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Yearning for the South in Tyre

- Reza - Saturday, November 5th, 2011 : goo

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The shores of Tyre stretch far to the north and south of this ancient port city, attracting visitors from across the South of Lebanon to its picture-perfect beaches located, accessibly, just south of the urban core.

image 48469

This city has been a major commercial center for millennia, though in the last two decades its mercantile importance has been overshadowed by Beirut to the North. The port itself seems today humorously undersized for an ancient port of such renown, but it is mostly local fishermen that use it these days so the need for grandeur or pretention is rather little. Otherwise most visitors are UNIFIL troops on their nights off, stopping in at the fish restaurants and bars that run alongside it (and from whence this picture was shot).

image 48474

The ruins of the ancient city, however, remain at the heart of the city's downtown, which dates mostly to the turn of the 20th century, with important additions during the French Mandate period to its grid-based form. The roads remain based on the Roman roads set up centuries prior, though they are interrupted here and there by unplanned additions...

image 48470

The ancient Roman promenade still lands, leading from the eastern hills towards the skyscrapers of the commercial core, while turn-of-the-century homes long ago built by local notables grace the port area.

image 48477

Tyre has long been a mixed Shia Muslim and Christian city, with an influx of Sunni Palestinians in the 1940's adding to this diversity.

image 48471

The old medina has fallen into a state of disrepair; unfortunately the Israeli attack on the south of Lebanon in 1978 and the years-long occupation that began in 1982 took a heavy toll on Tyre, the regional capital and home to many Palestinian refugees from 1948.

image 48472

But the beauty isn't hard to find in these alleyways... between many buildings, interrupting the close knit urban fabric, sit unintentional pocket parks, gaping wounds and reminders of the years of war this city has endured. Today, however, kids play amidst these urban interventions...

image 48473

Today the city enjoys the kind of moderate prosperity that most of Lebanon knows; neither very rich nor very poor, a certain level of comfort is sustained that makes beach outings an affordable luxury for most people.

image 48475

Yet the crises and their residuals are never far... in this scene, looking south towards the border, if one strains the eye a cluster of buildings is visible against the shore in the distance. Rashidiyeh refugee camp, built in 1948 by refugees fleeing what was until then Palestine, lines the southern end of the beach.

For most residents of Rashidiyeh, their former homes are located less than 50 miles across the border in israel to the south, in Haifa or the towns around it. And no matter how beautiful Tyre's beaches may be, they continue dreaming of a return the current political situation in the region suggests they will never be granted...

Looking out from the camp, it is a different perspective of the world indeed...

image 48478

This article has been viewed 7786 times in the last 3 years

sa'ed: love the photos! great article!

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