I spent most of my Lebanese days trying to figure out Beirut’s urban chaos. I knew I must get out, though, and explore a chunk of what lies outside of Lebanon’s cosmopolitan capital. And so I did on one sunny Sunday. One of my lovely local friends promised to drive me wherever I want. I ordered to go south and sat back in the car indulging in the sunshine. That was pretty much all I truly craved during the never-ending months of the good, the bad, and the ugly of our Caucasian winter.
We stopped to see the famous Pigeons’ Rock, because this is what visitors typically do. I snapped some pictures. It’s just a rock, but I find it to be a pretty rock. No surprise that it became a recognizable symbol of Beirut and that Bing got it featured on its front page once.
Next stop was Saida, also known as Sidon, where I spent almost an hour sitting at the top of what was once a Crusaders castle and stared at the water and at the city. I didn’t do much in Saida, I mostly watched life passing by. For some reason I find observing (well, sometimes I stare, too) to be the best way to explore most countries in that region. It somehow corresponds with the dynamics of everything around. It fits, so I sit.
I was sitting and thinking about all the people that have taken their rest on the very same spot before me, looking at the sea and waiting for it to bring on some undefined miracle.
Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans. Jesus has visited it too, apparently. Persians. Alexander the Great, Byzantine Greeks, Crusaders, Saracens, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, French, British, Lebanese, a Palestinian refugee.
What have all of them dreamt of? What would they have though if they had only known that a blonde solo female traveler tried to follow their steps?
Saida makes you feel like the present and the past are mixed in the air. So many tribes have left some sign of their thick presence here that you can’t exactly tell where you are, what year it is, and who currently rules the region. Perhaps a kaleidoscope would help.
When you are done immersing in the history, try some ice cream and pastries. They might be the best ones in this world. Or at least this is what everyone in Lebanon kept telling me. Also, take a look at some more images.