Beirut

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Beirut is the capital, largest city, and chief seaport of Lebanon. It is sometimes referred to by its French name, Beyrouth. There are wide-ranging estimates of Beirut's population, from as low as 938,940 people,lack of an exact figure is due to the fact that no "comprehensive" population census has been taken in Lebanon since 1932.

Beirut had undergone major reconstruction in recent years and has hosted the Francophonie and the Arab League summits in 2002. In 2007, Beirut hosted the ceremony for Le Prix Albert Londres, which rewards outstanding Francophone journalists every year. The city is set to host the Jeux de la Francophonie in 2009.

Beirut was considered as a possible candidate for the 2024 Summer Olympics games. The massive $1.2 billion Sannine Zenith project will make Lebanon capable of holding the games.

The city is home to numerous international organizations. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) is headquartered in Downtown Beirut while the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) both have regional offices in Beirut covering the Arab world. The Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) is also headquartered in Beirut.

In Travel and Leisure magazine's 'World Best Awards 2006' Beirut was ranked the 9th (out of 10) city in the world, falling just short of New York City and coming ahead of San Francisco.

Contents

History

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View of Beirut with Snow-Capped Sannine Summit of Mount Lebanon in the Background - 19th Century
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Beirut Central District
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Beirut, the Mediterranean, and snow-capped Mount Sannine
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Roman baths in Downtown Beirut

Originally named Bêrūt, "The Wells" by the Phoenicians, Beirut's history goes back more than 5000 years. Excavations in the downtown area have unearthed layers of Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman civilizations. The first historical reference to Beirut dates from the 14th century BC, when it is mentioned in the cuneiform tablets of the "Amarna letters." Ammunira of Biruta (Beirut) sent 3 letters to the pharaoh of Egypt. Biruta is also referenced in the letters from Rib-Hadda of Byblos. The most ancient settlement was on an island in the river that progressively silted up. The city was known in antiquity as Berytus (see also List of traditional Greek place names); this name was taken in 1934 for the archaeological journal published by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the American University of Beirut.

In 140 BC, the city was taken and destroyed by Diodotus Tryphon in his contest with Antiochus VII Sidetes for the throne of the Seleucid monarchy. Beirut was soon rebuilt on a more regularized Hellenistic plan, renamed Laodicea in Phoenicia (Greek: Λαοδικεια ή του Φοινίκη) or Laodicea in Canaan, in honor of a Seleucid Laodice. The modern city overlies the ancient one and little archaeology had been accomplished until after the end of the civil war in 1991; now large sites in the devastated city center have been opened to archaeological exploration. A dig in 1994 established that one of Beirut's modern streets, Souk Tawile, still follows the lines of an ancient Hellenistic/Roman one.

Mid-first century BC coins of Berytus bear the head of Tyche, goddess of fortune; on the reverse, the city's symbol appears: a dolphin entwines an anchor. This symbol was taken up by the early printer Aldus Manutius in 15th century Venice.

Under the Romans, it was enriched by the dynasty of Herod the Great, and was made a colonia, Colonia Iulia Augusta Felix Berytus, in 14 BC. Beirut's school of law was widely known at the time. Two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian, both natives of Phoenicia, taught at the law school under the Severan emperors. When Justinian assembled his Pandects in the 6th century, a large part of the corpus of laws were derived from these two jurists, and Justinian recognized the school as one of the three official law schools of the empire (533). Within a few years, as the result of a disastrous earthquake (551), the students were transferred to Sidon.

Beirut passed to the Arabs in 635. As a trading centre of the eastern Mediterranean Beirut was overshadowed by Akka during the Middle Ages. From 1110 to 1291 it was in the hands of Crusader lords. No matter who was its nominal overlord, whether Turk or Mamluk, Beirut was ruled locally by Druze emirs. One of these, Fakr ed-Din Maan II, fortified it early in the 17th century, but the Ottomans retook it in 1763 and thenceforth, with the help of Damascus, Beirut successfully broke Akka's monopoly on Syrian maritime trade and for a few years supplanted it as the main trading centre in the region. During the succeeding epoch of rebellion against Ottoman hegemony at Akka under Jezzar and Abdullah pashas, Beirut declined to a small town (population about 10,000), fought over among the Druze, the Turks and the pashas. After Ibrahim Pasha captured Akka in 1832, Beirut began its early modern revival. In 1888 Beirut was made capital of a vilayet in Syria, including the sanjaks Latakia, Tripoli, Beirut, Akka and Bekaa. Beirut became a very cosmopolitan city and had close links with Europe and the United States. Beirut became a centre of missionary activity, which was generally very unsuccessful in conversions (a massacre of Christians in 1860 was the occasion for further European interventions), but did build an impressive education system. This include the Syrian Protestant College, which was established by American missionaries and eventually became the American University of Beirut (AUB). Beirut became the centre of Arab intellectual activity in the 19th century. Provided with water from a British company and gas from a French one, the city thrived on exporting silk grown on nearby Mount Lebanon. After French engineers established a modern harbor (1894) and a rail link across Lebanon to Damascus, and then to Aleppo (1907), much of the trade was carried by French ships to Marseille, and soon French influence in the area exceeded that of any other European power. In 1911 the population mix was reported in the Encyclopædia Britannica as Muslims, 36,000; Christians, 77,000; Jews, 2500; Druze, 400; foreigners, 4100. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, Beirut, along with all of Lebanon was placed under the French Mandate.

Lebanon achieved independence in 1943 and Beirut became its capital city. Beirut remained the intellectual capital of the Arab world and a major commercial and tourist center until 1975 when a brutal civil war broke out in Lebanon. During most of the war, the city was divided between the largely Muslim west part and the Christian east. The central area of the city, previously the focus of much of the commercial and cultural activities, became a no-man's land. Many of the city's best and brightest inhabitants fled to other countries. In 1983 French and US barracks were bombed, killing 302.

Since the end of the war in 1989, the people of Lebanon have been rebuilding Beirut, and by the start of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict the city had somewhat regained its status as a tourist, cultural, and intellectual center in the Middle East, as well as a center for commerce, fashion, and media. However, many would say the city has lost its premier status, due to competition from places like Dubai and Cyprus in the fields of tourism, business, fashion, commerce, and banking. Reconstruction of downtown Beirut has been largely driven by Solidere, a development company established in 1994 by Hariri. Beirut is home to the international designer Elie Saab, jeweller Robert Moawad, and to some popular satellite television stations, such as LBC, Future TV, New TV and others. The city was host to the Asian Basketball Championship and the Asian Football Championship. Beirut also successfully hosted the Miss Europe pageant eight times, 1960-1964, 1999, 2001-2002.

The 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri near the Saint George Bay in Beirut shook the entire country. The last Syrian troops withdrew from Beirut on April 26 2005.

Geography

Backed by the Mount Lebanon mountains, Beirut is situated on a spur where the narrow coastal plain projects into the Mediterranean Sea. Beirut's coast is rather diverse; rocky beaches, sandy shores, and cliffs are situated beside one another.

Beirut is located halfway along the Lebanese coastline with Byblos and Tripoli to the North, and Sidon and Tyre to the South. The Lebanon Mountains surround much of Beirut, with Eastern Lebanon behind them. Its location makes it easy to reach from almost any location in Lebanon.


Districts & Neighborhoods

The districts of Beirut are:

File:Ramlet al Baida.jpg
Ramlet al Baida beach in Beirut

Colleges and universities

There are twenty-one universities in Beirut, including:

Transportation

The city's airport, situated in the southern suburbs, was previously known as Beirut International Airport; in 2005 it was renamed Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport in honor of the slain former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The civilian airport was bombed by the Israeli military in July 2006 and was closed for two months. The airport reopened August 17, 2006.<ref>CBS News/AP: "Lebanon Starts To Regain Control"</ref> By land, the city has frequent bus connections to other cities in Lebanon and major cities in Syria; the latter are also served by either service or taxis. Buses for northern destinations and Syria leave from Charles Helou Station.

Public Spaces

Sports

Beirut, in addition to Sidon and Tripoli, hosted the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. There are two stadiums in the city, Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium and Beirut Municipal Stadium.

There are seven Football teams in the Lebanese Premier League that are based in Beirut: Al Ahed, Al-Ansar, Al Hikma, Al Mabarrah, Al Nejmeh, Safa and Shabab Al-Sahel.

Beirut has two Basketball teams, Al Riyadi and Al Hikma, that participate in the premiere division of the Lebanese Basketball Championship.

Other sports events in Beirut include the annual Beirut Marathon, a weekly Horse racing at Beirut Hippodrome, and Golf and Tennis tournaments that take place at Golf Club of Lebanon.

Religion

File:Beirut Mosque Church.jpg
Mosque and Church in Downtown Beirut

Beirut is one of the most religiously diverse cities of the Middle East, with Muslims (Sunni and Shi'ite), Christians (Maronite Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, Roman Catholics, Syriacs, Copts, Methodists, Protestants), Druze and atheists all having a significant presence. However, most of the Jews of Beirut emigrated to Israel, and the United States when the Lebanese Civil War started in 1975, though there are also populations of Lebanese Jews in France and Brazil, one of the more famous ones being Edmond Safra. Many of the denominations are actually tiny minorities or, like the Jews, almost non-existent (estimates place the Jewish population at less than 30). The Armenian Catholics, Roman Catholics, Syriacs, and Copts all number in the thousands and have a negligible presence when compared to the other religions. For all intents and purposes, Lebanon really only has 8 major religions (Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Druze, Maronite Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, and Protestants). There is no counting of atheist people or non believers in Lebanon because of the predominance of religion in public life and in the governmental and administrative sphere.

The patron god of Beirut in Phoenician mythology is Baal-Berit, also god of the sea.

Arts & Fashion

There are hundreds of art galleries in Beirut and its suburbs. Lebanese people are very involved in art and art production. More than 5000 fine art artists and equal artists working in music, design, architecture, theatre, movie industry, photography and all other forms of art are producing in Lebanon. Every year hundreds of fine art students graduate from universities and institutions. Artist Workshops are flourishing all around Lebanon. In Beirut specifically, the art scene is very rich, vibrant and diverse.

On another scale, fashion and couture are very much thriving throughout the city. Fashion houses are opening up and a number of international fashion designers have displayed their work in various fashion shows. Beirut is home to international fashion designers such as Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad, and Georges Chakra.

Famous Births

Sister cities

Gallery

See also

References

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External links

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