History of Sidon, the first city of Phenicia

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With the first remains dating back to the Lower Paleolithic, Sidon is one of the oldest cities in the world, a place that for millennia has represented “being Phoenicians”

The words of Ibn Battuta

A beautiful city by the sea and very rich in fruit, from which figs, raisins and olive oil are exported to Egypt.

Ibn Battuta

Sidon, oldest in history itself

Considered the oldest city in the whole of Lebanon, remains dating back to the Acheulean culture have been found, which developed in the Lower Paleolithic period between 1.76 million and 130,000 years ago. To be clear: we are not yet talking about Homo sapiens and the Neanderthal Man was still alive and well when the first nucleus of Sidon was born. Over time the city developed more and more, managing to make its contribution to the whole region; it seems in fact that it was settlers from the latter who founded Tyre, a city which over time it would become a bitter rival.


Unlike the latter, however, Sidon always maintained a low profile in politics and this allowed her to devote full time to her main economic activities: dyeing and glass, the latter considered the best in Phenicia. Like the rest of the region, in 351 BC it suffered the invasion of the Persians and, less than 50 years later, that of Alexander the Great; the latter, in particular, also had a wonderful sarcophagus built, still visible today in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.

Romans, Arabs, crusaders, Ottomans and present

Under the Romans, the city maintained its constant and silent development, beating its own currency but remaining very far from the prestige obtained by Tire. As for the latter, however, the earthquakes of the 6th century were decisive for a setback, which made it particularly weak in the face of the Arabs who conquered it in 636. With the arrival of the Crusaders, all of Phenicia became a land of clashes and Sidon, in particular, became the seat of a particularly resistant castle which finally fell only in 1249 thanks to the Mamluks.


With the arrival of the Ottomans, it became the capital of the entire Lebanese province, so much so that for 115 years the latter will be called “Sayda Eyaleti” or “province of Sidon”. Once the political centrality in favor of Acri first and Beirut then lost, the city will essentially follow the fate of the rest of the country, always remaining among the most important realities but without suffering any particular consequences. The city is historically home to a large Sunni community, de facto represented by 3 different families: the El Bizri, the Saad and the Hariri. A Christian community is also historically present in Sidon, but it left after the Civil War.

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