In 2001, Beirut was considered the “most dangerous city in the world.” Consequently, it’s easy to forget that this is one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities on Earth. Its cosmopolitan charms are now gradually coming back into view as it unlocks its possibilities from within its powerful history.
When an increasing number of travelers are rediscovering this ancient Mediterranean port city for its vibrant nightlife, modern souks, and shops, Beirut has long been regarded as one of the most underrated places in the region. But with what appears to be efforts to reclaim its time-honored mystique for all who enter – even those who come reluctantly – tourism is starting to take flight. “Inaugurated in 2011, Beirut’s “Grand Souks of the World” project is a showcase for the city’s quality of life, design, and artistic sophistication. The opening ceremony saw a flotilla of yachts and large vessels dock at the port of Beirut – evoking memories of its heyday as an Ottoman trading hub and capital city – to salute Beirut’s new prosperity.
With over 6 million visitors expected in 2011, tourism has become a viable sector inextricably linked to the city. It may not have the high peaks of the Lebanese mountains or the beautiful beaches along its coast, but it makes up for these shortcomings with an impressive array of museums and art galleries, as well as a unique global feel. You can ski on one of the highest slopes in a city, join a local diving club to explore the Cedars marine reserve, or eat at some of its best ethnic food spots.
The city is also well known for being a favorite getaway for celebrities such as Beyonce and Gerard Butler. A place where singer Courtney Love has filmed several music videos, it’s also seen as an urban playground for other leading lights such as Lady Gaga and Kanye West. But it’s not just the rich and famous now taking note. Contemporaries of the late king Hussein of Jordan, who would also frequent the city, showed signs of becoming a refuge for international artists and writers when Nazi Germany persecuted them. It was always where Jewish refugees fleeing persecution could find a home.
Beirut has become an international center for creativity and business for the region. It’s a place where you might see chocolate confectionery, artwork made of pearls, or even graffiti on the walls of its art galleries.
There’s also a vibrant nightlife and nightlife scene here, with several nightclubs around town and bars that dwarf those found in many European cities. Lebanese music producer Pharrell Williams once owned the territory at the city’s Z metaboliqueZ nightclub. The club is known for its jazz performances but also hosts many famous celebrities who come to perform there.
With all these features, chances are it will soon rank among the world’s best destinations for travelers. But Beirut should never be regarded as a one-off destination. It’s a city that has always been full of surprises for travelers and locals. The guests who come here will find a city that has much to offer, of which its nightclubs, art galleries, and museums are just a part.
Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and the most populous city in the country. It is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and it can be reached by car via either a coastal highway or by taking road number 1. Beirut is divided into 17 municipalities (districts) which range in size from 120 to 400 square kilometers, depending on population density and administrative division. Beirut has a population of over 1 million people (1,185,167). It was established around 2000 BC. The Phoenicians ruled it and then fell under the rule of Alexander the Great. It later became part of the Roman Empire. Its urban history started at least as early as 5000 BC, but its name “Beirut” is derived from the Canaanite legend about Baal-Hermon (“lord of the mountain”).
In Greek and Roman mythology, Hermon had a son named Beirut, who gave his name to the city. The site where Beirut now stands was settled in prehistoric times. During the course of the Phoenician, Roman, and Byzantine periods, Beirut was known as Byblos. The city gained prominence as a trading center in 1575 as the base of the Ottoman navy while it was in control of Syria. It continued to grow in importance after World War II when it became the capital of Lebanon. The city has since expanded with new districts or suburbs at the northern end extending from Zouk Mikael to Putney, which developers have dubbed “Beirut 2”.