SIDON, Lebanon: Dozens of Sidon residents gathered Sunday in the city’s historic central district for its first-ever traditional food festival - one that organizers hope will help boost tourism in the coastal city.
Residents, both young and old, amassed in the old city’s Bab al-Serail square, where they enjoyed traditional snow cones flavored with syrup and rolled a giant Rahat al-Halqoum, a sweetened pastry famous in Sidon similar to Turkish delights.
The aim of the festival was to celebrate Sidon as a “beacon of tourism and [cultural heritage],” Kamel Kasber said, head of the city’s Tourism and Heritage Committee. He invited visitors Sunday to “tour the neighborhoods and streets of the old city,” to learn more about Sidon’s culture.
“The festival gathers all Sidonians together - whether residents of the city itself or residents of the suburbs,” organizer Ghassan Hanqeer said. “It encourages people to visit the old city, which dates back 6,000 years.”
Among the visitors Sunday was Sidon MP Bahia Hariri, who is campaigning to maintain her seat in upcoming parliamentary elections slated for next month. The MP praised the food festival, calling Sidon’s old city center “a source of pride” for residents.
Sunday’s festival organized by Sidon's Tourism and Heritage Committee and the Muslim Scouts, follows a similar food festival last year that aimed at attracting visitors to the city.
Sidon has been trying to improve its public image since intense clashes last year in the nearby Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, which left at least nine people dead and more than 50 wounded.