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A day in Saida
A day in Saida
Sara Lebbos

Embarking on a journey southward to revel in a day of leisurely wandering through Saida. Each passing scenery and encounter with the friendly faces along the historic city's old roads leaves an indelible impression.

As our minibus approached the city of Saida, the noisy hum of the engine began to fade, eventually giving way to a peaceful silence as we caught sight of the imposing fortress walls emerging from the sea.

Our journey had started nearly an hour earlier from Beirut's "Cola" stop, with a detour to Saifi village's "organic" market near the Martyr Square. Now, we gazed out at the sea, with a mountain of waste marring the view and the sky above.

A glance at "Lonely Planet" revealed intriguing details about the city, such as its population of over 200,000, along with approximately 100,000 Palestinian refugees in the south camp. Sidon, as it was known in ancient times, was renowned for its purple dye extracted from the Murex Brandaris shell, which was used to dye fabrics - their primary export product. The Greeks referred to the dye as "Phoimis," meaning "purple." Glass manufacturing was another prominent industry in Sidon. Legend has it that when Paris of Troy fled after kidnapping the beautiful Helen, he passed through this very city.

From the Souk to the Soap Museu

At 12:43 in Khan El Franj, feelings of tradition and authenticity envelop us, offering a different aura than the one we experienced in Beirut.

The bustling souk echoes with vendors shouting out prices and haggling, while the air is thick with the scent of fish. But then, suddenly, the aromas of orange blossom, anise, and freshly baked bread weave their way into the mix, overpowering the frying smells.

Here, there are no signs of the dye industry; instead, the maze of narrow streets is filled with all types of craftsmen, including carpenters, sculptors, tailors, snack vendors, upholsterers, and more.

A pelican, like a guardian talisman, stands atop a fisherman's stall, surveying the vibrant scene below.

At 13:50 in Downtown Saida, we emerge from the Soap Museum with an irresistible urge to indulge in a hammam and bask in the delightful scents of perfumed mousses.

As we venture further, we stumble upon a group of panel-beaters, practicing their skill.

Our next stop is at "mozz be laban," where we enjoy a refreshment, near a Sunni Mosque and a UNRWA school.

A glass of wine with Mazen and Dima

We hurry to catch up with Mazen and Dima, whom I met just an hour ago, and share a delightful red Kefraya wine together, exchanging stories and laughter.

Our treasure hunt takes us through the old streets of Saida, searching for the Andalusian-style lodging where Olivier resides. We finally discover the old convent managed by Katya and Amin, nestled right next to Khan El Franj. Next to the old church, the muezzin praise “Allah” The Great and His Prophet Mohammed.

As I close my eyes, I bask in the salty sea breeze and the warmth of the southern sun.

The next day, I remind myself not to miss the minibus back to Beirut, departing at 18:30. But before I leave, I soak up the vibrant colors of Sidon, the salty aroma of the Mediterranean, and the echoes of the sea and muezzin's calls that fill my ears, as the souk vendors' cries ring out in the background - memories that will stay with me for a long time to come.

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