Oct 24 2008

The ancient coin seller of Tyre

Published by at 6:29 pm under The south

A while ago I wrote about exploring the ancient Roman ruins in Tyre (here and here). The old colonnaded road down to the sunken port is a fascinating spot, with sections of the ancient harbour submerged under the Mediterranean. It’s quite special to stand on the ruins looking down at all the marble columns lying on the seabed.

One of the enduring features of this coastal site was an old relic seller who would inevitably attach himself to any tourist wandering among the ruins. The old guy – Jamal was his name – had skin the colour of tanned leather and would point out little secrets, like the remnants of human bone from where the Romans buried their slaves. He would also tell how, as a younger man, he used to dive down to the ruins under the sea to find sunken coins, icons and other treasures. He would then pull out an old wooden box containing some special finds, which of course were available at a special discount for such a kind and respectable Australian as myself…

When I first saw him he had a collection of Roman and Greek coins, as well as a ladies hair pin, a comb and some Crusader icons. Naturally I bought a few, paying too much and not really knowing if they were genuine antiques or were simply forged by his cousin and then buried in the backyard for six months to “age” them appropriately.

Who knows.

Anyway, I was down there the other day and was very saddened to learn that the old bugger’s dead. Apparently there is a rival coin seller in Tyre and they got into a turf fight a few weeks back. The fight got heated and the rival shot and killed Jamal. Now the rival’s in the clink and Jamal is no more.

So I’m saddened that this great old guy who was so full of character is gone. And I wonder who else will be there to fill the void, to unearth the hidden secrets of the Roman port, and to flog off some pilfered treasure?

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “The ancient coin seller of Tyre”

  1. grandadon 25 Oct 2008 at 3:01 am

    It’s sad when a real character moves on or passes away; a bit of magic goes with them. No doubt others will arrive to take their place but be thankful that you have memories you can pass on to others so that their spirit will live on.

  2. Sharonon 25 Oct 2008 at 7:29 am

    I was lucky to have met Jamal and am sad to hear he has died, especially sad to hear that he was shot.

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