My first cousin Michel is visiting from Copenhagen (Denmark) with his adorable (and gorgeous) wife AnneLise and their four children; a day in Sidon was in order.
After all, Sidon is considered the most important city in the South; occupied by the Crusaders (and many others), it boasts a sea castle, a palace, souks, a caravanserail, a soap museum, hammams, several ancient mosques, Greek Orthodox and Melkite cathedrals, an ancient synagogue; Christ is said to have preached there. In addition to all of these historical facts, it is a city dear to me, because it is where part of my family was established for several generations and where my grandparents are buried.
Unlike Beirut which is rapidly losing its character as a Levantine city, Sidon has retained its middle-eastern cachet; for one thing, there were no tourists save for us! When we finished touring and had worked up an appetite, we remained in the old souk teeming with local Sidonites, ordered a falafel sandwich for each one of us and sat down to savor it; it was light yet filling and absolutely not greasy; the tarator (tahini) sauce was a perfect balance of creamy and garlicky and citrusy. Price for one was LBP 1500 or one dollar!
NOTE: For a falafel sandwich recipe, click here.
A foodie-related fact: the Crusaders took back with them the tradition of sweetening food with the sugar cane, which was prevalent in Sidon; prior to this, they only used honey.
What to get in Sidon?
A bottle of orange blossom water, which is made locally from the blossoms of the bousfeir oranges; several soaps from the museum, including the one made with laurel leaves, extremely fragrant and beneficial for one’s skin; and if you like Arabic pastries, a stop at Al-Baba Sweets is in order, for some Arabic ice-cream flavored with pistachios or mandarin and an assortment of baklavas and pastries of all types.