25 miles (40 km) south of the capital city of Beirut lies Sidon, grand city of the Phoenicians and third largest city in modern day Lebanon. Traditionally a sleepy fishing village on the Mediterranean coast, Sidon has flourished in the past century to become a regional hub of commerce and the de facto capital of southern Lebanon.
While the air of industry and modernization abounds, relics from the Phoenician era and vestiges of old world charm are nonetheless available for inquisitive Sidon travelers. At the Sidon Sea Castle visitors are able to peruse the well-formed walls of a seaside fortification constructed in 1228 by invading Crusaders, only to be later decimated by conquering Mamluks in 1291. With two towers still standing and connected to the shore by a renovated causeway, the castle provides a platform for panoramic views stretching back towards the port. Adjacent to the sea castle are the narrow alleyways and souks of the old town, a labyrinth of stonework and wafting aromas where street side markets and food stalls still flourish.
Just outside of Sidon rests the forgotten Temple of Eshmoun, a Phoenician holy site from the 7th century BC named for the Phoenician God of Healing. It was inhabited for nearly a thousand years, but the temple was eventually abandoned as the spread of Christianity eclipsed the need for complexes dedicated to pagan worship. Rediscovered in the early 20th century, Eshmoun is considered to be among the best preserved Phoenician sites in all of Lebanon.