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Published: March 12th 2019
Monday March 11, 2019 – I got up just before 7am, thinking that if I was going to have enough time to hit two towns as a daytrip that I’d better be quick. And I was right. I was out the door by 8am, stopping in at nearby Wooden Bakery to get a chocolate pasty and ask how much I could expect to pay for a taxi to the Cola intersection, where I would catch my bus. She said no more than 8000, but when I asked for service (share taxi), he quoted me 4000, which is double the normal share taxi but expected since the distance was longer. From there I got a bus to Sidon, known here as Saida. It took about an hour and only left when reasonably full, so we arrived around 9:45. I started with the Crusader Sea Castle, built by the Crusaders on the foundations of a Phoenician temple, and then headed nearby to Khan al-Franj, The Inn of the Foreigners. It used to be an overnight for traders back in the day and has been restored. From there, I tried my hand at getting to the Grand Mosque, but first I couldn’t get into
the city walls, then I was lost immediately when I did. I asked around a bit and eventually was able to find it. Strangely, there was no one around for a while, which is not my experience with any other mosque. Then a guy came out, talked to me in Arabic, had me cover my head, take off my shoes, and head inside. All normal, but weird. He explained some things to be in Arabic, so I didn’t really catch any of it, let me take some pictures, asked me for some money, and then showed me the bathroom, had me wash my hands at the ablution block, and had me practice praying on a mat to Allah. It was interesting, but weird. But interesting. From there I was able to find, after several trials and errors, the Debanne Palace and Museum, which is an old stunningly decorated house in the souk that you can visit for free. I skipped the soap museum but climbed on the ruins of the Castle of St. Louis. Next up – a falafel sandwich at Falafel Abou Rami. I grabbed it to go, found the minibus heading to Tyre (also known as Sour), and
ate it inside while I waited for the bus to go. I saw next to a woman with two small girls. The three of them all took up only one seat, and when she got out I saw she also had an enormous bag that took up all of her foot room. I’m not sure how they managed.
We left around 12:30pm and got to Tyre about an hour later. I walked straight to nearby Al-Bass archaeological site, which is the biggest and best of the two in town of the two UNESCO sites. I spent about an hour wandering around, looking and photographing what I could. I walked through the ruins and walked along the old Byzantine road which became the old Roman road at the triumphal arch, which is 20m high and still stands. I also walked out to the Roman hippodrome, which is the largest and best preserved in the world. It’s basically a half-oval and used to seat 30,000 people. Now there is seating for many fewer, but they do use it for concerts in the summer. It was a good site to visit.
I wanted to head over to the other site in
town, and noticed that the old Roman road got narrower, but seemed to keep going. If it led to town, I could get there faster, so I gave it a try and it worked. From there I followed my map and mostly got lucky, finding the smaller but for some reason same-priced Al-mina ruins. This site was near the sea, and had a lot of columns standing. I arrived at 3pm and was conscious of the time, so I was a little quicker at this site. There was access to the sea from here, so I went down quickly to feel the water and take a couple pictures. It was quite nice. There was a German tour group, and all I could think was that if I had started German lessons 10 years ago, I would have been able to follow along. Ah well. Maybe in a couple years I can sneak some in learning. I was walking back, trying to go a different way to the bus area, and got lucky. There was a bus leaving from where I was, and it happened to be going all the way back to Beirut, which would prevent me from having to
mess around changing buses in Saida. And it was a real bus, rather than a minibus. It left at 4pm and took a little more than two hours to get back to the Cola intersection, but it was never crowded, which was nice.
Back at Cola, I looked for a share taxi and it took a few tries, but I got one. My address is still unclear to me, and when I tried to explain, he said 4000, which is what I paid this morning. I showed him the map and all seemed good, but then he said I had told him wrong initially. He told me what to say instead, though I forgot immediately. But as we got closer, he said it would be 10000 instead. I said no, just let me out and he said it would be 8000. I got out, gave him 4000, and walked. But it was close, so not an issue. The worst part was that he was smoking. Actually, that was the worst part of several rides I had today, buses and taxis alike. Only one person max it seemed, bt usually it was someone and it was gross.
a spinach and thyme pastry to bring home for dinner at the Wooden Bakery, and came home to chat with Jeroen about the day and with Kat, who’s decided to come to Lebanon! She arrives late tomorrow night, and she’s booked us some tours for places not easily accessed on our own, since my internet is unreliable. It will be fun to have someone to hang out with for a couple of days.
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