As I said in my opening page, Tyre is in a zone of Lebanon that feels almost like the Caribbean for its lush and fertile fields and its humid weather. Here you will also find a plethora of flowering plants, and dazzling colours that belie the beauty of the place. They are abundant in the Roman ruins, and add to the feeling that much of the city's past has been abandoned to return to nature.
Although each of Lebanon's sects is probably represented in Tyre, most of the city's population is Shiite Moslem. This is evident in the numerous posters of the Shiite imams wearing the black turbans, but another clear indication is the presence of black flags and banners everywhere, particularly around mosques. Seen in the attached photo is a mosque with snow-capped Mount Hermon as a breathtaking backdrop. The black flags flying indicate that it is serves the Shiite community.
Palestinian Refugee Camp of al-Bass
Adjacent to al-Bass Archaeological Area 3 is its namesake Palestinian refugee camp, one of several around Tyre and all of Lebanon. It is heartbreaking to know that these families cannot return to their homes, which once were beyond the nearby Israeli border only 20-30 minutes away. Instead, since 1948 they have had to live in this camp, which began as a tent city and developed into a slum-like neighbourhood with shoddy construction. Al-Bass Refugee Camp borders the archaeological site and many of these Palestinian families can be seen in their houses getting on with their ordinary lives. Attached are a couple of photos.
The presence of United Nations vehicles is a common sight in Tyre. The city is only a short distance from the area currently monitored by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and only 20-30 minutes from the troubled Israeli border. Fortunately, the political situation has been quite calm recently, so let's hope peace continues!
The Tale of Europa and the Bull
Europe and the Bull: A Tale of Love and Lust
The Phoenician princess, Europa, was the daughter of Agenor, the King of Tyre who was renowned as Phoenix (i.e., the Phoenician). Accompanied by the daughters of other noble families, she delighted in picking varied blossoms that flourished in meadows along the coast. Absorbed in girlish merriment and gay laughter, Europa caught the roving eye of Zeus, who observed her from Mount Olympus.
Zeus was stirred with passion for the beautiful maiden and sent Hermes to drive the king’s cattle from the mountain slopes to the meadow where the young girls were at play. Zeus morphed himself into a majestic bull in order to avoid frightening the maids in his true form.
Mingling with the King's herd, he gradually approached Europa in a mild and temperate manner so as not to startle her. Enticed by his grace and beauty, as well as by his gentleness, Europa caressed the bull's powerful neck and placed garlands about his horns. Crouching to lure her closer, the bull exposed his broad back onto which Europa obligingly seated herself. Zeus then rose to his feet and trotted across the meadow toward the shore, taking the princess from her Asian homeland. He swam the broad sea with the frightened Europa on his back.
Arriving on the island of Crete, Zeus ravished Europa, who ultimately bore him Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. As compensation to her, Europa’s name was bestowed on the continent that had received her.
Who is Elissar??
Elissar, the Princess of Tyre, left the city after an inheritance dispute with her brother, Pygmalion. She went on to found the great North African city of Carthage in the 9th century B.C. Carthage eventually became the greatest of the Phoenician colonies and rose to challenge the might of Rome.
Tyre and its many Villages and Towns
Tyre is the center of a caza that includes many villages and towns. It is home to many archeological excavations, which may be one of the most important in Lebanon. The city itself is distinguished by its large number of old marketplaces, which are similar to those of Saida (narrow ceiled roads supported by pillars, small shops selling various commodities and a small port that is a gathering place for fisherman, but has witnessed modest development).
Five kilometers south of Tyre, in the direction of Naqoura, is the town of Birak Ras Al-Ain, or “Solomon’s grave” as local residents refer to it. The biraks, or “ponds,” date back to the Phoenician era, and according to Assyrian texts, Shalmanaser V ordered his soldiers to protect them during the blockade of Tyre in 725 B.C.
Distance from Beirut: 95km
The name’s Aramic origin means “the nest” or “the village, house and shelter.” In Qana Al-Jalil, Christ is said to have performed his first miracle, that of turning water into wine at a wedding he was attending with his mother and the disciples. Eusebius, a 3rd century authority on the history of the church, and St. Jerome, a 4th century scholar, chronicle Qana as the site of the miracle. In addition, a number of basins have been discovered in the area where the miracle is said to have taken place. Some scholars take these discoveries as affirmation of the line in the Bible of St. John, which describes the site of the miracle as having “six stone basins…” To the north of the town is the Cave of Qana where early stone sculptures thought to depict a group of 13 people (Christ and his disciples) have been found.
This is also the village where the Qana massacre took place in 1996 in 'Operation: Grapes of Wrath'...You can still visit the memorial, in the UN residence in this small town where over a 150 people were massacred.
The Color 'Purple'
In Phoenician times, Tyre was famous for its export of richly dyed purple textiles, using a dye extracted from the murex sea snail. Because of its rarity, the color was typically worn by royalty. The Tyrean purple dye was so highly valued that the Greeks named the people living in the city state ?Phoenicians,? after the Greek word for ?purple.?
So...the real 'Phoenicians' are the people of Tyre ;-)
Two of the three archaeological areas of Tyre can be visited: entrance to each site is 6000 Lebanese pounds (roughly 4 dollars). Area one is frankly not worth the price, as you can see most of it from the road beside - whereas area three is very worthwhile. The ticket booth is at the end of the gravel road after the parking lot and entrance.