Tyre (Lebanon)
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Tyre Lebanon
Tyre


Tyr

Sour (Lebanese French)
City
Submerged ancient columns with the skyline of the modern city in the background.
Submerged ancient columns with the skyline of the modern city in the background.
Tyre is located in Lebanon
Tyre
Tyre
Coordinates: 33°16?15?N 35°11?46?E / 33.27083°N 35.19611°E / 33.27083; 35.19611Coordinates: 33°16?15?N 35°11?46?E / 33.27083°N 35.19611°E / 33.27083; 35.19611
Country Lebanon
GovernorateSouth
DistrictTyre
Established2750 BCE
Area
 o City4 km2 (2 sq mi)
 o Metro
17 km2 (7 sq mi)
Population
 o City60,000
 o Metro
174,000
Demonym(s)Tyrian
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
 o Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)
TypeCultural
Criteriaiii, vi
Designated1984 (8th session)
Reference no.299
State Party Lebanon

Tyre (Arabic: r), is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, though in medieval times for some centuries by just a tiny population. It was one of the earliest Phoenician metropolises and the legendary birthplace of Europa, her brothers Cadmus and Phoenix, as well as Carthage's founder Dido (Elissa). The city has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome, which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.[1][2]

Today Tyre is the fifth largest city in Lebanon after Beirut, Tripoli, Aley and Sidon,[3] It is a district capital in the South Governorate. There were approximately 200,000 inhabitants in the Tyre urban area in 2016, including many refugees.[4]

The French historian Ernest Renan in 1860 remarked:

"One can call Tyre a city of ruins, built out of ruins".[5][6]

Territory

Peninsula panorama, 2019
The Western tip of the peninsula

Tyre juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is located about 80 km (50 mi) south of Beirut.

Tyre on Jupiter's Europa moon, photo by the Galileo spacecraft

It originally consisted of two distinct urban centres: Tyre itself, which was on an island just off shore, and the associated settlement of Ushu on the adjacent mainland, later called Palaetyrus, meaning "Old Tyre" in Ancient Greek.[7]

The orbit of 209 Dido

The present city of Tyre covers a large part of the original island and has expanded onto and covers most of the causeway built by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. This isthmus increased greatly in width over the centuries because of extensive silt depositions on either side. The part of the original island not covered by the modern city of Tyre is mostly of an archaeological site showcasing remains of the city from ancient times.

The neighbouring villages of Burj El Shimali to the East and the refugee camp of Rashidie on the Southern shore are not officially part of Tyre city, but have in fact merged to one urban Greater Tyre over the past decades.[8]

A multi-ring structured region on Europa, the smallest of the four Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter, is called "Tyre". The asteroid 209 Dido is named after the legendary Tyrian-Carthaginian princess.

Etymology

Early names of Tyre include Akkadian ?urru, Phoenician r (‎), and Hebrew Tzór (?‎).[9] In Semitic languages, the name of the city means "rock"[10] after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built. The official name in modern Arabic is r (‎).

The predominant form in Classical Greek was Týros (), which was first seen in the works of Herotodus but may have been adopted considerably earlier.[9] It gave rise to Latin Tyrus, which entered English during the Middle English period as Tyre.[11] The demonym for Tyre is Tyrian, and the inhabitants are Tyrians.

History

Founding

"The Abduction of Europa" by Rembrandt
Bust of Melqart at the National Museum of Denmark

Herodotus, who visited Tyre around 450 BCE, wrote that according to the priests there the city was founded around 2750 BCE[12] as a walled place upon the mainland,[13] now known as Paleotyre (Old Tyre). Archaeological evidence has corroborated this timing. Excavations have also found that there had already been some settlements around 2900 BCE,[12] but that they were abandoned.[14]

The Roman historian Justin wrote that the original founders arrived from the nearby Northern city of Sidon / Saida in the quest to establish a new harbour.[14][15]

According to the Greek historian Eusebius, the common myth was that the deity Melqart built the city as a favour to the mermaid Tyros and named it after her.[16] Melqart was called Melqart Heracles in Greek, but is not to be confused with the demigod Heracles (Hercules), hero of the 12 labors.[5]

In Greek mythology, Zeus, the ruler of the gods, took the form of a bull in order to abduct the Tyrian princess Europa to Crete. There the couple had three sons - Minos,.Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon, whom became kings of Crete and after their deaths the judges of the Underworld. The continent Europe is named after her.

Some sources go on to say that her brothers Cadmus and Cilix went to search for her, in vain. Instead, Cadmus became the founder and king of the Greek city of Thebes, who also introduced the Phoenician alphabet to the Hellenic world. Cilix fell in love during the quest and gave his name to Cilicia in Asia Minor. Their supposed third brother Phoenix became the eponym of Phoenicia.[17] In this way the Ancient Greek culture expressed its appreciation of the influence that the Phoenician civilisation had on their own.[5]

"Third and second millenia BC strata from Tyre [..] are buried so deeply under debris of later periods that its early history is somewhat obscure."[18]

The first half of the second Millennium BCE in the Eastern Mediterranean was largely "a time of peaceful trade and Tyre probably shared in the commercial activity."[18]

Egyptian period (1700-1200 BCE)

Stele of Pharaoh Ramesses II found in Tyre, on display at the National Museum of Beirut
Head of an Egyptian sphinx, 20th c. BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Possibly from Tyre"

In the 17th century BCE, the settlement came under the supremacy of the Egyptian pharaohs. In the subsequent years it started benefitting from the protection by Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty and prospered commercially.[15]

Archaeological evidence indicates that Tyre had already by the middle of the second millennium BCE established the industrial production of a rare and extraordinarily expensive sort of purple dye,[18] which was famous for its beauty and lightfast qualities.[19] It was exploited from the Murex trunculus and Murex brandaris shellfishes, known as Tyrian purple. The colour was, in ancient cultures, reserved for the use of royalty or at least the nobility:[20]

"Tyrians brought their methods in the purple dye industry near to perfection. Their excellent technique of extraction and blending of dyes is the reason why Tyrian purple was so esteemed in the ancient world."[19]

Murex at Tyre's Murex Hotel, 2019
Clay letter from Abi-milku to Akenaten (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

And:

"The Tyrians were extremely discreet about their industry to ensure absolute monopoly."[16]

"The discovery of Purple" - painting by Peter Paul Rubens around 1636 CE

In fact, the very word "Phoenician" is a Greek designation meaning "red" or "purple".[21] However, the ancient author Strabo, who visited Tyre himself, recorded that the dye industry polluted the air so much that its stench made his stay in the city very unpleasant.[19] According to some experts, some 8.000 Murex had to be crushed in order to extract one gram of the dye.[16]

The first clear accounts of the city are given by the ten Amarna letters dated 1350 BCE from the mayor, Abimilku, written to Akenaten. The subject is often water, wood and the Habiru overtaking the countryside of the mainland and how that affected the island-city.[12] Eventually, Egyptian forces defeated a Hittite army that besieged Tyre.[5]

While the city was originally called Melqart after the city-god, the name Tyre appears on monuments as early as 1300 BCE. Philo of Byblos (in Eusebius) quotes the antiquarian authority Sanchuniathon as stating that it was first occupied by Hypsuranius. Sanchuniathon's work is said to be dedicated to "Abibalus king of Berytus"—possibly the Abibaal,[22] who became the Phoenician king of Tyre towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE.[15]

According to some sources, Tyrian sailors ventured to the British Isles and purchased tin there in order to produce bronze for arms and artefacts as early as in the 13th century BCE.[23][24]

In the 12th century BCE, Egypt's pharaohs gradually lost control over the Eastern Mediterranean.[14]

Independent Phoenician period (1200-868 BCE)

Rectangular theatre at Al Mina from the 4th century BCE, in a place that had apparently served as a public meeting place since the 8th century BCE.[25]
Figurine of a breastfeeding woman and baby from Tyre, Iron Age II, National Museum of Beirut

During the 11th century BCE the Phoenician city-states began a commercial expansion, benefiting from the elimination of the former trade centers in Ugarit and Alalakh.[26] The Empire of Tyre relied mainly on trade as well as cultural exchange, rather than on military conquest. Most prominently, the Tyrian civilisation has been widely credited for spreading its alphabet and a Vigesimal numerical system.[24]

Stela from the Phoenician necropolis of Tyre, National Museum of Beirut

A decisive factor in this global rise were the extraordinary skills which the scholars of Tyre developed in the field of astronomy to navigate their ships.[27] As the space on the island city was limited, the inhabitants were forced to construct multi-storey buildings. They thus acquired a reputation for being great masons and engineers, also in metalworks and especially in shipbuilding.[5]

"The city government was organized as follows: the king was chosen among the royal families and reigned for life. He was backed by a council of the elders (or magistrates,) and their decisions were controlled by the great merchant families."[5]

Figurines of Musicians from Tyre, Iron Age II, National Museum of Beirut

Hiram I, Abibaal's son, ascended the throne in 969 BCE and led the city-state to a new level of prosperity. Locally, Hiram expanded the urban territory by projects to connect the main island with a number of small rocky islands. Beyond the borders of his kingdom, he forged particularly close relations with the Hebrew kings David and Solomon. Reportedly, Hiram sent cedar wood and skilled workers who helped in the construction of the great Temple in Jerusalem.[26]


Hiram's regional cooperation as well as his fight against Philistine pirates [5] helped to develop trade with Arabia, and North and East Africa and "such was Hiram's success that the Mediterranean Sea became known as 'the Tyrian Sea".[15]

PhoenicianTerracottaMaleFigurineHeads Tyre IronAge NationalMuseumOfBeirut RomanDeckert06102019.jpg
Female figurines (above) and male heads (below) from Tyre, National Museum of Beirut

Commerce from throughout ancient world was gathered into the warehouses of Tyre, which thanks to its fortifications offered protection for valuable goods in storage or transit:

Tyrian merchants were the first who ventured to navigate the Mediterranean waters; and they founded their colonies on the coasts and neighbouring islands of the Aegean Sea, in Greece, on the northern coast of Africa, at Carthage and other places, in Sicily and Corsica, in Spain at Tartessus and even beyond the pillars of Hercules at Gadeira (Cádiz).[28]

The collection of maritime merchant-republic city-states constituting Phoenicia came to be characterized by outsiders and the Phoenicians as Sidonia or Tyria. Phoenicians and Canaanites alike were called Sidonians or Tyrians, as one Phoenician city came to prominence after another.

Phoenicians from Tyre settled in houses around Memphis in Egypt, south of the temple of Hephaestus in a district called the Tyrian Camp.[29]

After Hiram's reign of 34 years, Tyre was rocked by bloody succession fights, as several kings were assassinated.[5]


Assyrian period (868-612 BCE)

Funerary mask made from terracotta found in Tyre, 7th century BCE, National Museum of Beirut
Figurine of a deity from Tyre, 7th c. BCE, National Museum of Beirut

In the course of the 9th century BCE, the city remained close to the Israelites, as evident through the marriage of Jezebel from a royal Tyrian family with Ahab, King of Israel.[18] However, Tyre started paying tribute to the Assyrians[15] who gradually established sovereignty over Phoenicia. It seems though that Tyre only made a nominal subjection and kept a large degree of independence.[26] Thus, Tyre remained one of the more powerful cities in the Levant. One of its kings, the priest Ithobaal I (887-856 BCE), ruled as far north as Beirut, and part of Cyprus.[30]

According to the myth, the Northern African city of Carthage (Qart-Hada?t = "New City") was founded in 814 BCE by Tyre's Princess Elissa, commonly known as Dido ("the wanderer"), who escaped after a power struggle with her brother Pygmalion with a fleet of ships.[15] She has also widely been credited as a pioneer mathematician in planimetrics: Legend has it that she purchased a large piece of land from the local Numid ruler, who granted her the size of land that an oxhide could cover, by having it cut into thin threads,[24]

In the course of the 8th century BCE, the Assyrian kings attempted to increase their sovereignty over Tyre.[5] Hence, the city was besieged by Shalmaneser V with support from Phoenicians of the mainland from around 725 to 720 BCE, but was not taken.[31] Cyprus - on the other hand - liberated itself from Tyrian domination in 709 BCE.[27]

In the 7th century BCE, Tyre and the other Phoenician city-states not only enjoyed considerable independence, while the Assyrian empire crumbled, but also a booming of trade activities.[18]

Babylonian period (612-539 BCE)

After the fall of the Assyrians in 612 BCE, Tyre was controlled by the Neo-Babylonians until 586 BCE, when it rebelled in an alliance with Egypt, the kingdoms of Judah, Edom, and Moab as well as other Phoenician cities.[18] In reaction, Nebuchadnezzar II started a siege that went on for thirteen years and failed.[15] However, the city instead agreed to pay a tribute.[31]

Due to the long siege, Tyre had suffered economically, as its commercial activities were greatly damaged by the instability. Numismatic sources suggest that as a consequence Tyre lost grounds in its traditional rivalry with neighbouring Sidon, which gained the upper hand.[32]

Persian period (539-332 BCE)

Sarcophagus known as "Hiram's Tomb", but dated to Persian period[33]
Seated woman with tiara, uncovered at Tyre, 6th c. BCE, Louvre Museum

The Achaemenid Empire of the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered the city in 539 B.C.[34] The Persians divided Phoenicia into four vassal kingdoms: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos. They prospered, furnishing fleets for Persian kings. However, when Cambyses II organised a war campaign against Carthage, Tyre refused to sail against its daughter city.[32] Under Persian sovereignty, Tyre - like the other Phoenician city states - was at first allowed to keep its own kings,[18] but eventually the old system of royal families was abolished:

"a republic was instituted [..]: it was the government of the suffetes (judges), who remained in power for short mandates of 6 years."[5]

Silver coin minted in Tyre c. 437-425 BCE, with a dolphin and a murex (left)
Stela from Tyre with Phoenician inscriptions, 4th c. BCE, National Museum of Beirut

Tyre's economy continued to rely largely on the production of purple dye from Murex shellfish, which appeared on a silver coin of Tyre around 450-400 BCE,[19] when the city started minting its own currency. Other motives on coins included dolphins.[18]

Herodotus visited Tyre around 450 BCE and wrote about the shrine of Melqart:

"I visited the temple, and found it richly adorned with a number of offerings, among which were two pillars, one of pure gold, the other of emerald, shining with great brilliancy at night"[35]

Tyrian coin, c. 347-346 BCE, with Melqart riding on a maritime horse

The unusual reference to a pillar made of emerald shining at night led historians to speculate that it may have been made of glass and lit up with a lamp.[5]

According to Roman historian Justin, an insurrection of slaves took place during the Persian period, which spared only the life of one slave-master named Straton - who was then selected by the former slaves to be the new king and established a dynasty.[32]

In 392 BCE Evagoras, Prince of Cyprus, started a revolt against the Persian rule with Athenian and Egyptian support. His forces took Tyre by assault - or by secret consent of the Tyrians. However, after ten years he terminated the rebellion and Tyre once again came under Persian control. It abstained from Sidon's insurgency in 352 BCE and profited commercially from the subsequent destruction of the neighbouring city.[32]

Hellenistic period (332-126 BCE)

A naval action during the siege of Tyre (332 BCE). Drawing by André Castaigne, 1888-89.
Illustration of Alexander's siege by Frank Martini, United States Military Academy

After his decicive victory over the Persian king Darius III in 333 BCE and the conquest of Persia, Alexander the Great moved his armies south, exacting tribute from all of coastal Phoenicia's city-states. Tired of Persian repressions, they mostly welcomed the new ruler, yet Tyre resisted his ambitions:[21] Tyre's king Azemilcus was at sea with the Persian fleet, when Alexander arrived in 332 BCE at the gates and proposed to sacrifice to Heracles in the city, which was home to the most ancient temple of Heracles. However, the Tyrian government refused this and instead suggested that Alexander sacrifice at another temple of Heracles on the mainland at Old Tyre.[36]

Hellenistic figurines excavated in Tyre from the collections of the National Museum of Beirut on display at Beirut Intl. Airport, 2019

Angered by this rejection and the city's loyalty to Darius, Alexander started the Siege of Tyre despite its reputation as being impregnable.[15] However, the Macedonian conqueror succeeded after seven months by demolishing the old city on the mainland and using its stones to construct a causeway to the island.[7][37][16][34][38]

The tallest siege towers ever used in the history of war were moved via this man-made land bridge to overcome the walls of the city, which was running low on supplies. As Alexander's forces moved forward towards linking the fortified island with the mainland, the Tyrians evacuated their old men, women, and children to Carthage.[36] According to some historical sources, fellow Phoenician sailors from Sidon and Byblos, who had been forcefully recruited by Alexander, secretly helped many Tyrians to escape.[5]

Fibula in the shape of a marine horse from Tyre, estimated 4th to 1st c. BCE, on display at the Louvre
Bearer of a duck offering uncovered in Tyre area, exhibited at Beirut Airport

Altogether some eight thousand Tyrians were killed during the siege, while Alexander's troops suffered only about four hundred casualties. After Alexander's victory he granted pardon to King Azemilcus and the chief magistrates. Yet according to Arrian, approximately 30,000 citizens of Tyre were sold into slavery.[36]

Alexander's legacy still lives on today, since Tyre has remained a peninsula instead of an island ever since.[15][16]

After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, his empire was divided and Phoenicia given to Laomedon of Mytilene. Ptolemy of Egypt soon annexed the region to his territory, but held only for a few years.[36]

Hellenistic theatre mask from Tyre, National Museum of Beirut

In 315 BCE, Alexander's former general Antigonus began his own siege of Tyre.[39] The city had recovered rapidly after Alexander's conquest,[36] but was still taken a year later.[40] Antigonus' son Demetrius ruled Phoenicia until 287 BCE, when it once again passed over to Ptolemy. It remained under the control of his successors for almost seventy years, until the Seleucids under Antiochus III invaded Phoenicia in 198 BCE.[36]

Silver didrachme minted in Tyre, c. 142-141 BCE depicting Demetrios II

Despite those renewed devastations, Tyre regained its standing under Alexander's successors and as a privilege continued to mint its own silver coins.[41] While some of the trade in the Eastern Mediterranean diverted to Alexandria,[36] Tyre profited from the developing Silk Road.[24]

"Tyre rapidly became Hellenized. Festivals in the Greek manner with offering of sacrifices, gymnastic contests, pageants and processions became part of the life of Tyre."[36]

Some Arabian authors claim that Tyre was the birth-place of Euclid, the "Father of Geometry" (c. 325 B.C.). Other famous scholars from Tyre during the Hellenistic period included the philosophers Diodorus of Tyre, Antipater of Tyre, and Apollonius of Tyre.[24]

In 275 BCE, Tyre abandoned the concept of monarchy and instead became a republic.[27]

The killing of Demetrius II, French illustration from about 1413-1415 CE

During the Punic Wars, Tyre sympathised with its former colony Carthage. Therefore, in 195 BCE, Hannibal, after his defeat by the Romans, escaped by ship to Tyre before moving on to Antioch.[36]


Independence from Seleucid Empire (126-64 BCE)

A half-shekel from Tyre, c. 102 BCE, depiciting Melqart

In 126 BCE, Tyre regained its independence from the fading Seleucid Empire.[42] One year later, the toppled Seleucid King Demetrius II Nicator fled to Tyre:

"Defeated and deserted by his wife and children, the king left Syria, taking a boat to Tyre. He planned to devote himself to the service of the god Hercules, who had a temple there. He arrived safely at the port, but the prefect of Tyre had him killed as he left his ship."[43]

Also still in 125 BCE, Tyre adopted its own lunar-solar-hybrid calendar, which was used for 150 years.[24]

Roman period (64 BCE - 395 CE)

Panorama of "Al Mina" (City Site)
"Ain Sur": the spring of Tyre where Jesus reportedly drank water

When the area of "Syria" became a province of the Roman Empire in 64 BCE,[44] Tyre was allowed to keep much of its independence, as a "civitas foederata",[45] A decree found at Tyre implies that Marcus Aemilius Scaurus - Pompey's deputy in Syria - played the key role in granting Tyre the privileged status of remaining a free city. Scaurus did apparently so "against a certain payment".[46]

Tyre continued to maintain much of its commercial importance. Apart from purple dye, the production of linen became a main industry in the city[46] as well as garum fish sauce, "comparable to caviar in our days".[47]

The Hippodrome, 2009

Its geographical location made Tyre the "natural" port of Damascus, to which it was linked through a road during the Roman period,[48] and an important meeting point of the Silk Road.[24] Thus the Tyrians extended their areas of hegemony over the adjoining regions, such as in northern Palestine region, settling in cities such as Kedesh,[49]Mount Carmel[50] and north of Baca.[51]

The Triumphal Arch (reconstructed)

It is stated in the New Testament that Jesus visited the region of Tyre. Some sources tell that he drank water with John sitting on a rock by the spring of Ain Sur (Source of Tyre), which is also known as Ain Hiram, named after the Phoenician king.[25] According to the bible, Jesus healed a Gentile (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24) and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mark 3:8; Gospel of Luke 6:17, Matthew 11:21-23). Apparently, some of those who followed him hailed from Tyre.[46]

Bronze coin minted in Tyre during Hadrian's reign, with the head of Tyche (left) wearing a crown of towers and Phoenician goddess Astarte (right)

A Christian congregation was founded in Tyre soon after the death of St. Stephen. Paul the Apostle, on his return from his third missionary journey, spent a week in conversation with the disciples there.[46] According to Irenaeus of Lyon in On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, the female companion of Simon Magus came from here.

"UNDER ARMOUR": Marble statue of Hadrian from Tyre at the National Museum of Beirut

In the early second century CE, Emperor Hadrian, who visited the cities of the East around 130 CE, conferred the title of Metropolis on Tyre: "great city" mother of other cities. This status was of "utmost importance",[52] as it settled the ancient rivalry with Sidon in Tyre's favour - for the time being.[46] According to the Suda encyclopedia, the orator Paulus of Tyre, who served as an ambassador to the Imperial court in Rome, played the main role in securing this prestigious title.[52] Hadrian also allowed Tyre to mint its own coins.[5]

Marble bust of Septimius Severus from Tyre, National Museum of Beirut

Subsequently, the famous "Arch of Hadrian" and one of the largest hippodromes in the world (480m long and 160m wide) were constructed.[53] The amphitheater for the horse-racetrack could host some 30.000 spectators. An aqueduct of about 5 km length was built to supply the city with water from the Ras Al Ain basins in the South.[16]

In the middle of the second century, the cartographer Marinus of Tyre became the founder of mathematical geography, paving the way for Claudius Ptolemy's Geography. Other famous scholars from Roman Tyre include the pre-eminent jurist Ulpian, as well as the philosophers Maximus of Tyre, who was one of the tutors of emperor Marcus Aurelius,[5] and Porphyry of Tyre.[24]

When in 193 CE Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger competed against each other for the throne of Rome, Tyre sided with Severus, who was born in Tyre's former colony Leptis Magna.[54] Niger's troops in retaliation looted Tyre and killed many of its inhabitants. Yet after the defeat of his rival, Severus rewarded Tyre's loyalty with the status of a Colony, which enabled the city to regain some of its wealth[46] as it granted Tyrians Roman citizenship, with the same rights as Romans themselves.[5] In 198 CE Tyre became the capital of the province Syria Phoenice.[27]

Relic of Saint Christina in the Maronite Cathedral of Tyre
Bronze coin minted in Tyre depicting the head of Septimius Severus (left)

During the third century CE the Heraclia games - dedicated to Melqart-Heracles (not to be confused with the demigod Heracles, hero of the 12 labors)[5] - were held in the Tyrian hippodrome every four years.[46]

Faced with the growth of Christianity in the third century, the Roman authorities supported paganism and encouraged the practise of Tyre's ancient cults, especially the worshipping of Melqart. When Emperor Decius ordered a general prosecution of Christians in 250-251 CE, followers of Jesus in Tyre suffered as well. According to the ancient bishop and historian Eusebius, the Christian scholar Origen died in Tyre around 253 CE due to injuries from torture.[46]

Lead coffin from Tyre area, 3rd-4th c. , Musée d'art et d'histoire in Geneva
Roman relief at the Al Mina site

In the wake of the Diocletianic Persecution as the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, followers of Jesus in Tyre were harshly affected as well. According to religious accounts, one of the most prominent martyrs was Saint Christina, the daughter of the city's governor, who was executed around 300 CE, after her own father had her tortured. In 304 CE, some 500 Christians were reportedly persecuted, tortured and killed in Tyre.[55]

Relief on a sarcophagus in Al Bass

However, less than a decade later "the young, and very rich" Bishop Paulinus had a basilica constructed upon the ruins of a demolished church,[56] which in turn had probably been built upon the ruins of the ancient Temple of Melqart. Reportedly, Origen was buried behind the altar. In 315 CE, just two years after the Edict of Milan about the benevolent treatment of Christians, the Cathedral was inaugurated by Bishop Eusebius, who recorded his speech and thus a detailed account of the site in his writings. Not only is this considered the oldest description of s church, but:

"The Cathedral of Paulinus is considered the oldest in Church History".[16]

Subsequently, Tyre became caput et metropolis, "head and capital" of the churches of the region.[5]

Saint Frumentius - who was born around that time in Tyre - became the first bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, after he and his brother Edesius had accompanied an uncle on a voyage to the Red Sea and ended up shipwrecked on the Eritrean coast. While Edesius returned to Tyre to become a priest, Frumentius has been widely credited with bringing Christianity to the Kingdom of Aksum.[5]


Byzantine period (395-640)

Al Mina Site, probably Byzantine
From the Necropolis, 440 CE: "possibly the oldest fresco of the Virgin Mary worldwide."[57] (National Museum)

In 395 Tyre became part of the Byzantine Empire and continued to flourishing. Not only its traditional glass and purple-dyeing industries allowed the city to prosper during this period:[15] as Tyre was stayed in a strategic position of the Silk Road,[24] it also profited from establishing a silk production after its secret procedures had been smuggled out of China.[5]

The necropolis on mainland Tyre with more than three hundred sarcophagi from the Roman and Byzantine periods thus grew to be one of the largest in the world. A main road of some 400m length and 4,5m width paved with limestone was constructed there during the Byzantine times.[16] Close by, two churches with marble decorations were built in the 5th and early 6th century CE respectively, when construction in ancient Tyre reached its zenith.[58]

Marble plate from Tyre, Byzantine Period, National Museum of Beirut

During the entire period of Byzantine rule, the archbishopric of Tyre had primacy over all the bishops of the Levant. Yet, while Christianity was the main religion, some people reportedly continued to worship the Phoenician deities, especially Melqart.[5]

5th-6th c. limestone from Tyre area

Over the course of the 6th century CE, a series of earthquakes shattered the city and left it diminished. The worst one was the 551 Beirut earthquake[5] which destroyed the Great Triumphal Arch on the mainland.[41] On the Southern part of the peninsula, the Egyptian harbour and parts of the suburb were submerged in the sea.[58]

In addition, the city and its population suffered during the 6th century increasingly from the political chaos that ensued when the Byzantine empire was torn apart by wars.[5]

The city remained under Byzantine control until it was captured by the Sassanian shah Khosrow II at the turn from the 6th to the 7th century CE, and then briefly regained until the Muslim conquest of the Levant, when in 640 it was taken by the Arab forces of the Rashidun Caliphate.[24]

Early Muslim period (640-1124)

Remains of the Fatimid Mosque: water basin and circuits for ablutions
7th-8th c., National Museum Beirut

As the bearers of Islam restored peace and order, Tyre soon began to prosper again and continued to do so during half a millennium of Caliphate rule[41] This was despite the fact that the city stayed reduced to a part of the old island after the devastations of the earthquakes in the 6th century CE.[58]

In the late 640s, the caliph's governor Muawiyah launched his naval invasions of Cyprus from Tyre,[15] but the Rashidun period only lasted until 661.[24] It was followed by the Umayyad Caliphate (until 750) and the Abbasid Caliphate. Tyre became a cultural center of the Arab world which hosted many well-know scholars and artists.[24] In the course of the centuries, Islam spread and Arabic became the language of administration instead of Greek,[24][21] though some people reportedly still continued to follow the ancient religion of Melqart.[5]

Terracotta cup, 9th-10th c., National Museum of Beirut
Fatimid dinar minted in Tyre, 1118

During the Ismaili Shia Fatimid Caliphate, a Grand Mosque was constructed[25] in the place that probably had been the location of the Temple of Melqart before.[16]

Meanwhile, Tyre's economy remained part of the Silk Road.[24] In addition to its traditional industries of purple dye and glass production, sugar production from cane fields around the city became another main business.[5]

In the Revolt of Tyre (996-998), the populace rose against Fatimid rule, led by an ordinary sailor named 'Allaqa. However, the caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah sent his army and navy to blockade and retake the city. A Byzantine squadron's attempt to reinforce the defenders was repulsed with heavy losses. After two years of siege, the Fatimids looted the city and massacred the insurgents.[59]

In 1086 it fell into the hands of the Seljuks who lost it in 1089 to the Fatimids. By that time, some estimates put the number of inhabitants at around 20,000.[60] The majority of that population were apparently Shiites.[61]

Ten years later, Tyre avoided being attacked by paying tribute to the Crusaders who marched on Jerusalem. In 1111, King Baldwin I of Jerusalem laid siege on the city for almost five months,[62] but retreated after some 2.000 of his troops had been killed.[15]


Crusader period (1124-1291)

CrusaderCathedral TyreSourLebanon RomanDeckert07112019.jpg
Crusader Cathedral ruins site, 2019
1874 illustration of the crowning cathedral
Terracotta cup from Tyre, Crusader period, National Museum of Beirut

On July 7 of 1124, in the aftermath of the First Crusade, Tyre was the last city to be eventually conquered by the Christian warriors - a Frankish army on the coast and a Venetian fleet from the sea side[62] - following a siege of five and a half months[15] that caused great suffering from hunger to the population.[62] However, the Seljuk military leader Toghtekin negotiated with the authorities of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem an agreement for surrender

"on condition that those citizens who wished to be allowed to depart freely with their wives and children and all their substance, while those who preferred to remain at Tyre should be granted permission to do so and their homes and possessions guaranteed them." [63]

JohannNepomukSepp MeerfahrNachTyros1879 TyreCrusaderCathedral-Exterior p241.jpg
1874 photo of the cathedral exterior (above) and interior (below)

Under its new rulers, Tyre was divided into three parts: two thirds to the royal domain of King Baldwin and one third as autonomous trading colonies for the Italian merchant cities: mainly to the Doge of Venice, who had a particular interest in supplying silica sands to the glassmakers of Venice.[5] In addition, there were a Genoese quarter,[60] and a Pisan neighbourhood.[62]

In 1127, Tyre was shaken by a heavy earthquake that caused many casualties, and more earthquakes followed in 1157 and 1170.[62]

1187 siege, 1474 illustration

Nevertheless, Tyre became one of the most important cities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, still being part of the Silk Road.[24] It kept booming with commercial activity, especially glassware by the Jewish community, Sendal silk cloth, purple dye,[64] and sugar factories.[62] The new rulers also continued to mint "Tyre Dinars" that imitated the Fatimid coins.[65] The city was the see of a Roman Catholic archbishopric, whose archbishop was a suffragan of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; its archbishops often acceded to the Patriarchate. The most notable of the Latin archbishops was the historian William of Tyre, who held the office from 1175 to 1184 while also being chancellor of the kingdom.[62]

Terracotta tile from Tyre, Crusader period, National Museum of Beirut

The Saint Mark Cathedral of Tyre was built upon on the ruins of the Fatimid Grand Mosque[25] - which in turn had probably been constructed upon or at least the near the ruins of the ancient Temple of Melqart.[16]

Wedding of Conrad and Isabelle of Jerusalem, 13th c. illustration

Despite this Christian domination, there was peaceful coexistence of religion: the Jewish community was estimated to number some 500 members,[60] and Muslims continued to follow Islam, most prominently Um Ali Taqiyya, "one of the first Tyrian women who excelled in poetry and literature".[24] There were reportedly even still followers of the ancient religion of Melqart.[5] Contemporary estimates put the number of residents at around 25,000.[60]

After the loss of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, many crusaders escaped to Tyre with its strong fortifications: "The refugee barons of Palestine were now crowded in the city." Saladin put on the Siege of Tyre twice but gave up on New Year's Day 1188. In the meantime, Frankish military and naval reinforcements had arrived, so that Conrad of Montferrat was able to organise an effective defense. Subsequently, Tyre's Cathedral became the traditional coronation place for the kings of Jerusalem and a venue for royal marriages.[62][16]

When the German Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, also known as Frederick Barbarossa, drowned in 1190 in Asia Minor while leading an army in the Third Crusade, his bones were reportedly buried in the cathedral of Tyre.[66]


After the reconquest of Acre by Richard I of England on July 12, 1191, the seat of the kingdom moved there.

On April 27 of 1192, Conrad of Montferrat - who had been elected as king of Jerusalem just days before - was assassinated at Tyre by members of the Order of Assassins.[62]

In 1202 and 1203 more earthquakes caused severe damages in Tyre.[62]

In 1210, John of Brienne and his wife Maria of Montferrat were crowned in Tyre to be King and Queen of Jerusalem.[67]

In 1247, Tyre Tyre was separated from the royal domain and became allotted to Philip of Montfort as the Lordship of Tyre. A decade later, Philip expelled the Venetians from the one third of the city that had been conceded to them in 1124.[64]

In May 1269, the Mamluk Sultan Baibars led an abortive raid upon Tyre after failed negotiations about a truce.[68] In September of that year, Hugh III of Cyprus was crowned King of Jerusalem in Tyre.[62]

A year later, Philip was killed by an Assassin, apparently in the employ of Baibars. The new Lord of Tyre became Philip's eldest son, John of Montfort. After his death in 1283 and the death of his brother Humphrey of Montfort in 1284, John's widow Margaret of Antioch-Lusignan - who was the sister of Hugh III - became the Lady of Tyre. Two years later she entered into a land control treaty with Baibars' successor Al-Mansur Qalawun.[68]

In 1291, Margaret ceded the Lordship of Tyre to her nephew Amalric of Lusignan and retired to the monastery of Our Lady of Tyre in Nicosia.

Mamluk period (1291-1516)

Terracotta cup from Tyre, 14th c., National Museum of Beirut
Terracotta cup, Mamluk period, National Museum of Beirut

In the same year of Dame Margaret's retirement - in 1291 - Tyre was again taken, this time by the Mamluk Sultanate's army of Al-Ashraf Khalil.[15] Reportedly, the whole population had evacuated the city by ship on the day that Acre as one of the last Crusader strongholds had fallen after two months of siege, so that the Mamluks found Tyre empty.[69]

The Sultan had all fortifications demolished in order to prevent the Franks from re-entrenching.[60] The Crusader cathedral, which had been damaged by an earthquake before, was destroyed by the conquerors as well.[66] The city was subsequently governed from Acre and thus became part of Palestine.[70]

The traditional pottery and glassware industry in Tyre continued its production of artful objects during the early Mamluk period.[21] However, the purple dye industry, which had been a major source of income for the city throughout its previous history, did not get started again, since new dyes like Turkey red were cheaper.[19]

Illustration of the ruins of Tyre in the 17th century by Cornelis De Bruyn

Subsequently, Tyre - "the London"[69] or "New York"[23] of the Old World - lost its importance and "sank into obsurity." When the Moroccan explorer Ibn Batutah visited Tyre in 1355, he found it a mass of ruins.[71] Many stones were taken to neighbouring cities like Sidon, Acre, Beirut, and Jaffa[69] as building materials.[12] In 1610, the English traveller George Sandys noted about his visit to Tyre:

"This once famous Tyre is now no other than a heap of ruins; yet have they a reverent respect: and do instruct the pensive beholder with their exemplary frailty."[69]

Ottoman period (1516-1918)

Maan clan rule

The upper gallery of the Maan palace (2019)
The former Maan palace (2019)

The Ottoman Empire conquered the region in 1516-17,[15] yet Tyre remained untouched for another ninety years until the beginning of the 17th century, when the Ottoman Sublime Porte appointed the Druze leader Fakhreddine II of the Maan family as Emir to administer Jebel Amil (modern-day South Lebanon) and Galilee in addition to the districts of Beirut and Sidon.[72]

One of his projects in Tyre was the construction of a residence for his brother, Prince Younis Al-Maani. Its foundations were evidently built upon ruins from the Crusader period. The ruins of the palace are still standing in the centre of today's Souk marketplace area and are known as Khan Abdo El-Ashqar[73], or Khan Al-Askar [25][74] as well as Khan Sour.

Fakhreddine also encouraged Shiites and Christians to settle to the East of Tyre in order to secure the road to Damascus. He thus laid the foundation of modern Tyre demographics as many of those settlers - or their descendants respectively - later moved to the town.[61]

At the core of Fakhreddine's plans to develop the city was a cooperation with Florence to rebuild the harbour for naval support, since the Emir had spent temporary self-exile in Tuscany and developed close relations with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany of the House of Medici. In addition, he entertained poitical relations with France: after a diplomatic mission sent by King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu [75] the Maani palace in Tyre "became the property of the Franciscan fathers."[25]

However, all those development efforts came to a halt when the Ottoman rulers had Fakhreddine executed in 1635 for his political ambitions.[76]

Rise & rivalry of the feudal Zu'ama

The tombstone of Nassar
The tomb of Nassar on a hill of Maachouk neighbourhood, 2019

In the following decades, Ali al-Saghir - a leader of the discriminated Metwali, the Shia Muslims of what is now Lebanon - established a dynasty[77] that dominated the area of Jebel Amil until the mid-twentieth century.[72] The scions of its al-As'ad clan have continued to play a political role into the 21st century, though of lately a rather peripheral one.[78]

In 1697 the English scholar Henry Maundrell visited Tyre and found only a "few" inhabitants, who mainly subsisted upon fishing.[48] Their situation was made even worse by Tuscan, Maltese and Monégasque pirates, who would sometimes raid the Tyrian coast, as well as by heavy taxation. The hinterland of Tyre "was generally seen as a lawless country where criminals would flee to seek refuge with the Shiites."[77]

Greek Catholic St. Thomas Cathedral with the Franciscan church of the Holy Land in the back

Under these conditions, Tyre also became - at least nominally - the center of the schism within the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch:[79] its archbishop of Tyre and Sidon - Euthymios Saif - had been working on regaining communion with the Holy See in Rome at least since 1683. In 1701, by secret decree he was appointed by the Congretation Propaganda Fide to be the Apostolic Administrator of the Melkites.[80][81]

Burj Al Mobarakee (2018)

In 1724, one year after Saifi's death, his nephew and student Seraphim Tanas was elected as Patriarch Cyril VI of Antioch. He quickly affirmed the union with Rome and thereby the separation from the Greek Orthodox Church.[82] However, only a handful of Christian families actually lived in Tyre at the time. Church services were held in the ruins of Saint Thomas church near the remains of the Crusaders Cathedral.[62]

The Old Mosque (Sunna), with the Abdul Hussein Mosque (Shia), built in 1928, in the back left

Around 1750, Jebel Amel's ruler from the Shiite dynasty of al-Saghir (see above),[72]Sheikh Abbas Al-Mohamad Al-Nassar, initiated a number of construction projects in order to attract new inhabitants to the almost deserted town.[76] His representative in Tyre was the "tax-farmer and efective governor" Sheikh Kaplan Hasan. The main trade partners became French merchants, though both Hasan and Al-Nassar at times clashed with French authorities about the conditions of the commerce.[77]

KhanRabu-CeilingPaintingBoats TyreLebanon RomanDeckert21112019.jpg
Paintings on the faltering ceiling of Khan Rabu (2019)

Amongst Al-Nassar's projects was a marketplace.[73] While the former Palace of Emir Younes was turned into a military garrison,[73] Al-Nassar commissioned the Serail as his own headquarters at the Northern port. The military Al Mobarakee Tower from the Al-Nassar era is still well-preserved.[25][74]

The ruins of Khan Rabu with the Minaret of the Old Mosque (right) 2019

In 1752, construction of the Melkite cathedral of Saint Thomas was started thanks to donation from a rich merchant, George Mashakka - also spelled Jirjis Mishaqa[83] - in a place that had already housed a church during the Crusader period in the 12th century.[25] The silk[73] and tobacco trader had been persuaded by governor Nassar to move from Sidon to Tyre. Numerous Greek Catholic families followed him there. Mashakka also contributed greatly to the construction of a great mosque,[62] which was reportedly inaugurated around 1760 and is nowadays known as the Old Mosque.[73]

View of Khan Rabu ruins across the inner courtyard (2019)

However, in 1770 the resurgence of Tyre suffered a backlash when Nasser died. Eleven years later, his relative Nasif al-Nassar - the head of the al-Saghir clan and sheikh of Jebel Amil - was killed in a power-struggle with the Ottoman governor of Sidon, Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, and the Shiite autonomy in Jebel Amil ended for a quarter century.[72] Around the same time, another earthquake shattered the town as well.[23]

At the beginning of the 19th century though, another boom period set in: in 1810 a Caravanserai was constructed near the former palace of Emir Younes Maani and the marketplace area: Khan Rabu.[25] A Khan was "traditionally a large rectangular courtyard with a central fountain, surrounded by covered galleries".[84] Khan Rabu soon became an important commercial center.[25] A few years later, the former Maani Palace and military garrison was transformed into a Caravanserai Khan as well.[25][74]

In 1829, another Town of Tyre was formed: in the United States of America. Though it was not founded by Tyrian emigrants, an early settler - Jason Smith - was "presumably" inspired by ancient Tyre when he chose the name, according to the Town Historian in the northern Seneca County of the state of New York. The US town - like its Mediterranean namesake - features an aqueduct, a part of which still exists. [85] The historical Hiram Lay Cobblestone Farmhouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was apparently named after the Phoenician king of Tyre.


Egyptian Occupation (1831-1839)
"Port of Tyre" by David Roberts, in The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, and Nubia

In December 1831 Tyre fell under the rule of Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt, after an army led by his son Ibrahim Pasha had entered Jaffa and Haifa without resistance.[86]

Subsequently, a number of Egyptians settled in the city, which still today features a "Street of the Egyptians" in its old town.[76]

However, in 1839 Shiite forces in Jebel Amil under the leadership of Hamad al-Mahmud from the al-Saghir dynasty (see above) rebelled against the Egyptian occupation.[72] They were supported by the militaries of the British Empire and Austria-Hungary: Tyre was captured on September 24th following allied naval bombardments.[87]

Al-Mahmud and his supporters were rewarded by the Ottoman rulers with the restoration of Shiite autonomy in the area.[72]


French influence zone (from mid-19th c. on)
Greek-Orthodox St. Thomas
The harbour in 1874

In 1852, Jebel Amel's ruler Al-Mahmud was succeeded by his relative Ali al-As'ad.[72] However, Tyre was dominated by the Mamlouk family, whose head Jussuf Aga Ibn Mamluk was reportedly a son of the feared Jazzar Pasha, who had decimated the Shiite population in brutal purges (see above).[88]

Meanwhile, the Egyptian occupation had opened the door for European intervention in Ottoman affairs through various Lebanese communities. Thus France and allied Maronite leaders increased their influence across Lebanon from the mid-19th century onwards.[72] In this context, Tyre saw more of a renaissance of Christianity as well:

Sepp's team in the Cathedral ruins

In 1860, the Greek-Orthodox church of Saint Thomas was consecrated near the Greek-Catholic Saint Thomas Cathedral. Around the same time, the Latin-Catholic church of the Holy Land was established by the Franciscan order.[74][25]

Ruins of a military tower in 1874

In 1860, first archaeological excavations were commissioned by Emperor of the French Napoleon III and undertaken by Ernest Renan. After his departure irregular digging activities disturbed the historical sites.[12]

In 1865, ruler Ali al-As'ad died after a power struggle with his cousin Thamir al-Husain.[72]

"PALESTINE. Tyr." around 1878

In 1874, the Bavarian historian and politician Johann Nepomuk Sepp led a mission to Tyre to search for the bones of Frederick Barbarossa. The expedition had the approval of Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire, and openly pursued ambitions to establish a German colony. While Sepp and his team failed to discover Barbarossa's remains, they did excavate the ruins of the Crusader cathedral and took a number of archaeological findings to Berlin where they were exhibited.[66] For their excavations, Sepp and his team had some 120 people evicted, though with some compensation, with the support of local authorities.[88]

The Mamluk House: seen through the ruins of the Crusader Cathedral (above) and view from the main room over the balcony

According to Sepp, Tyre had some 5,000 inhabitants in 1874.[88] A traveller from the US, who visited Tyre around the same time put the number at maximum 4,000, about half of them Shiites and half Catholic Christians, with "a sprinkling of Protestants."[23] In 1882, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition founded a school at the Western sea side of the Christian quarter.

Between 1890 and 1900
A street in Tyre around 1900

Meanwhile, the 1858 Ottoman land reforms led to the accumulated ownership of large tracts of land by a few families. While the As'ad descendants of the Ali al-Saghir dynasty expanded their fief holdings in Jebel Amil, another power player rose to the rank of Zu'ama (feudal landlords) in Tyre:

The grain merchant al-Khalil family would go on to play a dominant role in the city for more than a century.[70] It was reportedly a branch of one of the main dynasties in Jebel Amil, the Zayn family in Nabatieh[89], and connected to another feudal clan, the Sidon-based Osseirans, by marriage[70]:

"According to one source, they were supported by the ulama in their climb to prominence in an effort to undermine the unpopular domincance of the Sunni al-Mamluk family of that city." [89]

Aerial view between 1900 and 1920
Tyre harbour pre-WWI
"Our Lady of the Seas"

It was

"a 'dark age' of ignorance and feudalism; it was a time when the masses, al ama, were terrified of their masters and landlords, of the Ottoman officialdom, a time when the flock [..] took life as 'slavery and obedience."[90]

As a result of this mass-impoverishment, many inhabitants of Tyre and Jabal Amil emigrated In the 1880s to West Africa.[91]

In 1903, excavations were resumed by the Greek archaeologist Theodore Makridi, curator of the Imperial Museum at Constantinople. Important findings like fragments of marble sarcophagi were sent to the Ottoman capital.[12]

In 1906, construction of the Maronite cathedral of "Our Lady of the Seas" near the modern harbour was finished. It was built on the foundations of an older church.[25]

In 1908, the Ottoman call for elections triggered a power-struggle in Jebel Amil: on the one hand side Rida al-Sulh of a Sunni dynasty from Sidon, which had sidelined the Shia Al-As'ad clan of the Ali al-Saghir dynasty (see above) in the coastal region with support from leading Shiite families like the al-Khalil clan in Tyre. His opponent was Kamil al-As'ad from the Ali al-Saghir dynasty that still dominated the hinterland.[72] The latter won that round of the power-strugggle, but the political rivalry between al-Khalil and al-As'ad would go on to be a main feature of Lebanese Shia politics for the next sixty years.[70]

By that time, Tyre had a population of about 2,800 Shi'ites, 2,700 Christians and 500 Sunnis. In the district of Tyre there were altogether some 40,000 Shi'ites and 8,000 Christians.[72]


World War I
French cruiser D'Estrés
British Indian Army Sikh pioneers at the Ladder of Tyre in October 1918

At the beginning of the First World War in 1914, many Shiites in Jebel Amil were conscripted and thus had to leave their farms. One year later famine struck as locusts devastated the fields. This triggered another wave of emigration to Africa and also to the USA.[72]

As opposition to the Turkish rulers grew across the Levant, Arab nationalism was on the rise in Jebel Amil as well. However, in March 1915 the Ottoman authorities launched a new wave repressions and arrested a number of activists of the Decentralisation Party in Tyre as in other cities like Sidon, Nabatiya, and Beirut. Some of them were executed.[72]

The Royal Navy ship Ml 206 entering Tyre in October 1918, painting by Donald Maxwell
"Ml 248 Entering Tyre", D. Maxwell

Also in 1915, Abdel Karim al-Khalil - the leader of the al-Khalil clan, who were the Tyrian allies of the al-Sulh dynasty from Sidon - was executed by the Ottoman regime "at the instigation" of Kamil al-As'ad from the rival al-Nassar dynasty,[72] some believed.[70]

In 1915, fighting reached Tyre: in November of that year, four locals spying for the French intelligence were reportedly captured in Tyre and two of them executed in Beirut. The commander of the French Navy protected cruiser D'Estrés, who had demanded their release, in retaliation ordered the shelling of Tyre's harbour, where four boats were sunk. In February 1917, British intelligence agents undertook another operation to the area of Tyre in order to gather information about the Ottoman presence there. [92]

Aerial photo, circa 1918
"Tyre - Seaforth Highlanders resting in their march north to Beyrout" during WWI, painting by James McBey

In September 1918, following the British victory at the Battle of Megiddo over the Ottoman Yildirim Army Group, the latter's remnants were forced to withdraw towards Damascus. The commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force General Edmund Allenby ordered his infantry and corps cavalry to capture the ports of Beirut and Tripoli in order to supply his forces in their Pursuit to Haritan of the retreating Ottoman troops.

Tyre was a strategic supply post on this route. Within three days, the second column of the British Indian Army's 7th (Meerut) Division paved the way across the Ladder of Tyre by expanding the narrow track over the steep cliff. Meanwhile, the XXI Corps Cavalry Regiment comprising one squadron Duke of Lancashire Yeomanry and two squadrons of 1/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry advanced quickly and arrived in Tyre on 4 October.[93] On their way they encountered "few if any Turkish troops." Three days supplies were delivered by the Royal Navy to the port of Tyre for the infantry columns on their way north first to Sidon and then to Beirut.[94]

Pan-Arab Kingdom of Syria vs. French-British OETA (1918-1920)

Kamil al-As'ad
Riad Al Solh

After the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman rule started in 1916 and the Sharifian Army conquered the Levant in 1918 with support from the British Empire, the Jamal Amil feudal leader Kamil al-As'ad of the Ali al-Saghir family, who had been an Ottomanist before, declared the area - including Tyre - part of the Arab Kingdom of Syria on the 5th of October, 1918.[72] However, the pro-Damascus regime in Beirut appointed Riad al-Sulh as governor of Sidon who in turn appointed Abdullah Yahya al-Khalil in Tyre as the representative of Faisal I.[89][70]

While the feudal lords of the As'ad / Ali al-Saghir and Sulh dynasties competed for power, their support for the Arab Kingdom put them into conflict with the interests of the French colonial empire: on the 23rd of October 1918, the joint British and French military regime of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA) was declared, with Jebel Amel falling under French control.[72]

Subsequently, the French Army used the historical garrison building of Khan Sour as a base,[25] which had apparently been taken over as property by the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Tyre[73] from the Franciscan Fathers.[25] In reaction, a guerrilla group started military attacks on French troops and pro-French elements In Tyre and the neighbouring areas, led by Sadiq al-Hamza from the Ali al-Saghir clan.[72]

Sayed Abdul Hussein Sharafeddin
The harbour around 1918

In contrast, the most prominent organiser of nonviolent resistance against the French ambitions in Jabil Amil became the Shi'a Twelver Islamic scholar Sayyid Abdel Hussein Sharafeddine (born 1872), the Imam of Tyre. He had played a decicive role in the 1908 power struggle between the al-As'ad clan of the al-Saghir dynasty on the one hand side and the al-Sulh dynasty with their Tyrian allies of the al-Khalil family (see above) in favour of the former. His alliance with al-As'ad strengthened after WWI, as

"He achieved his prominent position in the community through his reputation as a widely respected 'alim [religious scholar] whose books were taught in prominent Shi'ite schools such as Najaf in Iraq and Qum in Iran."[72]

Thus he became the leading supporter of a Greater Syria.[61] When the King-Crane Commission of the US government visited the region in 1919, Sharafeddin demanded US-support for a united Syria with Faisal as king:

"This angered the French who apparently encouraged an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Sharaf al-Din."[72]

In early 1920, Sharafeddin led a Shia delegation to Damascus to make the case for unity with Syria.[90] At the same time tensions between Shia and Maronite groups in Jebel Amel increased, while Sharafeddin and al-As'ad promoted a pacifist approach and de-escalation. However, when in April 1920 violent clashes took place in the Jabal Amel area between armed Shia and Maronite groups, a French colonial army assisted by Maronite volunteers crushed the Shia rebellion.[72] Tyre, which was under siege by the insurgents[95], got bombarded by French warplanes and artillery.[96]

French colonial rule (1920-1943)

On the first of September 1920, the French rulers proclaimed the new State of Greater Lebanon with Tyre and the Jabal Amel as the Southern part of the Mandate.[96]

Still in 1920, the first municipality of Tyre was founded, which was headed by Ismail Yehia Khalil[97] from the Shia feudal dynasty of al-Khalil. The al-Khalil family had traditionally been allies of the al-Sulh clan, whereas Imam Sharafeddin supported the rival al-Asa'ad clan of the Ali al-Saghir dynasty since 1908 (see above). As the most prominent opponent of the French imperialist project Sharafeddin was forced to flee the city:

"His home in Tyre was looted by French soldiers, his books and manuscripts were confiscated, another home in a neighboring village was burned. He fled to Damascus, but had to quit that city for Egypt and then for a brief stay several months in Palestine before he was allowed to return to his base in Tyre."[90]

Meanwhile, the common people in Tyre and all of Southern Lebanon suffered from high fines and taxes imposed on their economy in order to punish them for the failed rebellion.[72] In addition, the French colonial regime forcibly diverted agricultural products from Southern Lebanon to Syria and thus massively reduced trade activity in the port of Tyre.[98] Driven out by mass-povery, emigration from Tyre via Marseille to Western Africa reached another peak. This trend was curbed when the French colonial rulers in Africa imposed stricter controls on immigration at the end of the 1920s.[91] According to the 1921 census, 83% of the population were Shiites and only 4% Sunni.[61]

French Air Force photo from the early 1930s

In 1922, Kamil al-As'ad returned from exile and started an uprising againtst the French occupation, but was quickly suppressed and died in 1924.[72]

In contrast, Imam Sharafeddin resurged as the most defining character for the peaceful development of Tyre in the first half of the 20th century. While he succeeded his rival Khalil as head of the municipal council until 1926,[97] he first and foremost changed the city and its hinterland by becoming a social reformer[91] and "activist".[90]

The two Roman granite columns inside the Abdul Hussein mosque
The Northern shore in 1936

In 1928, the first Shi'a mosque in Tyre was constructed, using local traditional architecture and centered around two Roman granite columns. It was named Abdel Hussein Mosque after Sharafeddine.[25]

After an archaeological survey of Tyre had been undertaken by a French team under the leadership of Denyse Le Lasseur in 1921[12], another mission took place between 1934 and 1936 that included aerial surveys and diving expeditions. It was led by the Jesuit missionary Antoine Poidebard, a pioneer of aerial archaeology.[12]

In 1936, the French colonial authorities set up a camp for Armenian refugees in Rashidieh on the coast, five kilometres south of Tyre city.[99] One year later, another one was constructed in the El Bass (El Buss) area of Tyre.[100] Survivors of the Armenian genocide had started arriving in Tyre already in the early 1920s and a branch of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) was founded there in 1928.[101]

The Abdul Hussein mosque (2019)
Scan of Sharafeddin's 1938 passport, noting that he was "literate"

1938 saw a historical turning point, when Imam Sharafeddine founded a school for girls and boys. He pledged his private house in order to build the school, against the opposition of the feudal al-Khalil family. It soon expanded, also thanks to donations from the As'ad clan.[72] Whereas Christians had been benefitting from missionary schools, education for the Shia community was poor before the establishment of the Jafariya School:

"The school became the corner stone that changed the life of the Shi'ites in Jabal 'Amil in general and Tyre in particular."

The teaching staff consisted, however, not just of Shi'ites, but also of Christians, including the headmaster, Michael Shaban. The school soon also "became a nucleus for political activity", with Sharafeddin supporting especially the Palestinian demand for independence.[72]

The borders were open during those times, and many Palestianian Jews used to spend holidays in Tyre, while vice versa many Southern Lebanese would travel freely to Haifa and Tel Aviv.[102]

World War II
A local lady smoking Arguileh at Tyre harbour, June 1941
Australian troops during the official take-over of Tyre in June 1941

After the start of the Second World War, French troops once again used the historical garrison building of Khan Al-Ashkar as a base.[25][74]

In 1940 French soldiers dug out an anti-tank trench at Tyre on the road leading South and discovered a marble sarcophagus from the first or second century CE, which is exhibited at the National Museum in Beirut.[103]

In Mid-1941, a joint British-Free French campaign began to topple the Vichy regime in Syria and Lebanon. It relied heavily on Indian troops[104] and also included the Australian 21st Brigade.[105] These forces liberated Tyre from the Nazi-collaborators on June 8.[106]

Little has been recorded about how Tyre experienced the end of colonial rule.


1943 Lebanese independence

When France dispatched troops to Beirut during the 1945 Levant Crisis, it was Imam Sharafeddin who sent a petition to the Legation of the United States in the capital:

"We inhabitants of Jabal Amil protest strongly against landing of foreign troops in our country, which is free. This is a slighting of our liberty and a disdain of our honor. We are prepared to defend our independence. We would not hesitate to shed the last drop of our blood to that effect."[90]

Weizmann (left) with Faisal I
Émile Eddé

In 1946, Jafariya School was upgraded to be a Secondary School, the first in Southern Lebanon. Imam Sharafeddine appointed as its founding director George Kenaan, a Lebanese Christian. The expansion was possible especially thanks to funding from merchants who had emigrated from Tyre to Western Africa and made their fortunes there.[91] In contrast, a school project by Sharafeddin's political rival Kazem al-Khalil failed despite support from prime minister Riad al-Sulh, to whose family the al-Khalil feudal dynasty was traditionally allied.[72]

Meanwhile, the Maronite political leader Émile Eddé - a former Prime Minister and President - reportedly suggested to the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann[107] that a Christian Lebanon

"should relinquish some portions of the no longer wanted terrritory, but to the Jewish state-in-the-making. It could have Tyre and Sidon and the 100,000 Muslims living there, but when he put the matter to Weizmann, even he balked at what he called 'a gift which bites'."[102]

1948 Palestinian exodus

View of Tyre's Old Town in 1950
Palestinian refugees making their way to Lebanon from Galilee in October/November 1948

When the state of Israel was declared in May 1948, Tyre was immediately affected: with the Palestinian exodus - also known as the Nakba - thousands of Palestinian refugees fled to the city, often by boat. Many of them were given shelter by Imam Sharafeddin in the Jafariya School.[72]

On 17 July 1948, two Israeli frigates shelled Tyre[108] in order to attack a unit of Fawzi al-Qawuqji's Arab Liberation Army.[109] Subsequently, Tyre's position next to the closed border further marginalised the city, "which was already sidelined by Beirut and Sidon."[15]

Still in 1948, the Burj Shimali camp was established next to the Tyre peninsula, mainly for displaced from Hawla, Tiberias, Saffuri and Lubieh.[110] The same year, an irregular camp was established at the Jal Al Bahar coastal strip in the Northern part of Tyre,[111] mainly by Palestinian refugees from the village Tarshiha.[112] In Maachouk - with Burj Al Shimali 1 km to the East - Palestinian refugees settled on agricultural lands owned by the Lebanese State.[113]

The ancient Al Mina site in 1950, partly covered by plantations
Graffito of Naji Al-Ali in Ramallah

In the 1950s, the Armenian refugees from El Bass were resettled to the Anjar area, while Palestinians from the Acre area in Galilee moved into the camp.[100]

Palestinian refugees played a key role in developing the citrus plantations in Tyre area, but were also competing for cheap labour opportunities in this field with the Lebanese precariat.[98] On the other side, many of the teachers at the Jafariya Primary and Secondary school were well-educated refugees from Palestine, amongst them the famous cartoonist Naji al-Ali, who worked as a drawing instructor in the early 1960s and went on to create Handala, the iconic symbol of Palestinian identity and defiance.[114]

In 1950, the new building of the Jafariya School was inaugurated and named Binayat al-Muhajir - "Building of the Emigrants" - honouring the contributions from wealthy Tyrians in Africa.[72] At the same time, the number of Lebanese from Tyre joining that diaspora increased once again, corresponding to yet another rise in poverty.[91]

In 1956, the Jafariya School was the platform for a guerrilla group of 25 Lebanese and Palestinian students to launch military strikes in Israel. However, at the end of that year their weapons were confiscated by the military intelligence and the Palestinian headmaster Ibrahim al-Ramlawi was arrested.[72]

On the 31st of December 1957, Imam Sharafeddine, the founder of modern Tyre, died at the age of 85 and at a point of time when tensions escalated once again:[72]

1958 Lebanese Civil War

Ahmad al-Asaad
Camille Chamoun


When President Camille Chamoun introduced a new electoral system in 1957, Ahmed al-Asaad from the feudal Ali al-Saghir dynasty, who at the beginning of the decade had even been the Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, for the first time lost the vote for deputy (MP). He had presented his candidacy in Tyre, the stronghold of his Shia rival Kazem al-Khalil, rather than in his traditional home base of Bint-Jbeil.[115] As a consequence, he became a "major instigator of events against Chamoun" and his allies, primarily al-Khalil [72], who like al-Asaad was a long-time member of parliament and the scion of a family of large landowners ("zu'ama") ruling through patronage systems:[116][117][118]

"The Khalils, with their age-old ways, [..] were known for being particularly rough and hard."[90]

"Tough" Kazem al-Khalil[90]


During the 1958 crisis, Kazem al-Khalil was the only Shi'ite minister in the cabinet of Sami as-Sulh, to whose family the al-Khalil feudal dynasty was traditionally allied. Thus,

"Kazim's followers had a free hand in Tyre; they could carry guns on the streets".[72]

Bullet holes in the Jafariya School from the 1958 counter-insurgency

Then, after the formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR) under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser in February 1958, tensions quickly escalated in Tyre between the forces of Chamoun and supporters of pan-arabism. In popular reaction, demonstrations took place in Tyre - as well as in Beirut and other cities - that promoted pro-union slogans and protested against US foreign policy.[119] The Jafariya school became the base of the opposition.[72]

RACHID KARAMI square in Tyre


Still in February, five of its students were arrested and "sent to jail for trampling on the Lebanese flag and replacing it with that of the UAR."[120]Hussein Sharafeddin, one of Imam Abdul Hussein Sharafeddin's sons and as the director of the Jafariya school a dominant figure in the protest movement, was imprisoned as well.[115]

"The issue caused violent parliamentary wrangling between [..] Kazem al-Khalil, and the Greek-Catholic twin brothers Nicolas and Joseph Slam, who were accused by him of fanning riots."[115]

On the 28th of March, soldiers and followers of Kazem al-Khalil opened fire on demonstrators, killing three of them.[72] On the second of April, five protestors were killed and twelve were injured. Opposition leaders like Rashid Karami expressed support for the people of Tyre. The neighbouring city of Sidon/Saida joined the strike in Tyre.[119] A US-Diplomat, who travelled the region shortly afterwards, reported though that the clashes were more related to the personal feud between al-Asaad and al-Khalil than to national politics.[115]

In May, the insurgents in Tyre gained the upper hand.[121] They were supported by Ahmad al-As'ad[72] and his son Kamil al-Asaad from the feudal Ali al-Saghir dynasty, also with weapons.[122] Their rival Kazem al-Khalil was expelled from Tyre and the Sharafeddin family "took over control" of the city. Al-Khalil returned still in 1958, but was attacked several times by gunmen.[72]

Despite this victory, the power of the al-As'ad dynasty - who had played a dominant role in Tyre and Jebel Amil for more than two centuries - began to crumble at the same time with the arrival of a newcomer:

Musa Sadr era (1959-1978)

Sadr in his house in Tyre
The harbor between 1950 and 1977

After Imam Sharafeddin's death in 1957, his sons and the Shia community of Southern Lebanon asked his relative Sayyid Musa Sadr to be his successor as Imam.[123] Sharafeddine had invited the Iran-born Sadr for his first visits to Tyre in previous years[124]

In 1959, Sadr moved to Tyre and at first encountered not only suspicion, but also opposition.[90] Yet, within just a few years he managed to create a broad following.[61] As "one of his first significant acts" established a vocational training center in neighbouring Burj el-Shimali that became "an important symbol of his leadership"[123] as well as other charity organisations.[72] His base became the Abdel Hussein Mosque at the entry of the old town.[25]

In 1960, the feudal lord Kazem al-Khalil also lost his seat in Parliament in a series of elections despite his alliance with wealthy expatriates in West Africa[125], allegedly also due to intrigues of the Lebanese Deuxième Bureau intelligence agency.[126]

In contrast, one of Sharafeddin's sons - Jafar Sharafeddin - was elected in 1960 as a Ba'athist. In parliament, to which he was re-elected in 1964 and 1968,[72] he made the following plea, which summarises the precarious socio-economic situation in the mid-20th century:

"The district of Tyre has sixty villages, to which God Almighty has given all kinds of beauty. But the rulers of Tyre have deprived Tyre and the surroundings of their rights. Of these sixty villages only a dozen or so have anything that could be called a school or a paved road. Forty villages are without a school. These sixty villages go thirsty in this age of science and the machine, while a river [the Litani] passes them by on the way to the sea. All sixty villages lack electricity. Electricity is the fortune of more privileged districts. .. These sixty villages are deserted, inhabited by old men and women; the young ones have departed to toil in the heat of Africa. Thousands more have come to Beirut, to toil among others of their kind. Tyre itself, the heart of the district, has suffered what no city can suffer. It has become a deformed, ruined place. Everything in it falls short of what a civilised place should be. The government should restore to Tyre its splendor."[90]

By the 1960s, Tyre had a population of some 15,000 inhabitants.[76] In the course of the decade it increasingly became subject to a rural-to-urban movement that has been ongoing ever since.[4] In addition, the arrival of Palestinian refugees continued: In 1963, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) set up a "new camp" in Rashidie to accommodate refugees from Deir al-Qassi, Alma, Suhmata, Nahaf, Fara and other villages in Palestine.[99]

Towads the end of the decade, public discontent in Tyre grew as in other parts of the country. A protest movement started in March 1967 with a long strike by secondary students who amongst other things demanded lower fees: "In Tyre, the gendarmes fired on a demonstration, killing a student, Edward Ghanima."[127]

1967 Six-Day War

After the Six-Day War of June 1967 another wave of displaced Palestinians sought refuge in South Lebanon. In the following year, there were almost 25,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the camps of Tyre: 3,911 in Al Bass, 7,159 in Burj Al Shimali, and 13,165 in Rashidia.[128] More found shelter in the neighbourhood of Mashouk and the gathering of Jal Al Bahar. The solidarity of the Lebanese Tyrians was especially demonstrated in January 1969 through a general strike to demand the repulsion of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Beirut.[129] However, these expressions of sympathy were not to be confused with Antisemitism, since Lebanese Jews still felt safe to visit Tyre.[130]

At the same time though, the arrival of civilian refugees went along with an increasingly strong presence of Palestinian militants. Thus, clashes between Palestinians and Israel increased dramatically. On May 12th, 1970, the IDF launched a number of attacks in South Lebanon, including Tyre. The Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon escalated further after the conflict of Black September 1970 between the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).[72] The PLO allegedly also trained Nicaraguan Sandinista rebels in Tyre.[131]

Sadr at the SISC

One of the fiercest opponents of the Palestinian militants became Kazem al-Khalil, Tyre's main feudal lord and former MP, who lost a number of elections in the 1960s,[118] but regained it in 1972 with support from a rich expatriate in Nigeria.[125] In 1967 he had sought financial assistance from the US Embassy in Beirut, though there is no evidence that this was granted.[132] At the same time, Sadr established the Supreme Islamic Shia Council (SISC).[72]

Meanwhile, in 1970, Jafar Sharafeddin became Minister of Water Resources in a technocratic government by Saeb Salam, but as a traditional ally of Kamil al-As'ad from the Ali al-Saghir dynasty became more alienated from Sadr, who opposed the zu'ama feudal landlords.[72]

In early 1973, growing public discontent manifested itself again in "wildcat strikes and violent demonstrations" in Tyre as in other cities.[127]

1973 Yom Kippur War

The 1973 October Yom Kippur War signalled even more Palestinian military operations from Southern Lebanese territory, including Tyre, which in turn increasingly sparked Israeli retaliation.[72]

Sadr was balancing the relations between the Maronite-dominated state, the Palestinian resistance with its leftist Lebanese supporters, and his own Shia community, which increasingly harboured popular discontent with the PLO domination in Southern Lebanon and being caught in the crossfire with Israel. There, Sadr's power struggle with the traditional feudal rulers escalated: With the backing of the SISC Sadr managed to gradually break up the inherited power of Kamil al-As'ad - a close ally of President Suleiman Frangieh[72] - from the Ali al-Saghir dynasty after more than two hundred years,[133] although al-As'ad's list still dominated the South in the parliamentary elections of 1972 and the by-elections of 1974.[72]

Sadr speaking in Tyre 1974

Likewise, the large landlord Kazem al-Khalil in Tyre, who had been a fierce opponent of both As'ad and Sadr,[134][118] re-gained his parliamentary seat in 1972[72], but was soon marginalised by two other organisations that Sadr set up:

In 1974, Sadr founded Harakat al-Mahroumin (the Movement of the Deprived) While the movement reached out beyond the Shia communities of Southern Lebanon to those fragmeted ones in the Bekaa Valley and Beirut for creating a united Shia idenity in the Lebanese context,[72] Sadr also sought close cooperation with the Christian minorities,[135] especially with the Greek-Catholic Melkites under the leadership of Tyre's archbishop Georges Haddad.[136]

Al-Sadr with Mostafa Chamran

It is estimated that some 80 thousand of Sadr's followers rallied in Tyre on 5 May 1974.[134], with weapons on open display.[72] In 1975, before the outbreak of the civil war and despite his pledges to nonviolent means, Sadr also founded the de facto military wing of his movement: the Afwaj al-Muqawama al-Lubnaniyya (Amal).[133]

Kamal Jumblatt Square in Tyre

The Iranian director of Sadr's technical school in Tyre, Mostafa Chamran, became a major instructor of guerilla warfare. The US-trained physicist went on to become the first defense minister of post-revolutionary Iran.[137] Other key figures of the Iranian opposition, like Sayed Ruhollah Khomeini's close aide Sadeq Tabatabaei, were frequent visitors of Tyre.[138] In contrast, Khalil al-Khalil - one of the sons of Kazem al-Khalil - served as Lebanon's Ambassador to the Imperial State of Iran from 1971 to 1978.[139]

On the national stage of politics, one of Sadr's main allies was the Lebanese Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt. However, frictions between them led to a break-up of their coalition soon after the beginning of the civil war in 1975:[72] under Jumblatt's leadership the National Lebanese Movement (NLM) allied itself to the Palestinian forces.

Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990)

In February 1975, a unit of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) attacked the Tyre barracks of the Lebanese Army.[61] The assault was denounced though by the PLO as "a premeditated and reckless act".[129]

Also, one of the residences of feudal lord Kazem al-Khalil "was dynamited" and another one of his homes "was seized by Palestinian guerrillas".[140] Parts of his estate were confiscated in 1976[70], after local commanders of the PLO took over the municipal government of Tyre with support from their allies of the Lebanese Arab Army.[129] The new rulers took over the army barracks, set up roadblocks and started collecting customs at the port. However, they quickly lost support from the Lebanese-Tyrian population because of their "arbitrary and often brutal behavior".[141]

When Syria invaded Lebanon in mid-1976, it committed to a proposal by the Arab League not to cross the Litani River southwards. So while the Civil War had started in South Lebanon, it was spared from much of the internal fighting. However, many young men from the area moved northwards to take part in combat.[142] At the same time, Israel started engaging in a naval blockade of Tyre harbour and other Southern Lebanese ports to cut off supplies to the PLO, choking off most other maritime trade there as well.[143] Thus, it was again especially the common people of Tyre and its hinterlands, who greatly suffered from the political conflicts.[15] Due to growing mass-poverty a new wave of emigration from Tyre area to West Africa, especially to Ivory Coast, though not so much to Senegal as before.[91]

1978 South Lebanon conflict with Israel
BeitShaddadRuins TyreSourLebanon RomanDeckert23082019.jpg
The ruins of "Beit Shaddad"
BeitAlbertWakim TyreSourLebanon RomanDeckert07112019.jpg
"Beit Albert Wakim" next to the Maronite Cathedral, damaged in the bombardment of "Beit Shaddad".

The United Nations account of the conflict is as follows:

"On 11 March 1978, a commando attack in Israel resulted in many dead and wounded among the Israeli population; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) claimed responsibility for that raid. In response, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon on the night of 14/15 March, and in a few days occupied the entire southern part of the country except for the city of Tyre and its surrounding area."[144]

The Empire Cinema building complex, damaged by IAF bombs

Nevertheless, Tyre was still badly affected in the fighting,[145] with civilians bearing the brunt of the war, both in human lives and economically[61]: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) targeted especially the harbour on claims that the PLO received arms from there and the Palestinian refugee camps.[146]

Bombardments by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) destroyed a number of historical buildings, including the estate of Beit Shaddad, and heavily damaged many others, especially in the Christian quarter.

"On 15 March 1978, the Lebanese Government submitted a strong protest to the Security Council against the Israeli invasion, stating that it had no connection with the Palestinian commando operation. On 19 March, the Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), in which it called upon Israel immediately to cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory. It also decided on the immediate establishment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The first UNIFIL troops arrived in the area on 23 March 1978."[144]

However, the Palestinian forces were unwilling to give up their positions in and around Tyre. UNIFIL was unable to expel those militants and sustained heavy casualties until. It therefore accepted an enclave of Palestinian fighters in its area of operation which was dubbed the "Tyre Pocket". In effect, the PLO kept ruling Tyre with its Lebanese allies of the NLM, which was in disarray though after the 1977 assassination of its leader Kamal Jumblatt.[61]


Post-Sadr Era (since 1978)

Amal-PLO-Israel confilcts
A banner commemorating the 40th anniversary of Sadr's disappearance

Only a few months after the conflict, Amal-Leader Musa Sadr mysteriously disappeared following a visit to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on 31 August 1978.[90] His legacy has continued into the present: he has been widely credited with "bringing the Shi'ite community onto an equal footing with the other major Lebanese communities."[72] And while the loss of Sadr was great, it also became and has remained a major rallying point for the Shia community across Lebanon, particularly in Southern Lebanon.[133]

Frequent IDF bombardments of Tyre from ground, sea and air raids continued after 1978.[147] In January 1979, Israel started naval attacks on the city.[148] The PLO reportedly converted itself into a regular army by purchasing large weapon systems, including Soviet WWII-era T-34 tanks, which it deployed in the "Tyre Pocket" with an estimated 1,500 fighters. It kept shelling into Galilee until a cease-fire in July 1981.[61] On the 23rd of that month, the IDF had bombed Tyre.[149]

As discontent within the Shiite population about the suffering from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian factions grew, tensions between Amal and the Palestinian militants escalated into violent clashes in many villages of Southern Lebanon, including the Tyre area.[148] In the city itself, the heaviest such incident took place in April 1982, when the PLO (Fateh) bombarded Amal's Technical Institute in Burj al-Shimali for ten hours.[150]

1982 Lebanon War with Israel & Occupation
Graffiti in Rashidieh camp
Damages from IDF attacks at the Khan Al-Ashkar/Khan Sour

Following an assassination attempt on Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov in London the IDF started invading Lebanon on the 6th June 1982 and Tyre was heavily afflicted again:

Shelling by Israeli artillery[145] and air raids killed some 80 people on the first day. Though the PLO had reportedly left its positions on the peninsula[151], urban Tyre with the market area in particular was heavily bombarded as well. Historical buildings like the Serail[25] and Khan Sour were partly destroyed.[74] The latter had been taken over by the Al-Ashkar family from the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Tyre after WWII and became known as Khan Al-Ashkar.[73]

However, the Palestinian camps were bearing the brunt of the assault. Noam Chomsky recorded that

"The first target was the Palestinian camp of Rashidiyeh south of Tyre, much of which, by the second day of the invasion, 'had become a field of rubble.' There was ineffectual resistance, but as an officer of the UN peace-keeping force swept aside in the Israeli invasion later remarked: 'It was like shooting sparrows with cannon.'"[152]

On 7 June, the Greek-Catholic (Melkite) archbishop Georges Haddad succeeded in temporarily halting the attack of an IDF tank column in a bold appeal to the Israeli commander, mediated by a Swiss delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in order to evacuate the civilian population to the beaches.[151] The fighting stopped after two days, but the humanitarian consequences were severe[153], also because "the IDF had few plans for management or detention of masses of civilians, let alone for feeding."[147]

1982 photo by an Israeli author

The government of Lebanon claimed that the IDF attacks killed some 1,200 civilians and injured more than 2,000 non-combatants[154], whereras the IDF claimed that "only" 56 civilians were killed in the Tyre District.[61] Estimates of IDF casualties during combat in Rashidieh and Burj al-Shemali ranged between 21[155] and "nearly 120".[156]

UNRWA has recorded that in Rashidieh alone "more than 600 shelters were totally or partially destroyed and more than 5,000 Palestine refugees were displaced."[99] Those in the Burj Al Shimali camp were heavily affected as well [110] There were 11,256 registered Palestinian refugees in Burj Al Shimali at the time, and 15,356 in Rashidia,[128] altogether more than the entire population of urban Tyre which was estimated to be around 23,000.[157] Much of the destruction was done "systematically" by the IDF after the fighting stopped[158], leaving some 13,000 Palestinians homeless in the Tyre area.[159] Only El Bass camp with 5,415 registered Palestinians[128] was spared much of the violence.[100]

In June 1982, the Israeli forces temporarily arrested some 14,000 men in Tyre and paraded them in front of hooded collaborators who advised the occupators who to detain.[158]

Subsequently, the IDF set up a military post in Tyre and sponsored the return of Shia feudal lord Kazem al-Khalil to the city in July 1982 after an absence of seven years. When his attempts to reconcile with Amal failed, he formed a small militia of some 40 men with Israeli support[160], recruiting mainly young Shiites from a poor background.[61] However, al-Khalil's collaboration not only "discredited"[61] and "delegitimised him in the eyes of the Shi'a, but also earned him the anger of the Syrians. This simple miscalculation was an act from which he was never able to fully recover politically" until his death in 1990.[70]

Amal, on the other hand, in September 1982 managed to mobilise an estimated 250,000 supporters in Tyre to commemorate the disappearance of Musa Sadr.[61] Shortly afterwards, though, a new force appeared that would go on to dominate the scene:

In November 1982, Hezbollah carried out a suicide-attack which was named "Jal Al Bahar" after the Palestinian gathering. It killed ninety Israeli soldiers and officers at their military and intelligence headquarters in Tyre as well as an unknown number of Lebanese and Palestinians who were detainees in the complex. In October 1983, another such attack on the new Israeli headquarters in Tyre killed 29 Israeli soldiers and officers, wounding another thirty[96] as confirmed by the Israeli government.[161] 32 Lebanese and Palestinians died as well, most of them detainees.[61] Only in 1985 did Hezbollah claim responsibility for the two operations.[96] In February of that year, an Amal member from Tyre launched a suicide-attack on an IDF convoy in Burj al-Shimali,[137] injuring ten soldiers. "Israeli reprisals in the area east of Tyre killed fifteen and wounded dozens."[61]

1985 Israeli Withdrawal & Amal-PLO-Hezbollah conflicts
William Higgins (1945-1990)

Under the growing pressure the Israeli forces withdrew from Tyre by the end of April 1985[61] and instead established a self-declared "Security Zone" in Southern Lebanon with its collaborating militia allies of the South Lebanon Army (SLA). Tyre was left outside the SLA control though[161] and taken over by the Amal Movement under the leadership of Nabih Berri[150][61], who was a graduate of Jafariya High School. Unlike in other areas of fighting, there were no forced displacements of Christians in Tyre and Tyre area.[135] Subsequently, Amal arrested the pro-Israeli militia leader in Tyre, Ibrahim Farran, and another main-collaborator, Shawqi Abdallah.[61]

Shortly afterwards, tensions between Amal and Palestinian militants once again escalated and soon exploded into "the war of the camps", which is widely considered as "one of the most brutal episodes in a brutal civil war"[162]: in September 1986, a group of Palestinians fired on an Amal patrol at Rashidieh. After one month of siege, Amal attacked on the refugee camp in the South of Tyre. Fighting spread and continued for one month. By that time some 7,000 refugees in the Tyre area were displaced once more.[150]

In February 1988 though, "Amal seemed to lose control" when US-Colonel William R. Higgins, who served in a senior position of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), was kidnapped just South of Tyre on the coastal highway to Naqoura by armed men suspected of being affiliated with Hezbollah. The incident took place following a meeting between Higgins and a local Amal leader and led to renewed clashes between Amal and Hezbollah, mainly in Beirut. Amongst the casualties was Amal's leader for South Lebanon leader, Dawood Dawood, causing "an outpour of popular grief in Tyre".[61]

Post-Civil War
A 2005 poster in Tyre depicting Sadr, Berri, and Nasrallah (clockwise)

In early 1991 units of the Lebanese Army deployed along the coastal highway and around the Palestinian refugee camps of Tyre.[126]

The long occupation left Southern Lebanon in general and Tyre in particular "depressed long after the 1991 cease fire" of the civil war.[15]

In the 1992 elections, Kamil al-As'ad from the feudal family headed a list that competed with Amal. Nasir al-Khalil, the son of Tyre's former longtime deputy Kazim al-Khalil who died in 1990, was not elected[163] and failed again in 1996.[70] However, a decade later another scion of this "neo-feudal" clan - Ali Hassan al-Khalil - joined Amal and thus won a parliamentary seat against Ahmed al-Asaad from the arch-rival Ali al-Saghir dynasty, though not in Tyre but in Marjayoun Hasbaiya.[164]

In the 1998 Municipal Elections, Amal won "a startling victory of twenty one seats in Tyre" ahead of Hezbollah, led by Sayed Hassan Nasrallah. Six years later, Amal held Tyre as its traditional stronghold, but lost support in the District of Tyre to Hezbollah.[96]

2006 Lebanon War
UNIFIL soldiers and staff from the cruise ship MV SERENADE evacuate refugees from Tyre, 20 July 2006
Dust rises after an IAF airstrike on Tyre, 26 July 2006
Aftermath of the IAF attack on Tyre that killed 14 civilians on 16 July 2006

During Israel's invasion in the July 2006 Lebanon War, several rocket-launching sites used by Hezbollah to attack Israel were located in rural areas around the city.[165] At least one village near the city was bombed by Israel as well as several sites within the city, causing civilian deaths and adding to the food shortage problem inside Tyre:[166]

Italian marines on the shores of Tyre on 1 September 2006

According to Human Rights Watch, on July 16 around noon a strike by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) on a residential apartment building behind the Jabal Amel Hospital - known as the Sidon Institute - at the outskirts of Tyre killed eight members of a family. At about the same time, five civilians were killed by another aerial assault on Burj Al Shimali, including two children. Later in the afternoon of that same day, another airstrike on a multistorey apartment building in Tyre, which also housed the Civil Defense Forces, killed 14 civilians, amongst them a one-year-old girl and a Sri Lankan maid. On August 13, five civilians were killed in Burj El Shimali, amongst them three children and one Sri Lankan maid.[167] UNIFIL troops helped with heavy bulldozers to clear debris from those bombardments.[144]

Shayetet 13 (Israeli naval commandos) also raided Hezbollah targets within the city.[168] On August 6, IDF commandos raided a building on the outskirts of Tyre killing at least two Hezbollah fighters.[167]

Meanwhile, again according to the official UN account, on the diplomatic level,

"On 11 August 2006, the Security Council, following intense negotiations, passed resolution 1701 calling for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war based upon, in particular, 'the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations' in Lebanon.

Unfinished memorial for the 314 UNIFIL casualties with an incomplete list of 209 names in Tyre, 2019

Aware of its responsibilities to help secure a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution to the conflict, the Security Council created a buffer zone free of 'any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL' between the United Nations-drawn Blue Line in southern Lebanon and the Litani river".[144]

Still in August 2006, Italian reinforcements for UNIFIL landed in amphibian crafts on the shores of Tyre. While UNIFIL had a troops strength of about 2,000 at that point in time, the Security Council soon expanded the mandate of UNIFIL, and increased it to a maximum of 15,000 troops.[144]

Post-2006 War
Deployment of UNIFIL forces, 2018
A UNTSO car in Tyre

At least since 2006, Tyre city and its Southern surrounding areas have been part of the Italian UNIFIL sector, whereas its Northern surrounding areas have been part of the Korean sector.[8] UNIFIL has been assisted by the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

As UINIFIL has got a budget for small community projects as well,[169] the Italian contingent in particular has supported a variety of civil society activities with great visibility. Amongst them are efforts to preserve the archaeological heritage,[170] to assist artistic expression and interaction,[171] to conduct medical campaigns,[172] as well as to support the children's right to play by constructing playgrounds and supporting clown therapy for children with special needs.[173]

On 9 December 2011, UNIFIL reported that one of its vehicles "traveling on a road at the southern outskirts of the city of Tyre was targeted by an explosion." Five peacekeepers of unnamed nationalities were injured and evacuated.[174]


The mayor of Tyre is Hassan Dbouk.[4] He is also the President of the Union of Municipalities of the District.[170] Dbouk has decried a lack of capacities at the local government level, while arguing that

"There is a complete absence of the central government here".[175]

In the 2018 parliamentary elections, the Tyre-Zahrani district had a 48.1% turnout out of 311,953 registered voters, but only two competing camps. The allied list of Hezbollah and Amal won all seven seats with a 92% landslide, while the one headed by Riad As'ad from the feudal dynasty of Ali al-Saghir only scored 8%.[78]

Protestors cheering to a female activist singer on 22 October
Demonstration at Elissa Square on 22 October 2019

When the 2019 Lebanese protests against government corruption and austerity measures started across the country on the 17th of October 2019, masses of citizens flocked to the central Elissa Square - named after the legendary founder of Carthage - to join the nonsectarian demonstrations.[176] The venue features the highest flagpole (32.6 meters ) in all of Lebanon with a national flag of 11 X 19 meters.[177]

The ruins of the Rest House

One day later an arson attack devastated the Rest House hotel at Tyre beach. And then another day later, as UNIFIL reported,

"a counterdemonstration by a group of armed individuals reportedly affiliated with the Amal Movement escalated into riots. The Amal Movement denied involvement."[178]

The protestors have kept a tented presence inside the roundabout of Elissa Square since.

Coast Nature Reserve

A Green Sea Turtle diving through submerged antiquities
A sea turtle emerging off Tyre

Tyre enjoys a reputation of having some of the cleanest beaches and waters of Lebanon.[15][179] However, a 2016 UN HABITAT city profile of Tyre found that "seawater is also polluted due to waste water discharge especially in the port area."[4] There is still also considerable pollution by solid waste.[180]

The Tyre Coast Nature Reserve was decreed in 1998 by the Ministry of Public Works. It is 3.5 km long and covers over 380 hectares (940 acres), which mean it is the widest shore on the country's coast. The area is divided into three zones:

Info station of the reserve

- the Tourism zone features a public beach of 900m and restaurant tents during the summer season hosting up to 20,000 visitors on a busy day;

- the Agricultural and Archaeological zone next to the springs of Ras El Ain,

- the Conservation zone as a sanctuary for sea turtles and migrating birds.[180]

Due to its diverse flora and fauna, the reserve is a designated Ramsar Site. It is an important nesting site for migratory birds and the endangered Loggerhead and green sea turtle and the shelter of the Arabian spiny mouse and many other important creatures (including wall lizards, common pipistrelle, and european badger).[181][182]

There are frequent sighting of dolphins in the waters off Tyre.[183]

Cultural heritage

Sign marking Tyre according to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Note the ruins of the Mamluk House (left) which has been rehabilitated since.
Columns with tourists

Arguably the most lasting Phoenician legacy for the Tyrian population has been the linguistic mark that the Syriac and Akkadian languages have left on the Arabic spoken in the region of Tyre.[24] Most notably, the widely used term "Ba'ali" - which is used especially to describe vegetables and fruits from rain-fed, untreated agricultural production - originates from the Baal religion.[74] The Tyrian municipality of Ain Baal is apparently also named after the Phoenician deity.[184]

Palestra at the City site (2005)

The most visible part of ancient and medieval history on the other side have been the archaeological sites: Large-scale excavations started in 1946 under the leadership of Emir Maurice Chéhab (1904-1994)[12], "the father of modern Lebanese archaeology" who for decades headed the Antiquities Service in Lebanon and was the curator of the National Museum of Beirut. His teams uncovered most remains in the Al Bass/Hippodrome and the City Site/Roman baths. Those works stopped though soon after the 1975 beginning of the Civil War and many records were lost.[185]

Roman relief at the necropolis

In 1984, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared Tyre a World Heritage Site in an attempt to halt the damage being done to the archaeological sites by the armed conflict and by anarchic urban development.[15]

Excavation activities only started again in 1995 under the supervision of Ali Khalil Badawi.[58] Shortly afterwards, an Israeli bomb destroyed an apartment block in the city and evidence for an early church was revealed underneath the rubble. Its unusual design suggests that this was the site of the Cathedral of Paulinus which had been inaugurated in 315CE[186]

In 1997, the first Phoenician cremation cemetery was uncovered in the Al Bass site, near the Roman necropolis.[21]

The hostilities of the 2006 Lebanon War put the ancient structures of Tyre at risk. This prompted UNESCO's Director-General to launch a "Heritage Alert" for the site.[187] Following the cessation of hostilities in September 2006, a visit by conservation experts to Lebanon observed no direct damage to the ancient city of Tyre. However, bombardment had damaged frescoes in a Roman funerary cave at the Tyre Necropolis. Additional site degradation was also noted, including "the lack of maintenance, the decay of exposed structures due to lack of rainwater regulation and the decay of porous and soft stones".[188]

Since 2008, a Lebanese-French team under the direction by Pierre-Louis Gatier of the University of Lyon has been conducting archaeological and topographical work. When international archeological missions in Syria came to a halt after 2012 due to the war there, someof them instead started excavations in Tyre, amongst them a team headed by Leila Badre, director of the Archeological Museum of the American University of Beirut (AUB), and Belgian archaeologists.[185]

Threats to Tyre's ancient cultural heritage include development pressures and the illegal antiquities trade.[189] A highway, planned for 2011, was expected to be built in areas that are deemed archaeologically sensitive.[] A small-scale geophysical survey indicated the presence of archaeological remains at proposed construction sites. The sites have not been investigated. Despite the relocation of a proposed traffic interchange, the lack of precise site boundaries confuses the issue of site preservation.[188]

A 2018 study of Mediterranean world heritage sites found that Tyre's City site has "the highest risk of coastal erosion under current climatic conditions, in addition to 'moderate' risk from extreme sea levels."[190]

Like many of the cities in the Levant and in Lebanon, the architecture since the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s has been of poor quality, which tend to threaten the cultural heritage in the built environment before the war.[]

In 2013, the International Association to Save Tyre (IAST) made headlines when it launched an online raffle in association with Sotheby's to fund the artisans' village "Les Ateliers de Tyr" at the outskirts of the city. Participants could purchase tickets for 100 Euros to win the 1914 'Man with Opera Hat' painting by Pablo Picasso.[191] IAST president Maha El-Khalil Chalabi is the daughter of feudal lord and politician Kazem el-Khalil.[117]

Scriptural

The prophesied destruction of Tyre as painted by John Martin.

The Bible makes several references to Tyre:

A lithograph image depicting a scene from Pericles Prince of Tyre

Other writings

  • Apollonius of Tyre is the subject of an ancient short novella, popular in the Middle Ages. Existing in numerous forms in many languages, the text is thought to be translated from an ancient Greek manuscript, now lost.
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and George Wilkins. It is included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship.
  • In 19th-century Britain, Tyre was several times taken as an exemplar of the mortality of great power and status, for example by John Ruskin in the opening lines of The Stones of Venice and by Rudyard Kipling's Recessional.
  • Tyrus is the title and subject of a poem by the Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson in his collection 'Rock Face' of 1948.
  • In 2015, the French-Lebanese artist Joseph Safieddine published the graphic novel drama Yallah Bye which offers an account of his family's fate during the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, when they sought refuge in the Christian quarter of Tyre. An English version followed in 2017 and an Arabic one in 2019.

Cultural Life

The ruins of the building that used to house the "Empire" cinema, 2019
"Bella Ciao": Street carnival of the TIRO INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL 2019 in front of the Rivoli Cinema

The first cinema in Tyre opened in the late 1930s when a cafe owner established makeshift film screenings.[192]Hamid Istanbouli - a fisherman by profession, who was also a traditional storyteller (hakawati) and thus interested in cinema - projected films on the wall of a Turkish hammam.[193] In 1939 the Roxy opened, followed in 1942 by the "Empire".[194]

"By the mid-1950s there were four cinemas in Tyre, and four more soon opened in nearby Nabatieh. Many also hosted live performances by famous actors and musicians, serving as community spaces where people from different backgrounds came together."[192]

Halim el Roumi
Al Hamra Cinema, 2019

In 1959, the "Cinema Rivoli of Tyre" opened and quickly became one of the prime movie theatres of the country. According to UNIFIL, it was visited "by celebrity who's whos of the time, including Jean Marais, Brigitte Bardot, Rushdi Abaza and Omar Hariri."[195] In 1964, the "Dunia" opened[196], two years later followed by the "Al Hamra Cinema",[194] which became a venue for some of the Arab world's most famous performers, like Mahmoud Darwish, Sheikh Imam, Ahmed Fouad Negm, Wadih el-Safi, and Marcel Khalife.[192]

Meanwhile, two Tyrian artists had a major impact on the development of Lebanese music: Halim el-Roumi (1919-1983) and Ghazi Kahwaji (1945-2017). Some sources claim that the famous musician, composer, singer and actor el-Roumi was born in Tyre to Lebanse parents. However, others suggest that he was born in Nazareth and moved to Tyre from Palestine.[197] For some time, he worked as a teacher at the Jafariya High School there. As director of the Lebanese Radio, he discovered the singer Fairuz and introduced her in 1949 to the Rahbani brothers.[198] Roumi composed music for and with them in close collaborations.[199]

Kahwaji was Lebanon's first scenographer and for three decades the artistic general director for the Rahbani brothers and Fairuz. He used this prominent position to promote "against confessionalism and fundamentalism". Between 2008 and 2010 he published the sarcastic three-volume book series "Kahwajiyat" about social injustice in the Arab world.[200]

By then, cultural life in Tyre had been severely affected by armed conflict as well. In 1975, the commercial "Festivals de Tyr" - which had been founded in 1972 by Maha al-Khalil Chalabi, the daughter of feudal landlord and politician Kazem al-Khalil - was stopped at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1975.[201] Some cinemas were damaged by Israeli bombardment in 1982 and all of them eventually closed down, the last ones in 1989:[192] the Hamra and the AK2000.[194]

In the mid-nineties though, first the commercial "Festivals de Tyr" were revived and have been organised since then annually in the ancient site of the Roman hippodrome, featuring celebrated artists like Elton John, Wadie El Safi, Demis Roussos, Kadim Al-Saher, Melhem Barakat, Julia Boutros, and Majida El Roumi[74], daughter of Halim el-Roumi.

CLAC, 2018

In 2006, the "Centre de Lecture et d'Animation Culturelle" (C.L.A.C.) was opened by Tyre's municipality as the first public library of the city, with support from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture and the French Embassy in Beirut. It is located in the historical building of the "Beit Daoud" next to the "Beit El Medina" in the old town.[202]

Istanbouli during the Palestinian Culture Festival 2019 at the Rivoli

In 2014, the NGO Tiro Association for Arts rehabilitated the defunct cinema Al Hamra under the leadership of "Palestinian-Lebanese street theater performer, actor, comedian, and theater director"[203]Kassem Istanbouli (*1986). His grandfather was one of the founders of cinema in Tyre and his father used to repair cinema projectors.[193] The Tiro Association launched the Lebanese International Theater Festival (alternating for storytelling, contemporary dance, and women monodrama), the Lebanese International Short Film Festival, the Tyre International Music Festival, the Palestinian Culture Festival, Tiro Arts Festival, and a number of other festivals.

In 2018, the Istanbouli Theatre troupe rehabilitated and moved to the Rivoli Cinema,[204] which had been closed since 1988,[205] to establish the non-commercial Lebanese National Theater as a free cultural space with free entrance and a special focus on training children and youth in arts. It also runs the "Mobile Peace Bus", which is decorated with graffiti of Lebanese cultural icons, to promote arts in the villages of the neighbouring countryside.[206] Istanbouli has argued:

"In Tyre, we have 400 shops for shisha, one library, and one theatre. But if there are places, people will come."[207]

In 2019, the film "Manara" (Arabic for lighthouse) by Lebanese director Zayn Alexander, who shot the movie at the Al Fanar resort in Tyre, won the Laguna Sud Award for Best Short Film at the Venice Days strand festival.[208]

Education

The Islamic University of Lebanon (IUL) on the seafront, 2009

Jafariya High School was the first intermediate and secondary school in South Lebanon.[]

Collège Élite, a French international school, is in Tyre.

In August 2019, the 17-year-old Ismail Ajjawi - a Palestinian resident of Tyre and graduate of the UNRWA Deir Yassin High School in the El Bass refugee camp[209] - made global headlines when he scored top-results to earn a scholarship to study at Harvard, but was deported upon arrival in Boston despite valid visa.[210] He was readmitted ten days later to start his studies in time.[211]

Demographics

Jal Al Bahar "gathering" of Palestinian refugees (left)
Religious coexistence: Abdel Hussein Mosque (Shia, left), Old Mosque (Sunna, right), Franciscan Church (left) and Maronite Cathedral in the background

An accurate statistical accounting is not possible, since the government of Lebanon has released only rough estimates of population numbers since 1932.[212] However, a 2016 calculation by UN HABITAT estimated a figure of 201,208 inhabitants, many of them refugees:[4]

The city of Tyre has also become home to more than 60,000 Palestinian refugees who are mainly Sunni Muslim. As of June 2018, there were 12,281 registered persons in the Al Buss camp,[100] 24,929 in Burj Al Shimali[110] and 34,584 in Rashidie.[99] In the ramshackle "gathering" of Jal Al Bahar next to the coastal highway, the number of residents was estimated to be around 2,500 in 2015.[111]

In all camps, the number of refugees from Syria and Palestinian refugees from Syria increased in recent years.[99] Tensions developed since these new arrivals would often accept work in the citrus and banana groves "for half the daily wage" that local Palestinian refugees used to earn.[213]

Avenue Du Senegal

In early 2019, some 1.500 Syrian refugees were evicted from their informal settlements around the Litani river for allegedly polluting the waters which are already heavily contaminated.[214]

The Lebanese nationality population of Tyre is a predominantly Shia Muslim with a small but noticeable Christian community. In 2010, it was estimated that Christians accounted for 15% of Tyre's population.[215] In 2017, the Maronite Catholic Archeparchy of Tyre counted about 42,500 members. Most of them live in the mountains of Southern Lebanon, while there are just some 500 Maronites in Tyre itself. The Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Tyre - which not only covers the District of Tyre in the South Governorate but also neighbouring areas in the Nabatieh Governorate - registered 2,857 members in that year.[216]

Tyre is known as "Little West Africa". Many families in Tyre have relatives in the Western Africa diaspora, especially in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivoy Coast and Nigeria. In Senegal, most immigrants originated from Tyre. Member of the Tyrian communities there are "primarily second-, third-, and fourth-generation migrants, many of whom have never been to Lebanon." One of Tyre's main promenades is called "Avenue du Senegal".[91]

The 2016 UN HABITAT profile found that

"Approximate calculations suggest that 43% of Lebanese in Tyre urban area are living in poverty."[4]

Economy

A Ferrari 458 with a number plate from Lagos, Nigeria, on the Southern promenade of Tyre
A car carrier at Tyre harbour, 2019

The economy of urban Tyre mostly depends on tourism, contracting services, the construction sector, and remittances from Tyrians in the diaspora, especially in West Africa.[4]

UNIFIL contributes greatly to the purchasing power in the Tyrian economy as well, both through spending by its individual members as well as through "quick-impact projects" like gravelling road, rehabilitating public places etc.[175]

As of 2016, Olive trees were reported to comprise 38% of Tyre's agricultural land, but producers lacked a collective marketing strategy. While Citrus reportedly comprised 25% of the agricultural land, 20% of its harvest ended up wasted.[113]

Barbour boatbuilders
Tyre public beach

Tyre houses one of the nation's major ports, though its cargo traffic is limited to the periodical import of used cars.

In the harbour area the Barbour family of shipmakers continues to build wooden boats.[41] Tyre is thus one of only a few cities in the Mediterranean that has kept this ancient tradition, although the Barbour business has been struggling to survive as well. By 2004, there were "over 600 fishermen [..] striving to make ends meet in Tyre alone".[217]

Lebanon's General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre (GDLRC) recorded for Tyre a 4.4 percent growth rate for land transcations between 2014 and 2018, the highest rate in the country during that period.[218] This increase in real estate prices has been largely attributed to the inflow of remittances from diaspora Tyrians.[4]

Gallery

Twin towns - sister cities

Tyre is twinned with:

Notable people

See also

References

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Further reading

  • Bikai, Patricia Maynor. The Pottery of Tyre. Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1978.
  • Bullitt, Orville H. Phoenicia and Carthage: A Thousand Years to Oblivion. Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1978.
  • Joukowsky, Martha, and Camille Asmar. The Heritage of Tyre: Essays On the History, Archaeology, and Preservation of Tyre. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co., 1992.
  • Woolmer, Mark. Ancient Phoenicia: An Introduction. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2011.

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "article name needed". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.


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Tyre_(Lebanon)
 



 



 
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