This phoenician city survived a 13-year siege by Nebuchadnezzar but fell before the military ingenuity of Alexander the Great who literally bridged the gap between the fortified island city and its mainland sector. By building a causway, Alexander was able to forward his siege machines and bring the city to its knees.
Tyre made a name for itself exporting purple-dyed textiles throughout the ancient world. The dye itself was extracted from the murex, a sea snail which continues to live along Tyre's beautiful coast, and was worth more than its weight in gold.
A walk through the quarter of Hay El-Ramel is reliving history. Here is Alexander's causeway, expanded by sand and landfill into todays isthmus with its modern buildings.
Three areas of ruins beckon the visitor. The first is located on what was the ancient walled island city. Colonnades, mosaic streets, Roman baths, and a rectangular arena occupy this seaside site. The ruins of a Crusader church dominate the second site. The third and most extensive area of ruins includes a Roman-Byzantine necropolis and the largest Roman hippodrome ever found. Uniquely built of stone, not brick, it hosted chariot races in its heyday.
Time should also be made for a walk through the narrow, quaint streets of the Christian quarter, the little fishing port with its pubs and fish restaurants, and energy permitting, the city's souks.
In biblical times it was in Qana (Cana) near Tyre that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast.
In 1980, modern Tyre's impressive Roman and Phoenician remains prompted UNESCO to make the town one of its world heritage sites. Despite its location in the deep south 79 km from Beirut, where conflict often occurred during the war, Tyre has become a prosperous town notable for its many high-rise buildings. At the same time the inner city has retained its industrious maritime character and its old-style houses.