About 80 kilometers south of Beirut, Tyre (Sur) is the fourth largest, most southerly city and.one of the most excavated sites in Lebanon, with an enormous wealth of archeological treasures. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and includes two huge parks of ancient ruins, Al-Mina and Al-Bass, as well as a coastal nature preserve for migratory birds and endangered sea turtles. The Ras al-Ain spring six kilometers to the south of has been providing fresh water to the city for thousands of years, and was once tapped for the Roman aqueducts that stretched all the way back to the metropolis.
The old town features a souk and a Christian quarter, and on a side street next to the old souk is the Mamluk House, an Ottoman-era residence that is being restored as a cultural heritage and information center by the General Directorate of Antiquities.
The Phoenician city of Tyre was founded at the outset of the 3rd millennium BC. It originally consisted of the mainland settlement and a few islands that lay offshore and enjoyed its golden age only during the first millennium BC.
Phoenician Tyre broadened its horizons when its traders sailed around the Mediterranean Sea and reached the Atlantic Ocean. They built trade centers and colonies like Carthage (around 814 BC). Tyrian traders brought the Phoenician alphabet to Greece, and the Greeks mention the name of Cadmus, the son of the king of Tyre, in their writings as he taught them the Alphabet. Europe, as it happens, was the name of Cadmus’s sister.
Famous for its industry of purple-dyed textiles, Tyre attracted the great conquerors in ancient times, among them the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great. The Persians, Romans, Fatimids, Abbasids, Crusaders, Mamluks, and the Ottomans all left their mark on the city.
Tyre fell under Roman rule for three centuries like all other Phoenician cities, but such was its prominence under them that it minted its own coins and built edifices and installations, including aqueducts, a triumphal arch and the largest hippodrome in antiquity. Christianity came to Tyre early, and the city is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. Shakespeare would later write (or at least coauthor) Pericles, Prince of Tyre, the action of which passes through Tyre as the prince flees the King of Antioch.
Beyond Sidon southward, a new highway leads to the Litani River then an old road leads to Tyre. It is 80 kilometers from Beirut.