Sarafand is located about a mile from the coast of Lebanon, between the Phoenician cities of Sidon and Tyre. It’s in the district of Saida and is about 58 kilometers south of Beirut. This charming fishing town with beautiful beaches holds more history and mystery than is commonly known.
Modern-day Sarafand was the ancient Phoenician city of Sarepta. While many Phoenician sites in Lebanon could not easily be excavated because they were highly inhabited, Sarepta was not, making it easier to uncover.
The town is referred to in sacred scripture as Zarephath in the Old Testament (Book of Kings) and Sarepta in the New Testament (mentioned by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel).
“The Old Testament Book of Kings tells of the visit of the prophet Elijah to a widow of Zarephath in the time of Ahab King of Israel, during a famine, probably in the 9th century B.C.” – The New York Times
#3 It dates back to the Iron Age
According to the NY Times, Sarepta was the “first home base of the seafaring colonizers of the Iron Age to be uncovered by archeologists.”
#4 It was first excavated in 1968
Its excavation was led by James B. Pritchard, a curator of biblical archeology at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1969, he and his team of 80 Lebanese uncovered pottery, ruins, and kilns that date back to 1000 B.C. They also found ancient artifacts such as bronze and iron tools used in daily life during the Iron Age (1200-600 B.C.). However, excavations were halted due to the civil war.
Based on archeological findings, and the recovery of kilns and pottery workshops, Sarepta was an important industrial zone. It was also established that the city had trade relations with Egypt and the Aegean.
According to a 1970 article from The New York Times, Dr. Pritchard believed that the population of ancient Sarepta must have been at least twice that of Sarafand, which was 10,000 at the time.
#8 It pre-dates the Iron Age by several thousand years
Qaroun culture was discovered at a Sarafand by archeologist Hajji Khalaf, a Heavy Neolithic site of tool industry confirming its existence in the Stone Age. Khalaf’s collection of these findings is at the National Museum of Beirut.
The Qaraounculture of the Lebanese Stone Age is from around Qaraoun in the Beqaa Valley; Gigantolithic recognized it as “a particular Neolithic variant of the Lebanese highlands” by French archaeologist Henri Fleisch.
#9 The site of the ancient town is marked by the ruins
The ruins are on the shore to the south of the modern village, in two groups: One indicating the ancient harbor that still affords shelter for small craft, and one consisting of columns, sarcophagi and marble slabs, indicating a city of considerable importance.
#10 Sarepta revealed the first identification of the Phoenician goddess Tanit in her homeland
Archeologists deemed that discovery of prime significance. The cult shrine of Tanit/Astart was identified by an inscribed votive ivory plaque, along with figurines, a cultic mask, carved ivories, and amulets.
Tanit was the chief deity of the Phoenician Carthage alongside Baal-Hamon.
#11 Sarafand is a charming coastal city worth visiting