Sidon or Saida, صيدا is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is on the Mediterranean coast, about 25 miles north of Tyre and 30 miles south of the capital Beirut. Its name means a fishery.
It was one of the most important Phoenician cities, and may have been the oldest. From here, and other ports, a great Mediterranean commercial empire was founded. Homer praised the skill of its craftsmen in producing glass and purple dyes. It was also from here that a colonising party went to found the city of Tyre.
In 1855, the sarcophagus of King Eshmun’azar II was discovered. From a Phoenician inscription on its lid, it appears that he was a "king of the Sidonians," probably in the 5th century BCE, and that his mother was a priestess of ‘Ashtart, "the goddess of the Sidonians." In this inscription the gods Eshmun and Ba‘al Sidon 'Lord of Sidon' (who may or may not be the same) are mentioned as chief gods of the Sidonians. ‘Ashtart is entitled ‘Ashtart-Shem-Ba‘al '‘Ashtart the name of the Lord', a title also found in an Ugaritic text.
Sidon has had many conquerors: Philistines; Assyrians; Babylonians; Egyptians; Greeks and finally Romans in the years before Jesus. Herod the Great visited Sidon; both Jesus and Saint Paul are said to have visited it.
On December 4, 1110 Sidon was sacked in the First Crusade. During the Crusades it was sacked several times: it was finally destroyed by the Saracens in 1249. It became the centre of the Lordship of Sidon, an important seigneury in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1260 it was again destroyed by the Mongols. The remains of the original walls are still visible.
After Sidon came under Ottoman Turkish rule in the seventeenth century, it regained a great deal of its earlier commercial importance. After WWI it became part of the French Mandate of Lebanon.
The Sea castle
Saida, new buildings
Sahet Ash Shuhada - Martyr's square in Saida