Lebanon / Cities and Towns /
Capital of Lebanon with 1.5 million inhabitants (2003 estimate). Situated on the sea, and an important sea port.
Beirut is refinding its old grace.
Seen from the corniche.
The Martyr's Square has been entirely rebuilt since the war. The result is quite impressive.
Almost like open wounds, Beirut's ancient past is visible several places around downtown.
Beirut rests on two hills, making up respectively East and West Beirut. Beirut makes up a triangular peninsula, allowing a comparatively flat area compared to the rising mountains in the east.
The economy of Beirut is diverse, ranging from publishing, banking, trade to a diverse industry.
Beirut has long been one of the most important commercial and financial centres of the Levant and Middle East. This has been weakened due to the occurences of the last two decades, but businessmen from Beirut are rapidly returning to the international arena.
Beirut is divided into three regions: East for the Christians, west for Sunnis and south for Shi'is and Palestinians. Shi'i Muslims have moved to the areas of West Beirut in recent decades.
Beirut is a mixture of Western and Arabic architecture, but is not very well organized: residential and commercial areas are interspersed, sometimes also with industrial activity.
Today's Beirut is still partly destroyed from civil war, Israeli attacks and Syrian occupation from 1975 to 1991. It is currently under reconstruction which takes a modest pace, and in many areas, destroyed buildings lie next to modern and elegant new buildings. The town centre is rebuilt according to older plans, giving Beirut back its old charm and elegance.
There are no good statistics for the ethnic and religious groups of Lebanon. The two dominant groups are Christians and Sunni Muslims. In addition to the group referred to as Arabs (which is made up of both original Arabs, but largely the original Phoenicians), there are Syrians, Armenians and small Kurdish groups.
Beirut has 21 universities, a high number reflecting the many ethnic and religious groups in the city. The most prominent appear still to be the American University of Beirut.
14th century BCE: Beirut is first mentioned in an Egyptian source. It was a small Phoenician port, known as Be'erot or Beryte, meaning "wells."
140: Beryte is destroyed by the Romans in in their campaign against the Seleucids.
14: Becomes a Roman colony known as Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Berytus.
3rd century CE: Berytus becomes famous for its School of Law, one of the first three in the world.
551: An earthquake and a tidal wave destroys Berytus.
635: The region of Berytus comes under Arab Muslim control, at a time when there is little more than a village here.
7th century: The Arab Muslims rebuild Berytus, now arabized to Beirut, making it into a walled garrison town administered from Baalbek.
1110: Conquered by Christian Crusaders and becomes part of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
1187: Conquered by Muslim troops under the leadership of Saladin.
1197: Reconquered by the Christians.
1291: Conquered by the Mamluks of Egypt, bringing it under lasting Muslim control.
1516: Together with the rest of Syria, Beirut passes to the Ottoman Empire.
1598: Comes under control of the emirs of Maan and Shihab.
17th century: Beirut becomes a thriving port for the export of Lebanese silk.
1633: Passes back to the Ottomans.
1749: Returns to the territory of the emirs of Maan and Shihab.
1768: With the beginning of the Russo-Turkish War, Beirut is bombarded.
1774: The Russo-Turkish War comes to and end, and Beirut is transferred to the Ottomans, who leaves the city in neglect.
1830's: The small town of Beirut becomes a central trading port and a gateway to the Middle East, seeing fast growth.
1860: Druze massacres on Christians in the Lebanese mountains, making many Christians seek refuge in Beirut.
1866: The Syrian Protestant College is founded. This would later become the American University of Beirut.
1881: St. Joseph University is founded by French Jesuit missionaries.
1888: Beirut is made capital of an Ottoman province that included all of coastal Syria as well as Palestine.
1894: A modern harbour is built, as well as a railway to Damascus.
1943: Independence for Lebanon, and Beirut sees fast and unplanned growth.
1948: A large influx of Palestinian refugees following the First Palestinian War.
1950s: Beirut becomes the economic, social, intellectual and cultural centre of the Arab Middle East.
1958: Fights between Christians and Muslims.
1970: After being kicked out of Jordan, the PLO installs itself in Beirut.
1975: Civil war breaks out in Lebanon when all possible groups started fighting each other, in a somewhat confused manner.
1982: West Beirut is largely destroyed in fights between Israeli forces and the forces of the PLO.
1984: Fights between Christians and Muslims for the control of West Beirut.
1986: Leaders of West Beirut calls for Syrian troops to control their area.
1990: Civil war comes to an end.
1996 April: Israeli air force bombs Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut.
2005 April 26: The last Syrian troops leave Beirut.
2006 July 13: Bombardments of central parts of Beirut's infrastructure, in retaliation of Hizbullah kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.