seas and spread Phoenician culture were launched from this city’s port. Sidon was overthrown during the conquest of Phoenicia by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE and, like the rest of the fractured Phoenician civilization, was eventually absorbed by Rome and, finally, taken by the Arab Muslims.
Today, When visiting Sidon the main attractions you encounter are the landmark Crusader Sea Castle and modern port installations. The busy main street is full of small shops of every kind, including patisseries, whose oriental delicacies are stacked in little pyramids. Sidon is famous for a variety of local sweets which you can watch being made in the old souk or in shops on the main street. The particular specialty of Sidon is known as “senioura,” a delicious crumbly cookie. Other famous attractions are Qalaat El Muizz or The Castle of St. Louis, Murex Hill, Soap Museum, and The Temple of Eshmoun. During Summer time, visitors can enjoy a warm sun bath and a splash in the beautiful Mediterranean beaches of Sidon and Jiyeh.
Situated 10 kilometres southeast of the city of Tyre, the village of Qana/Cana lays claim to the first miracle performed by Jesus where at a wedding in Galilee, he turned water into wine. Main attraction is the cave where Jesus is said to have spent some time in reflection before the first miracle was made. Nearby the cave, visitors can find the stone carvings of the apostles where Jesus and his disciples rested against that rock.
Maghdoucheh, a town located on a hill eight kilometers southeast of Saida, is believed to be the location of the cave where the Virgin Mary awaited Jesus while he was preaching in Saida. In celebration of this, the cave – known as Mantara or Point of Awaiting – was transformed into a chapel and a tall statue of Virgin Mary and The Child was added in the 1960s. The landmark obviously holds religious significance, the location of the statue also provides a unique panoramic view of the surrounding areas.
Jezzine, also known as the “city of the fall”, and the surrounding area represents a beautiful picturesque.The town overlooks a cliff of 40 meters and is home to many beautiful landmarks including the waterfalls and the Grotto of Fakhreddin II. Jezzine surrounded by mountain peaks, pine forests, vineyards, and orchards make this town a famous tourist destination in summer where they can also explore the center and old souqs. Its landscape features pine-forested valleys and mountain summits, ponds, and waterfalls. Nearby is Bkassine, where it holds the biggest pine forest in Lebanon. Bkassine is the home of old bridges, heritage houses, and natural wonders. Eco-touristic site within Bkassine’s pine forest offers a wide range of activities for all the nature lovers such as biking, tower climbing, and rappelling.
Nabatieh is home to the Beaufort Castle which was built in the 12th century overlooking the southern Beqaa Valley towards Damascus, known also as Shqif Arnun. There is no conclusive evidence for the age of this castle or for who built it. The Crusaders repaired and fortified Beaufort Castle during the twelfth century and it became the most important fortress in Lebanon. Nabatieh has two historic mosques. One was built in the 16th century and lies in the center of the town. Another, known as “the Mosque of the Prophet,” dates to the Mamluk period and is located in Nabatieh al Fawqa.