January 19, 2011 // Uncategorized

Sidon on the sea

Where is Sidon where St. Paul visited some friends? 
St. Paul was in Caesarea in Israel where he was departing for Rome in Italy to see the emperor. At Caesarea, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius. They boarded the ship and set sail. The following day they landed at Sidon in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon) where Julius kindly allowed Paul to visit some friends who cared for his needs.

Sidon or Saida is the largest city in southern Lebanon and lies 45 km south of Beirut. L. Keen says the name Sidon comes from a Canaanite root meaning “fish,” so the first settlers were possibly fishermen. Sidon first developed on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and then the city spread inland. People wanted to move away from the stench emanating from the dye works that produced Phoenician purple dye. The ancient Sidonians even developed dentistry. In the museum you can see a skull with teeth held in place with gold wire.

L Keen says one of the prettiest sites to see in Sidon is the bay. Sidon was known as the “Queen of the Seas,” and had four ports. Near the beach is Murex Hill. A “murex” is a shellfish from whose extracted substance the famous dye was made. Some ancient mosaics on top of the mound show that the Romans built there.

The Catholic crusaders also came to Sidon. You can see the ruined Castle of St. Louis constructed in A.D. 1253. The castle lies on top of some Phoenician temples and an ancient theater.

Another Crusader castle, called the Sea Castle, is set off the coast literally in the sea. This castle was built in the 13th century on the site of a pagan temple to the god Baal. There is a grand mosque also built in the 13th century as a Church of the Hospitallers of St. John. There are also khans or inns in Sidon. These included a market and a stable for camels or other pack animals. The khans usually have two stories. The first floor is for the shops, courtyard, fountain and stables. The second floor holds the rooms for sleeping. The inn at Bethlehem when Jesus was born was possibly of a similar pattern. At Sidon, there is also an old Arab market, a Greek Catholic Church and an ancient royal cemetery. S. Jenkins adds that Sidon has five old Turkish baths and a museum for soap making.

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