Children run in between narrow alleys making their way through women buying their daily needs and some tourist taking pictures. The sunrays peep through plastic sheets that hang from one building to the other protecting the souk from the harmful sun. The hustle and bustle of every day life unfolds in this maze like souk. The smell of spices whiffs in the air trailing from one alley to the other. The butcher hangs his fresh meat on display next to the small coffee shop whose freshly brewed Arabic coffee invigorates the air around it. The laundry of the families living on top hangs dormant as the sea breeze lulls it to dryness. The kids wave from their tiny gridded balconies with their legs hanging out, happy to take part in this scene.
Today marks an important milestone for me. It’s been officially a year I’ve been writing about Lebanon. With this in mind, I would like to celebrate it with this post that took me months in research and led me to some amazing findings. If you are a lover of history and lost stories, this post is for you. Today’s post has nothing less then a Dan Brown plot to it. Art and history have a way of travelling around the world, hiding, and then reappearing out of nowhere. It is for those who adore it to seek it and trace it back to its origins. So please bear with me this long post.
With all my love, from this land of many mysteries…
On a high hill overlooking the Mediterranean some 30 miles south of Beirut lies the pilgrimage town of Maghdoucheh, famous for its 30-meter bronze shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was here in Maghdoucheh that the Virgin Mary is said to have waited in a cave for her son Jesus to return with his disciples after preaching in nearby in Sidon. The statue, which depicts Mary holding Jesus in her arms, weighs a hefty six tons and was built in 1963 above the cave in which Mary was believed to have waited.
Saida, Arabic for fishing, takes its name from the old Phoenician word sidouna, also meaning fishing. In Genesis Sidon is a son of Canaan, a grandson of Noah. One of the most important, and perhaps the oldest, Phoenician cities dating around 4000 B.C., and perhaps even earlier, in Neolithic times, it was twice destroyed in war between the 7th and 4th centuries B.C., and again during the earthquake in the 6th Century A.D. It was the base from which the Phoenician’s great Mediterranean empire grew. Of all of Lebanon’s cities this is the most mysterious, for its past has been tragically scattered and plundered.
Lebanon has 4 of the worlds oldest cities, dating as far back as 5000BC:
Tyre: 2750 BC
Beirut: 3000 BC
Sidon: 4000 BC
Byblos: 5000 BC
And as Martin Luther King once said “we are not makers of history. We are made by history.”