We desperately needed a weekend out of town after a difficult week at work, and fortunately, Tim and Francoise asked us to join them for an overnight to Tyre. Tyre (pronounced Tear as in tear drop) is a coastal town south of Beirut, and only about 15 miles from the Israeli border. Southern Lebanon is known as a stronghold of Hezbollah and the Amal Militia. The road into Tyre (the ancient name was Sour…pronounced Sewer), was adorned with flags from the two groups, as well as posters of a smiling Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. He is visiting Lebanon later this week when he will dedicate a new park on the Lebanon/Israeli border, and from what we have read throw a symbolic rock at Israel. I wonder how good an arm he has? Hezbollah is calling for demonstrations in support of his visit, and there is a slight possibility the Ministry of Education may cancel schools to be on the safe side. No snow days here…just terrorist days! We’ll take it.
Tim and Francoise are beach bums, so the purpose of the trip was to crash on the beach. There is a very long, wide and relatively clean beach on the south side of the town where we spent time Saturday and Sunday. Beaching it in October! Eat your hearts out Vermonters. At the southern end of the beach is a large Palestinian refugee camp. And over the next rise is Israel.
Our hotel was in town and right on the water. While the room was nothing to write home about, eating dinner on the deck and breakfast on a patio, both of which were ON the water, made up for the lack of western style comforts in the room.
After Saturday night’s dinner of fresh fish, hummus, and fattoush (salad with toasted bread, tomatoes, onions and mint) and a glass of Lebanese wine, we walked down to the fishing harbor and then through narrow winding alleys back to the room. A great night.
Before heading to the beach on Sunday, Sharon and I toured the Al-Mina archeological site in town. This is an extensive site that incorporates both Roman and Byzantine ruins. For your reference, Tyre was conquered by Alexander the Great around 333 B.C.
Part of the breakwater he constructed is still visible from the ruins. Just amazing.
We had a wonderful time and look forward to returning, particularly to see the Roman Hippodrome, reputedly the largest and best preserved in the world. (Think Ben Hur). That said, the drive in and out of Tyre and Sidon is along incredibly littered and trash filled roads. Discarded plastic bottles and other trash is everywhere.
The UN has a strong presence in the area as well, with armored and armed vehicles present in Tyre and along the road between Tyre and Sidon. It really is perfectly safe, as long as the political situation stays calm. Litter free it is not.