Beirut is a huge metropolis, the capital of the Republic of Lebanon. It is the economic, industrial, political and cultural center of the country, has many historical, architectural attractions, a large number of modern shopping, entertainment complexes. The city’s restaurants serve famous Lebanese dishes, as well as Mediterranean, European cuisine.
Beirut is worth a visit because this historic city has retained its originality, ethnic and religious diversity. The city gained its uniqueness thanks to the continuous change of various civilizations that over the centuries passed through the territory of Lebanon, integrated and eventually created a modern, authentic culture.
Briefly about the capital of Lebanon
Beirut ranks first in the country in terms of urban population, although it is difficult to determine the exact number of inhabitants. The last official census was in 1932. According to some estimates, the city is the residence of more than 2 million people (1/3 of the total population of Lebanon).
Beirut is a European, multi-faith city. The main part of the city’s population professes Christianity, so alcohol can be freely purchased in shopping malls, however, you cannot drink it on the streets. Clothes can be any, but too open outfits are not welcome.
The capital hosts international festivals and sporting events. Among the annual events the festivals stand out:
- Music (Beirut Music Festival);
- Chocolate (Salon du Chocolate);
- Culture (Cultural Festival);
- Cinema (International Film Fest.);
- Cooking (Cooking Fest.).
To travel around the city and the country, you can rent a car, however, the rules of the road (as well as traffic lights, markings, pedestrian crossings) are practically absent. Therefore, it is better for European tourists to use the services of local taxi drivers. The fare on the city (depending on the distance) ranges from 2-6 thousand L.L. if you are not traveling alone. That is, a taxi driver seats passengers along the way (sometimes three go behind and two more are in the front seat near the driver). If you prefer comfort (a trip alone), then you will have to pay more – 10-15 thousand L.L.
Beirut is located in the western part of the Mediterranean Sea on a peninsula protruding into the sea and is surrounded by mountain ranges from east and west. It is 94 km from the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Beirut’s area is 67 km² (capital with a suburb). The coast of the city is heterogeneous, it combines rocky and sandy forms. In the north of the city – a rocky beach, and in the south – sandy.
There is only one public free sandy beach, Rafik Hariri, in the city.
How to get to Beirut
At a distance of 9 km south of the capital is the international airport.
From the airport to the city a taxi will deliver you for 20-25 thousand L.L. (approximately $ 15-20).
Climate in Beirut
Beirut is characterized by a Mediterranean climate. Summer is hot and humid. The highest temperature in August is 35 ℃. This is the hottest month in the capital.
Winter is cold and rainy, the temperature drops to 10 ℃. The coldest months are January and February. The rainy season is confined to the winter months, however, some precipitation falls in spring and autumn.
Best time to travel to Beirut:
- From late March to mid-May;
- From October to the end of November.
History of Beirut
The first inhabitants of Beirut were the people of Jobil and the city at that time was an independent kingdom. This coastal region was called Phoenician, and its people were called Baal-Birith, which later became known as Sidi-Beirut. The first mention of Beirut dates back to the 15th century BC. e.
There are several suggestions for the name of the city of Beirut:
The Phoenicians named it Perret, which means wells.
The name may be associated with the god Peritis, Beirutus or Peroha, the most revered of the gods of Lebanon.
In a general sense, Beirut means “pine.” It is possible that the city got its name due to the pine forest growing next to it.
Other names of Beirut: Lattakia Canaan, Julia August Peritus, Derby, Radidon. Over the centuries, the city bore different names: the Phoenicians called it “the city of God” and “the proud and glorious Beirut”, the Greeks – Peritos, and the Turks – “dear Baldra”.
In 64 B.C. e. the Romans came to the city. During this period, rapid development and construction took place in Beirut. Temples, residential and public buildings were erected. This period includes the construction and opening of the largest law school of that time and the famous Roman baths (term).
Beirut flourished in the Roman era, but a series of earthquakes in the VI century (535 CE) destroyed the city. Many buildings were destroyed, tens of thousands of people died. Natural disasters forced most of the surviving residents to go to Sidon.
One hundred years later, the era of Arab conquest began, which was discovered by Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan. The city began to rebuild, fortresses and castles were erected. However, Beirut under Islamic rule was not as widely known as the city of Tripoli in the north of the country.
Following the Arabs, crusaders came to the lands of Lebanon. Muslims suffered greatly in battles with the crusaders and for almost 77 years did not try to recapture Lebanese territories. However, Salah al-Din in 1182 tried to conquer Beirut again, but was driven back to Damascus. Only the second attempt, five years later, on the 29th Jamad in the 583th year of Hijra / on 6 August 1187, allowed Muslims to enter Beirut.
Salah al-Din sought to occupy coastal cities, including Beirut, in order to deprive the crusaders of naval bases that were associated with the outside world, especially Western Europe. In addition, Saladin’s capture of the ports of Sham (the territory of Lebanon and Syria) allowed him to establish a fast maritime connection between his two countries: Egypt and Syria.
There was a signal system (a chain of bonfires) that alerted residents of neighboring cities about enemy raids. Thus, it was possible to inform Cairo (in Egypt) about a naval raid on Beirut during the day.
In 1516, Sultan Suleiman I seized the lands of Lebanon and since that time the rule of the Ottoman Empire has been established in the country for almost 400 years. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the territory was occupied by the French, who on May 23, 1926 announced the creation of the Lebanese Republic with its capital in the city of Beirut.
On November 22, 1943, Lebanon gained independence, however, all foreign armies left the country only in 1946.
The country experienced its heyday in 1955-1970 and even got the name East Switzerland for the stability of its financial situation. At this time, there was such a massive flow of foreign tourists that Beirut was called “East Paris”.
As a result of the Civil War, which began in 1975 and lasted 15 years, the city was badly damaged. At the end of the war in 1990, a large-scale reconstruction of Beirut began, which turned it into a thriving tourist resort.
Sights in Beirut
Beirut is an ancient city that attracts tourists with its historic architecture. Among the most famous and popular tourist spots in Beirut:
The most visited place by tourists, which, of course, contains many restaurants, shops and cafes, as well as outdoor venues for concerts and festivals.
Statue of the martyrs
The statue is located on Freedom Square. This is a monument to the Lebanese people accused of conspiring against the Ottoman Empire and killed by the Turks in 1916. To see the statue, which is unique in its design, not only local residents come, but also numerous tourists.
Nicholas Sursak built his palace in 1910, where he placed a collected collection of archaeological antiquities. It can be visited daily from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 19:00 for free. After the death of the owner in 1952, the palace was transferred to the municipality of Beirut to become a museum of modern art, as mentioned in the will. One of the conditions was that the mayor of Beirut will be the head of the museum.
The museum was opened to visitors in 1961. This palace hosts many Lebanese and international literary performances that attract foreign tourists, no less than museum exhibits.
Mohammed Amin Mosque
The mosque is located in the historical part of Beirut on Martyrs Square (Prince Bashir Street runs through the center) and is one of Lebanon’s most famous tourist attractions. This is the largest mosque in the country and the most beautiful in terms of internal and external architectural design.
As Beirut grew, the idea arose of building a mosque in the city center that could accommodate thousands of believers. A systematic redemption of land for construction began. After many years of waiting and assistance from various committees, in the early 2000s there was enough space to place a large building on the site of the old mosque of Mohammed Amin (the building of 1852, from which at that time there were only ruins).
The mosque was built mainly thanks to the efforts and donation of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Construction was carried out from 2002 to 2005 and was almost completed when the prime minister was killed in the assassination attempt, but the work did not stop. The body of Rafik Hariri is buried in the mosque.
The mosque is made in the characteristic architectural style of the Mamluks and the Ottoman Empire. Its arches and doors are covered with stone, decorated with paintings from the Holy Quran.
The selected styles appeared in everything: color, details, geometric dimensions of the mosque, minarets and domes. For construction were used:
- A rock.
- Colored glass.
The total area of the building is 10 711 m².
Entrance for men is on the north side, for women – on the west. On the ground floor there is a prayer place, a special large hall that can accommodate about 3,700 worshipers and has four exits to the street.
It is one of the largest green areas available to the public in the capital. It is located between the Qasqas and Tayouneh districts. Plants and trees grow on its territory, which are exotic and rare in the Mediterranean region. Open for lovers of walking, running, yoga and sports daily from Monday to Friday from 7:00 to 14:00.
At the end of the IIX century, the forest stretched from the coast to the borders of Lebanon;
In the XII century AD e. forest area was 12 square miles;
Today, its area is estimated at approximately 330,000 m² (0.12 square miles).
There are several versions of the Beirut forest.
Some scientists believe that the forest has existed since the time of the Phoenicians and Romans. Subsequently, the Crusader soldiers took wood for the construction of boats;
But there are those who attribute the planting of pine in the middle of the XVII century BC. e. Prince Fahruddin II the Great.
The Roman bath was used by residents to maintain body hygiene, and also served as a place where people enjoyed reading and exchanging news.
Roman baths were opened between 1968 and 1969 in the center of Beirut.
The most important parts of the Roman bath:
- Dressing room;
- Cold, moderate, hot rooms;
- The bathrooms have marble or mosaic floors.
National Museum of Beirut
The National Museum of Beirut is the first stop in the program of every tourist. Museum exhibits will tell about the ancient civilizations of Lebanon and various periods of its history.
The creation of the National Museum dates back to the 1920s, when the need arose for a central building with archaeological finds. After choosing a place on Sham Road, construction began on the building, which lasted from 1930 to 1937.
When the museum opened in May 1943, its exhibits were artifacts discovered during excavations of Beirut, Sidon, Tire and other cities of Lebanon. From year to year, his collections were replenished and in the next three decades, he became the most famous cultural center in Lebanon.
When the Civil War broke out (in 1975), officials took the initiative to protect rare museum collections. One of the sections was closed with a thick layer of reinforced concrete, and the other was transferred outside the museum to the building of the Bank of Lebanon. Mosaic protection measures were taken (thick insulation from plastic sheets coated with cement).
Despite all the precautions, the museum suffered heavy damage. Shelling destroyed the building, water penetrated through cracks in the gaps and reached the interior corridors of the room.
With the end of the war in 1990, the Main Directorate of Antiquities discovered that it was facing an almost impossible task: repairing the building, analyzing the contents, indexing, and restoring it. Despite the damage caused to the museum during the Civil War (1975-1990), state and special support allowed it to reopen on October 8, 1999.
The new building was built in 1997 with internal partitions, sound insulation, elevators and an air conditioning system, which will protect the exhibits from heat and humidity.
The museum exhibits pottery, glass products with rare ornaments. They cover the following historical periods:
- Prehistoric era (millions of years – 4000 years BC);
- Bronze Age (3200-1200 BC)
- The period of the Ottoman Empire (635-1516).
- The most important museum assets:
- The son of Ahiram from Byblos. The inscription is engraved on the stone – the earliest known Phoenician alphabets;
- Two white marble slabs with carved faces. They were found near Sidon in 1901. Dated to the V century BC. e;
- A piece of cedar wood dating back to 41 BC e;
- Bronze Age Medallions and Jewelry of the 5th Century BC e;
- Gold jewelry collection of the Mamluk period (1289-1516);
- Black volcanic vase, golden box, two phantoms of the pharaohs Amenemhat II and IV;
- Gold and bronze vases with holes, a gold vessel, a dagger inlaid with gold, silver and ivory;
- Blown glass of Roman and Byzantine workshops made in Tire (I century BC).
The mission of the National Museum is not only to display the found artifacts, but also to save, restore and document them. The museum’s unique collections are a valuable source of historical information for researchers, citizens and tourists.
Museum of stones
On an area of 1300 m² there are hundreds of minerals and crystals, precious stones.
The Beirut Stone Museum is the first of its kind in the Middle East and the most famous in the world.
Salim Michel Edde – a collector and collector of the museum collection, traveled around the world and all continents to collect hundreds of unique items from the exhibition. He began to collect his collection in 1997 and first kept it at home. Later, the idea came of creating your own museum, which opened its doors to visitors in 2013.
The museum is located in the Hall of Innovation and Sports at the Jesuit University. The museum has seven departments, the stones in which compete with each other in beauty and uniqueness. Three-dimensional panoramic facades, which allow the visitor to see the stone from all sides, in addition to special lighting, add mystery and charm to the exhibits.
In Lebanon and neighboring countries there is no mining of minerals and precious stones. However, in Lebanon, the most beautiful fossils in the world, which are also exhibited as part of the museum’s collection.
What else to see in Beirut: the Omari mosque, the clock tower, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. George, the silk museum.
Entertainment in Beirut
The city has a large number of night clubs, pubs, bars. Gambling tourists should definitely visit the Lebanese casino. Casino du Liban is one of the most famous casinos in the world. It is located 22 km north of Beirut on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Jounieh in the El Muallatin area.
The casino has been operating for more than half a century (since the 50s) and even during the Civil War it continued to function. In 1995, the administration of the casino signed a new agreement with the Lebanese state, allowing exclusive investment in gambling in all Lebanese territories. The agreement will be valid for 30 years, provided that the state receives an additional share of the casino’s cash proceeds. Moreover, ownership of land, buildings and all equipment is considered after this period as state property.
After opening in the 50s of the last century, the casino quickly established itself as the first entertainment center in the Middle East. In 2004, the casino took 18th place among hundreds of the most successful gambling establishments in the world. The casino hosts well-known Arab, international singers, holds Lebanese and international beauty contests, which attracts millions of tourists from all over the world.
The casino has 5 restaurants:
- La Terrace, Baccara (bar for drinks and food);
- Circle Floor (French);
- La Martingale International (French);
- La Teresa (Lebanese);
- Mediterranean restaurant.
- To visit the institution you must follow the dress code: formal suit, tie for men and formal dress for women. In the field of slot machines: dress, suit (jeans and sneakers are not allowed).
Wave water park
Waves Aqua Park Resort is one of the largest entertainment venues in Beirut. It is not only the largest water park in the city, but also one of the largest parks in the Middle East with an area of 60,000 m².
Rouche is a popular residential and commercial area, famous for its high-end residential buildings, as well as many restaurants and cafes located on both sides of its streets. In this area there is a very beautiful Parisian street, which overlooks Beirut Corniche (Cornish).
Sea Cornish and Al-Rausch Rock
The city Cornish (or wide pier) on the street of Paris is one of the most popular places for tourists and citizens of the country. It extends from Ain al-Marisa to Ramle al-Bayd. In the morning – it is full of fishermen and lovers of morning sports, in the evening – crowds of townspeople and tourists. Here you can rent a motorcycle or bike and take a wonderful walk along the sea.
Opposite the coast of the Rausch district there is a natural attraction called the bath rock or the morning rock Nassar (also known as the Raushe rock). This huge rock formation is a popular place for locals and visitors to the city.
Al Zaitoon Bay
The “marine façade” of Beirut is called Zaytuna Bay. Along the entire coast of the bay there are diverse cafes and restaurants. However, everyone can go down to the sea for walks.
This is the most modern area in Beirut. The area has many landscaped gardens, as well as places for entertainment (clubs, bars, restaurants).
In this area was the tallest building (until 2008) in Beirut – the Platinum Tower (153 m). It has an observation deck with breathtaking views of the coast.
Al Sanaya Park
Al Sanaya Park is located near Al Hamra Street. The official name is Rene Movad Park, an area of about 22,000 m². The park is popular among large and small visitors who come here to enjoy the shade of perennial trees.
Gibran Khalil Park
The garden of Lebanese writer Gibran Halil Gibran is a special place. The park has many trees, a fountain, a statue of Gibran Khalil, as well as sculptures by contemporary Lebanese artists.
Located in Ashrafiya, covers an area of about 20,000 m². Sioufi Park is a mini-garden with a swing for children, a variety of trees and plants, which are looked after by the park staff.
What else to visit: racecourse, water park “Watergate”, amusement park, children’s entertainment center Planet Discovery, Dino Park.
Shopping in Beirut
Fashion in the capital is unique and universal. There are a large number of Beirut:
- Large shopping centers (Beirut Mall, City Mall);
- Brand stores of clothes and shoes;
- Carpet stores;
- Antique shops;
- Spice shops (attar).
- The city has a whole shopping district – Hamra, where all kinds of goods are sold: gold and silver products, copper dishes, leather clothes and shoes, furniture, paintings, etc.
- In general, shopping in Beirut offers tourists European diversity and oriental exoticism.
In the cafes and restaurants of the city all the cuisines of the world are represented. If we talk about local Lebanese cuisine, then the national dishes are tasty and healthy. In almost any dish, olive oil, lemon juice, cinnamon and garlic are added.
- National salad – tabbule (a mixture of parsley, tomatoes, specially processed chopped wheat, onions);
- Meat dish – kebbe (wheat cake with lamb or ground beef stuffed with meat and spices). It is cooked in the oven or on charcoal;
- Hummus, ful, falyafel (prepared from peas and seeds of a legume plant);
- A huge selection of sweets based on flour and semolina, with the addition of cottage cheese, cream, nuts, sugar syrup;
- Ice cream – made by hand and has a fruity or nutty flavor. The secret of production is kept secret and transmitted in the family from generation to generation;
- Lebanese bread – pita bread, flat cakes of various sizes and methods of baking.
In addition to restaurants and cafes, fast-food points are scattered around the city, where tourists are offered shawarma, grills, sandwiches and salads. The cost of shawarma ranges from 4-6 thousand L.L., grilled chicken – 10-15 thousand L.L., salad – 3-5 thousand L.L., bread – 1-2 thousand L.L.
Beirut remains a place that attracts many local and foreign tourists. Its climate, coastal and mountainous regions, culture attract not only connoisseurs of antiquity, but also lovers of nightlife, club life.