Since the earliest Phoenician records, salt ponds existed on the rocky shores of Anfeh, an ancient port just south of Tripoli. The great traders carved ponds in the seaside rocks and carried sea water to these ponds, or salinas, in large pottery jars.
After evaporation by sun and wind, the salt crystals were gathered and transported to points east, west and north by galley or caravan. Over time, the extracted salt from Anfeh became a major commercial success. In fact, there are tablets written in Cuneiform dating from 1,400 BC which tell us of the superior quality of Anfeh salt. To this day, the country’s ancient salt heritage still survives, with Anfeh salt found on any market shelf in Lebanon.
Despite its celebrated past, however, under Ottoman rule, salt extraction was forbidden, and the salinas (salt ponds) of Anfeh were destroyed. Broken and empty, the salt ponds became unproductive for the first time in their long history. During the long Turkish rule, women would fill jars by night and carry the sea water to their villages in the hills where the inhabitants had created small basins for secret salt extraction. Whoever was caught was severely punished, but then, as now, life and food preservation depended on salt, so it must have been worth the risk.
Unchanged during the French mandate, the Ottoman laws remained until 1943.
It was only when Lebanon became independent that salt extraction became legal again, with new basins created, tens of thousands of them, all along the coast of Anfeh. The salt beds began and ended at the limits of the town on 500,000 square meters of rocky shore.