THE SOUTH

SAIDA, TYRE, JEZZINE

Lebanon Traveler - - MINI GUIDES -

SAIDA

With a wind­ing old mar­ket­place, a sea­side cas­tle, and a strong Le­banese her­itage, Saida is eas­ily one of Le­banon’s most de­light­ful des­ti­na­tions. Though the coastal city sits just 40km south of Beirut, it has re­tained a much quainter and more tra­di­tional vibe than the cos­mopoli­tan cap­i­tal, mak­ing it a per­fect get­away from Beirut.

GET­TING THERE

By car: Take the high­way south out of Beirut and fol­low the signs to­wards Saida.

By pub­lic trans­port: Vans leave to Saida ev­ery five min­utes from Jisr el Cola. The jour­ney takes around an hour and costs 3,000 LBP.

WHAT TO DO Sea Cas­tle

Saida’s most dis­tinc­tive fea­ture is the Sea Cas­tle, built in 1228 by Cru­sad­ing armies on the site of an old Phoeni­cian tem­ple. Sit­ting on a small is­land off the wa­ter, the stone cas­tle is framed by the sharp blue Mediter­ranean Sea, mak­ing it per­fectly pic­turesque. En­trance to the site costs 4,000 LBP, and it is open daily from 9 am un­til sun­set.

Old Souks

Saida’s old souk is ex­actly what you might imag­ine an Ara­bian bazaar to look like, com­plete with stone arch­ways and shops sell­ing ev­ery­thing from fruits to sou­venirs. Along with the Dab­bane Palace, many old re­li­gious sites are scat­tered through­out the souk. En­joy the ad­ven­ture of dis­cov­er­ing them in the labyrinth of twist­ing al­ley­ways.

The Soap Mu­seum

The Soap Mu­seum is here to show you the art of saponi­fi­ca­tion, the chem­i­cal process that pro­duces the soap. The mu­seum is tucked into an old soap fac­tory that is now a well-or­ga­nized and in­for­ma­tive mu­seum. For just 5,000 LBP, a guide will take you through the aro­matic cham­bers of the mu­seum. 07 733353

Khan El Franj

Just out­side the old souk is Khan El Franj, an old inn built by the Ot­toman Fakhr el-dine II to en­cour­age the silk traders to do busi­ness to Saida. To­day, vis­i­tors can walk through the Khan for free and ad­mire the scenic in­ner court­yard and arched Ot­toman ar­chi­tec­ture.

WHERE TO EAT Rest House

The Rest House ( 07 722469) is Saida’s most pop­u­lar restau­rant, and for good rea­son. You can en­joy your lunch right on the wa­ter­front, with an un­par­al­leled view of the cas­tle. The food is typ­i­cal Le­banese mezze style and rea­son­ably priced, es­pe­cially given its prime lo­ca­tion.

Tawlet Saida

Tawlet Saida ( 81 707240, tawlet­saida.com) is a lovely restau­rant that is a tran­quil place to cool down af­ter roam­ing the Saida souk. Set above the maze of the mar­ket­place be­low, the at­mo­sphere will lure you in with its peace and quiet, keep­ing you sat­is­fied with Le­banese food made by lo­cal women.

Al Kas­sir

Al Kas­sir ( 07 720536), a tiny fam­ily-owned sweet shop, is well known in the area for their clas­sic pas­tries, stuffed with nuts, and fruits in tra­di­tional Le­banese fashion.

WHERE TO SLEEP Al Qalaa Ho­tel

Lo­cated on the wa­ter’s edge just steps from the old souk, the rooms of Al Qalaa are charm­ing and cozy. The rooftop restau­rant over­looks the Cru­sader Cas­tle and has the old feel of Saida. Rooms cost around 150,000 LBP (100 USD), de­pend­ing on the sea­son. 07 734777

TYRE (SOUR)

Le­banon’s south­ern­most city, Tyre is one of those hidden gems that makes Le­banon a spec­tac­u­lar place to travel. Like all of Le­banon’s coastal ci­ties, it has wit­nessed a myr­iad of pass­ing armies, con­querors and civ­i­liza­tions. To­day, much of Tyre’s ru­ins come from the Ro­man era, yet it ex­udes a no­tice­ably beachy vibe.

GET­TING THERE

By car: Fol­low the south­ern road from Beirut, past Saida, un­til you reach Tyre.

By pub­lic trans­port: Hop in a van from Jisr el Cola to Saida for 3,000 LBP. In Saida, you can trans­fer to a bus to Tyre for 2,000 LBP. The vans run ev­ery 20 min­utes or so and the trip down takes around two and a half hours in to­tal.

WHAT TO DO The Ro­man Hip­po­drome

Tyre’s Hip­po­drome is a sprawl­ing spec­ta­cle of an­cient Ro­man grandeur. The Hip­po­drome once held up to 40,000 peo­ple, who sat along the sta­dium stands to cheer on char­iot races. The ru­ins are re­mark­ably well pre­served and you can climb up the sta­dium seat­ing through an­cient arch­ways and a Ro­man street. En­trance costs 6,000 LBP and the site is open daily from 8:30 am un­til 30 min­utes be­fore sun­set. 07 740530

Al Mina Ru­ins

Just a five-minute drive from the Hip­po­drome are the sea­side Al Mina ru­ins. The bulk of the Ro­man ru­ins are a se­ries of col­umns on the seafront. You can pay 5,000 LBP to walk through this beau­ti­ful an­cient site and take some amaz­ing pic­tures. The site is open daily from 8:30 am un­til 30 min­utes be­fore sun­set. 07 740530

Tyre Port and the Chris­tian Quar­ter

Tyre’s Port is a beau­ti­ful site, es­pe­cially around sun­set. The pretty har­bor is dot­ted with fish­ing boats and fish­er­men, and the briny smell of the ocean lingers around the sea­side area. Lo­cated next to the port, the Chris­tian Quar­ter is like Le­banon’s own ver­sion of a Greek is­land, with cob­ble­stone streets, col­or­ful houses and flow­ers spilling over bal­conies.

Tyre Pub­lic Beach

If you are vis­it­ing Tyre dur­ing the sum­mer months, a trip to the pub­lic beach is a must. It is one of the clean­est in Le­banon. Un­like the beaches in Le­banon’s north, Tyre’s beach is made of a fine sand, which cou­pled with the crys­tal clear wa­ter, makes for a per­fect day on the coast.

WHERE TO EAT Le Pheni­cien

Lo­cated right on the har­bor, Le Pheni­cien (07 740564) is one of Tyre’s most up­scale restau­rants. Spe­cial­iz­ing in fresh seafood and fish, the restau­rant is known for its great ser­vice, tasty food and amaz­ing view.

Cap­tain Bob’s Restau­rant Tony

Just be­side Le Pheni­cien is Restau­rant Tony (70 108641), a slightly shab­bier but equally charm­ing op­tion. Tony, the owner of this small white and blue dec­o­rated seafood restau­rant, will greet you warmly and fry you up the lat­est catch. If you want to eat your lunch right on the wa­ter, noth­ing beats Cap­tain Bob’s. Dur­ing the sum­mer, the restau­rant builds a wooden pa­tio over the ocean, sets up some plas­tic chairs and ta­bles, and serves up shisha, de­li­cious mezze and fried fish.

WHERE TO SLEEP Dar Alma

Eas­ily one of Le­banon’s most charm­ing bou­tique ho­tels, Dar Alma is si­t­u­ated in the lovely Chris­tian Quar­ter, right on the seafront. The ho­tel ex­udes a nau­ti­cal at­mo­sphere, from its blue and white dé­cor to the ocean fac­ing restau­rant and pri­vate swim­ming spot. A night’s stay costs around 225,000 LBP (150 USD). 07 740082, hotelibanais.com

Turquoise Beach Re­sort

Lo­cated right on the beach and just a seven-minute drive from the cen­ter of Tyre, Turquoise Beach Re­sort of­fers luxury ac­com­mo­da­tion and the fa­cil­i­ties one would ex­pect from a lively sum­mer re­sort. It’s a great choice for groups and fam­i­lies. 78 822866/78 822877, turquoise-lb.com

JEZZINE

Jezzine is Le­banon’s hub for na­ture tourism due to its breath­tak­ing mountain view, pine forests, and wa­ter­falls. Dur­ing the sum­mer­time, the town and sur­round­ing area be­come a get­away for vis­i­tors seek­ing a fresh mountain re­treat away from the city.

GET­TING THERE By car:

Take the south­ern coastal road down to Saida, and turn into the moun­tains at the Ne­jmeh round­about. Con­tinue un­til you see signs for Jezzine.

By pub­lic trans­port:

From Beirut, head to Jisr el Cola to get the van to Saida for 3,000 LBP. In Saida, trans­fer to the LTC bus at the Ne­jmeh round­about. Ask the driver to drop you off near Jezzine’s town hall. The to­tal trip takes around an hour and a half.

WHAT TO DO Bkas­sine Pine For­est

A haven for hik­ers and out­door en­thu­si­asts, Jezzine’s pine for­est is the largest in the Mid­dle East. The dis­tinc­tive Le­banese pine trees cover the area, mak­ing it a great place to en­joy walks in the fresh air.

Jezzine Wa­ter­fall

Jezzine’s wa­ter­fall is the fifth high­est in the world, at­tract­ing tourists from around the coun­try. You can ex­pe­ri­ence the wa­ter­fall by hik­ing down to its base or en­joy­ing a meal in one of the cafés at its sum­mit.

WHERE TO EAT Al Chalouf

Si­t­u­ated just above the fa­mous Jezzine wa­ter­fall, Al Chalouf (07 781774) is the best place in Jezzine for great views and a tasty mezze. En­joy your lunch sur­rounded by spec­tac­u­lar pine forests at a height of 75 me­ters over the val­ley.

WHERE TO SLEEP Maison de la Forêt

Maison de la Forêt is an eco-lodge perched among the pine forests that cover the moun­tains sur­round­ing Jezzine. The sprawl­ing prop­erty hosts sev­eral rus­tic lodge-style rooms and the ho­tel spe­cial­izes in or­ga­niz­ing out­door activities. They have a climb­ing wall, ropes course, and bikes avail­able for rent on the prop­erty, mak­ing for a great stay in one of Le­banon’s most beau­ti­ful forests. 07 800222/78 828252, lamaison­de­laforet.net

Blue Jay Val­ley

Set in the heart of Jezzine, Blue Jay is hidden in a green val­ley abun­dant in pine and oak trees. The prop­erty, made up of bun­ga­lows and luxury tents, is a lovely re­treat, pro­vid­ing guests with lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion and rest­ful nights un­der a starry night sky. 07 811112/78 880088, blue­jay­val­ley.com

Saida’s Sea Cas­tle

Chris­tian Quar­ter

Al Mina Ru­ins

Photo: Peter Ghanime

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