Sidon’s Cultural Legacy
As a kid I remember my brothers and I begging my mom to take us to Squire’s Castle, which dates back to the 1890s. The castle is located in North Chagrin Reservation on River Road which is now part of the Cleveland Metro parks in north east Ohio. My brothers and I would play knights and dragons and my older brother and I would tease my little brother about the ghost that haunted the castle halls. In Sidon they too have a castle, the St. Louis Castle, or Qalaat al Muizz. The castle was built in the 13th century during the Frankish occupation of Sidon by the Crusaders to protect themselves from outside invasions. It sits on top of the remains of an ancient city built by the Fatimid caliph Al Muizz. It is located to the south of the Old Souks atop a 30-meter hill overlooking the sea near Murex Hill.
The St. Louis castle has been a place of refuge for many in the past. Its strategic location, which protects the city of Sidon from land and sea attack, was even used by the French Vichy military forces during World War I. The castle gets its name from The French king, Louis IX, better known as St. Louis, who appears to have spent a long time at the castle. It also served as a shelter for Palestinian refugees following the 1948 Nakba. Today the castle in not much than a pile of ancient pillars and stones but it holds much potential, remains of a theater have been recently found there also.
Thanks to an Italian grant of $849,000 the Council for Development and Reconstruction, along with the Culture Ministry have big plans to renovate this ancient historical site in hopes to bring in tourism. According to Saudi, for many years, residents simply watched the castle deteriorate from behind a fence. “Everyone used to look at the castle from behind the fence without being able to enter it for several reasons, but now [people] will get the chance to [enter] once renovations are complete,” Saudi said. Repairing the caste is only one part to a series of historical renovations, which aim to safeguard Sidon’s cultural legacy.
I think this a step in the right direction for Sidon; these historical renovations will secure the ancient history or the land as well as attract tourism from around the world. Although Squire’s Castle does not hold nearly half the amount of historical significance as that of the St. Louis castle it still holds a special place in my heart. I can imagine how excited the people of Sidon are to have this ancient city be rebuilt for the benefit of the public.