Wandering around Roman ruins. Literally.

Today was an unbelievable day.

After waking up, and having a Lebanese breakfast of foul and pita, with pomegranate juice, Tom and I set out to visit the famed Roman ruins of Tyre – one of the oldest cities in the world.

Buying our ticket at the gate, a nonplussed attendant waved in a general direction saying “start there, then walk in that direction”.

Turning the corner, there’s no way I can explain what we found.  We were quite literally stood IN Roman ruins.  We walked under a free standing arch, along a Roman road, to find hundreds of sarcophagi, scattered around the area.  No barriers, no restricted area, just a field full of incredible history that apparently no-one seems to care about.

Wandering among the necropolises, many of the sarcophagi had been cracked open – presumably by looters – the ancient, inscribed tops of the tombs lying upturned and shattered. Inside, the human bones lay scattered around.

On the road, almost perfect mosaics lay unprotected, for visitors to walk on.  It was astounding.

What is one of the world’s best preserved hippodrome ruins is found at Tyre, many of the arches and columns which once surrounded the field still stand; as well as a few parts of the stands.

One particular part of the stands are still perfect, rising approximately 20 metres tall, in pure white rock steps, topped with exquisite columns. Here aswell, no-one regulates visitors, so we were able to carefully climb the steps and sit, as the Romans did so long ago, and imagine the races that would have taken place on the round grounds.

I could go on about how beautiful the ruins were, but what left us most speechless was the fact that these ancient ruins lie, totally ignored, among the houses of Tyre, and visitors willing to pay a nominal fee can wander freely through the ruins!

Walking round town, we found 2 further sites – one of which we wandered into without even needing a ticket. The gates were left open, to the ruins of an old temple, old Roman town (houses intact), and whole streets of marble columns still standing.  It’s truly breathtaking.

We stopped at the old port of Tyre for a lunch of a whitebait-esque mini fish, overlooking the port which is partly flooded from the storm.

After a walk through the souks back to our hotel, we headed off for Sidon ( aka Saida).

Arriving in Saida, we checked into our hotel, to find a semi-shut, freezing building with no amenities, and an inordinately unfriendly receptionist – yet another of the small grouping of Lebanese men who have looked through me like I, as a woman, don’t exist, or worse, do exist as a form of particularly disgusting scum.

Having found out that, no, there’s no internet so we can’t work, and no, they’re not opening the restaurant tonight, and that yes, the only place to eat in town is that tent on the street serving kebabs, we asked: “Can we buy a beer anywhere?”

No, nowhere in Saida.

5 minutes later, we were back in the car to Beirut, for a good night’s rest in a warm hotel, a nice meal, and people who are positively happy to see tourists (even of the female variety) in their town.

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