Cities and Regions

Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and its largest city with a population of 1.8million. It is located on a rocky promontory almost in the center of the country’s coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. The city has grown to meet its suburbs in all three directions.

On its northern shore is the Port of Beirut which handles transit trade in its 5 piers. It is also a destination for cruise ships.

Beirut International Airport, which sustained major damage during the civil war (1975-1991) has been rebuilt and fitted with state of the art equipment. The airport has two runways, 3250m and 3170m long. It is renamed Rafic Hariri International Airport in honor of the assassinated prime minister.

Industry and manufacturing plants are located in the eastern and southern suburbs. All kinds of consumer products are made here: plastics, paints, chemicals, synthetic fibers, building supplies, leather tanneries, textiles, wool yarn, soaps, health products, jewelry, and food stuffs.

Beirut has been the region’s intellectual and cultural center. Students come from far and wide to attend one of its many universities. The best known learning institutions are the American University of Beirut, Université de St Joseph, the Lebanese American University, the Beirut Arab University and the Lebanese University which enrolls 70,000 students in its various colleges.

Beirut is the Arab world’s center for publishing. There are several hundred Lebanese printing and publishing houses that publish books, several dozen daily newspapers, and weekly and monthly magazines.

The civil war which began in 1975 destroyed much of the city’s infrastructure, buildings, and its population. If there is such a thing as a good outcome to war, then in this case all the ethnic groups and minorities realized they need each other for a Lebanon and the uniqueness of Beirut to exist. In 1982 it was subjected to an invasion and siege and further destruction by the Israeli forces.

Beirut has a long history, beginning in 15th century BC. Under the Roman times it was recognized as having one of the Empire’s most important Schools of Law. The school was destroyed by and earthquake in 551, on its site is today’s Parliament building.

The city was conquered by Muawiya bin abi Sifian in 635 and remained in Arab hands until the Crusaders took it in 1100, followed by Salah al Din in 1291. It was part of the Byzentine Empire, then the Ottoman Empire.

Beirut’s downtown has been rebuilt to world acclaim. The old buildings have been restored, the streets repaved, and the archaeological sites are preserved exposing Beirut’s history beginning in Phoenician times. The sports stadium south of the city has been restored and in 1997 hosted the Arab Games. It is set to host the Francophone Games in 2009, and the Asian Games in 2011.


Café Culture in Beirut