Beirut, capital city of Lebanon
What Beirut is depends mostly on where you are within the Lebanese capital. If you are exploring the vibrant, hip and young neighborhoods of Achrafiye or Gemmayzeh, the city is about drinking, eating and partying like there is no tomorrow. If you are wandering by buildings riddled with bullet holes or visiting with an elderly local near the Green Line, the capital is a place of bitter memories stemming from its dark past. If you gazing at the captivating mosques and reconstructed colonial relics downtown, Beirut represents the victory of rejuvenation over disaster. For some visitors, the city represents freedom, for others salvation and for others still, it is a city of joy or sorrow. To these emotions, add world-class universities, strong coffee, rousing political demonstrations, crowded streets, peaceful gardens and internationally renowned museums, and you can begin to understand this complex and lively capital.
One of Beirut's major centers of culture is the National Museum, located on one of the former Green Line's most strategically important intersections. Exhibits span major eras from prehistory through the Mamluk period, and labels are easy to understand in English, French and Arabic. Highlights from the extensive collection include a pebble idol dating back to 9000 BC, gilded bronze Phoenician statuettes, marble statues from Echmoun and a fabulous series of glimmering Byzantine gold jewelry. Every thirty minutes, the museum a short but interesting documentary about how the collection was saved during the civil war and staff members restored the museum to the glorious institution it is today.
When the Romans conquered Beirut, they added all the comforts of home, including lavish baths. Today, visitors can walk through the ruins of the public baths in the downtown district near the majestic government office buildings. Surrounded by modern structures, the baths are a startling reminder of the city's past and have a park-like atmosphere complete with benches on which to rest and watch the city go by.
There is so much history to admire in the Lebanese capital that it is easy to overlook the newer additions that are the source of much pride to locals, including the Mohammed el-Amin Mosque. This beauty, reminiscent of Istanbul's Blue Mosque, is the resting place of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and a dazzling example of Lebanese architecture. Four 72-meter minarets mark the corners, while the ornate yellow and blue dome reaches heights of 42 meters. When the sun shines, as it almost always does in Beirut, the dome shines a shimmering shade of gold.
The Raouche district is a favorite of both locals and tourists, loved for its brilliant seaside views and many cafes, boutiques and restaurants. The natural offshore rock arches, known as the Pigeon Rocks, make for a great photo opportunity and the beach is a calm respite from the chaos of the city. If you visit during the summer months, take a boat tour around the caves and rocks to see the natural wonders up close.
One of the most charming and historic districts of the city is Ashrafieh, home to a great number of coffee shops, restaurants, nightclubs and galleries. It is also home to the Nicolas Sursock Museum, which showcases the country's best collection of international and Lebanese art in an 18th century palace. Open-air art shows are often held at the nearby Escalier de Saint Nicolas, the longest staircase in the Middle East.
Beirut Geographical Location
Beirut is located on the central western coast of Lebanon on a peninsula surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. It is the largest city in Lebanon with a population of approximately 275,000.
Arabic is the official language of Lebanon and many secondary schools use French as a second language of instruction.
Beirut Predominant Religion
- 60% Muslim
- 39% Christian
- 1% Other
The Christian population is made up of Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Coptic and Protestant with Maronite Catholics having the largest community.
The Lebanese Pound is the official currency of Lebanon.
The winters in Beirut are usually mild and rainy while the summers are hot with very little rain. Although it is not common, it can snow during the winter.
Beirut Main Attractions
- Temples of Baalbek
- Jeita Grotto
- National Museum of Beirut
Other Attractions in Beirut
- Sursock Museum
- Muhammad Al-Amin Mosque
- Corniche Beirut