Distance from Beirut: 56km
The name of this town can be traced to the Phoenician word meaning“ the place of metal fusion and refinement.” The site is mentioned in classical sources, including Assyrian and Egyptian texts and the Bible, as“ Sarepta.” The town’s antiquities include its Phoenician harbor and a fortress once occupied by the Crusaders and rendered into a castle for defense. In the Kharab area, some caves were found containing earthenware, and in the Al-Himah area are some Phoenicia grottos and sarcophagi.
Excavation work in the town of Sarafand, which is situated 15 km south of Saida (or Sidon), reveal that the town was first inhabited in the middle of the second millennium B.C., and was relatively isolated until the Byzantine period. In the 19th century, travelers to the area came across old archeological ruins including columns, sarcophagi and mosaic slabs in the hills around the town. A university of Pennsylvania delegation, that conducted excavations from 1969 to 1972, discovered the archeological remains of Sarepta (now Sarafand), an old city mentioned in Egyptian and Assyrian texts and the Bible.
The remains of the old city are found along the seashore, between Ras Al-Qantara and the mausoleum of Khodr Abu Abbas, approximately 1.5 km away from Sarafand. The old city can be reached by a narrow road that leads to a small fisherman’s dock. However, due to 20 years of neglect, weeds have engulfed most of the ruins. Together with construction that has occurred around the area (contributing to the destruction of the natural habitat) the site is now barely visible to visitors.
Based on the Assyrian scripts of King Sanherib, Sarepta belonged to the kingdom of Saida. This confirms that it was part of the Phoenician civilization, as stated in the Old Testament, which refers to a visit by the prophet Elijah to Sarafand. The term “Sarepta Saida” is also mentioned in the Biblie (Luke 4:25-26).
The town of Sarafand, which stands at an altitude of 100 meters, was established toward the end of the 16th century. It was an industrial center that produced glass and porcelain, and many potters’ kilns and workshops have been discovered here. Numerous clay figurines, models of Astarte’s (Ishtar) thrones, amulets and cultic vessels were discovered in the shrine of the Goddess Astarte.
These discoveries confirm that Sarafand traded with other Mediterranean countries, especially Egypt and the Aegean islands. Phoenician and Greek texts have also been discovered, proving that Sarepta had relations with other coastal cities along the Syrian Palestinian coastline.
Across the hill and overlooking the town lies a first millennium necropolis. Over the years, clandestine diggers have looted many rock-cut tombs. One of the items is a beautiful stone door of a tomb that is currently located in the garden of Sarafand’s Alaeddine Hospital.