In the south of Lebanon, there are two ancient cities: Saïda and Tyre. Both cities boast not only historical significance but biblical mention as well.
On Sunday, January 20, a group of staff and students from Middle East University (MEU) took a day excursion to visit these historic landmarks. Chaplain Werner Nissen organized the outing and Farid Khoury, MEU Librarian who holds a MA in Ancient Religions and Archaeology, guided the group tour through the various ancient sites.
The trip was a fun leisurely day and also an educational experience. Talat Fahmy, English Language Institute student said, “The best part [of the trip] was that we enjoyed each others company, and we learned how [the] cities were captured and destroyed.”
Starting early, the group, which consisted of about 30 people, left campus around 8 a.m. On the way, the group stopped for breakfast before reaching Saïda, which is located about 40 km south of Beirut.
In Saïda, the group visited the Temple of Eshmun, a historic site dating back to the 7th century B.C. Originally, it was constructed for Eshmun, the Phoenician god of healing. Much later, a Byzantine Christian church was constructed at the site but only remnants of it are left today.
After the temple, the group headed to the Soap Museum also located in Saïda. Housed in the old soap factory of the Audi family, the museum showcases the process involved in producing olive oil based soap. There was also a gift shop where visitors could purchase different kinds of traditional soaps.
Reaching Tyre for lunch, many students picnicked along the seashore while others visited local restaurants to grab a bite to eat.
After eating, the historical exploration continued as the group visited the Roman Hippodrome in Tyre. The Hippodrome is the largest and best preserved in the world and was used as a stadium for dangerous chariot races.
Fadi Haddad, Theology student, said, “The most interesting thing that I saw was the huge square pillar in the middle of the hippodrome.”
The final area visited was the ancient port of Tyre, which is where the ancient center of the city was located. This was a famous port in historical times for trade with other areas surrounding the Mediterranean.
After a long day and after learning many interesting historical anecdotes, the students and staff headed back to MEU campus. Initially Chaplain Nissen was afraid it might rain due to weather reports, however, it was fortunate for the group that the weather was very good throughout the entire trip.
Those who attended were impressed by the ancient architecture that they had the opportunity to observe. Commenting on his experience, Fahmy stated, “The most interesting thing . . . is that the temples still exist until now.”
Lebanon boasts several historic sites like the ones viewed by the group on Sunday. MEU is happy to encourage the cultural and historical exploration of it students. Excursions such as this provide a fun and social way for students to learn about the past.
Written by Jason Lemon
Photos by Levon Kotanko