|A visit to the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre|
The plan was for a Saturday lunch in Tyre, South Lebanon. But once in the ancient Phoenician city, I couldn’t resist exploring the ruins after a visit to the Orange House Project (see Turtles tutorial at Orange House).
Some 88 kilometers (55 miles) from the capital Beirut, Tyre -- or Soor as it is known in Arabic -- is Lebanon’s fourth largest city. It was an island in ancient times and excavations there have uncovered ruins of Crusader, Arab, Byzantine and Greco-Roman cities.
|Banana groves and the Mediterranean all along the journey|
I should have done more research before making the trip. My cousin Lillian and our friend Dunia Kabbani were excellent guides on the day. But I later discovered a wealth of brass tacks about the seaport city that has been battered so many times over the years. My findings came as I prepared to write this post and the captions for the photos of our day in Tyre.
|Fish cafes line Tyre's free beach along the Corniche|
|A national unity string of beads and...|
|...benches donated by Turkey on the Corniche|
There are three main areas of ruins in Tyre. The ruins of a Crusader church dominate the first site, but I didn’t venture there on this trip.
The second is located on what was the ancient walled island city. Colonnades, mosaic streets, Roman baths, and a rectangular arena occupy this site that overlooks the shimmering light blue Mediterranean. And this is where we walked around first.
|The sculpted tip of one of the colonnades|
|The narrow alleyways leading to the port|
|The view from the Rest House restaurant|
|Delicious South Lebanon fish|
|Heading to the 2nd century Roman-Byzantine El Bass necropolis|
|The Triumphal Arch... a massive blow to any ego|
The Roman Hippodrome was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. Tyre is also marked as protected cultural property according to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Tyre itself was inscribed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site during the 8th session of the World Heritage Committee in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 1984.
Tyre was known as “queen of the seas,” an island city of unprecedented splendor that Herodotus of Halicarnassus, "Father of History," visited during the 5th century BC and described the famous Temple of Melkart (Heracles). The priests of the city-god told him the temple was built 2300 years previously when Tyre was founded -- that is 2750 BC.
|One of many sculpted sarcophagus|
Elissa, princess and daughter of king Mattan, extended Tyre's empire through the Mediterranean and founded Carthage in 814 BC. Early in the 6th century BC, Babylon king Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city for 13 years.
The origins of the famous purple dye in Tyre date back to a Phoenician legend involving Phoenician deities King Melqart and Queen Astarte. They were walking with their dog on the beach when the pet picked up something in its mouth that stained it crimson. Astarte thought it was beautiful and told Melqart that if he could make her a dress in that color, she would love him forever. So Melqart built the dye works.
Tyre is mentioned in the New Testament as one of the cities visited by Jesus Christ. Built by the Phoenicians, it was strong and an object of envies for many conquerors, particularly Alexander the Great.
|Other parts of the necropolis|
The most famous city of Phoenicia was captured in 1124 during the First Crusade and became one of the most important cities of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1291, the Mameluks retook Tyre. It then passed to Ottoman rule until it became part of the modern state of Lebanon after World War I.
The Old Testament makes several references to Tyre. It is prominently featured in Shakespeare’s play Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Oscar Wilde referred to the city and its purple dye in his poetry "...my Tyrian galley waits for thee, come down the purple sail is spread..." And the third verse of Bob Dylan’s 1966 Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands begins: "The kings of Tyrus with their convict list / Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss.”
Unrest in South Lebanon, the illegal trade in antiquities and urban development continually threaten Tyre’s cultural heritage. Site degradation is also due to lack of maintenance and decay of porous and soft stones.
|Archive photo of Tyre's First International Festival in 1972|
|Arabic sweets at Kanaan|
|You have to stop at Abu Arab for...|
|... freshly-baked ka'ak|
There is so much more to write, but I’ll let you enjoy the parts left out in pictures.
Turtles tutorial at Orange House – September 16, 2011
Breakfast in Sidon – November 30, 2010