Major Cities of Lebanon

Beirut Tripoli Sidon Tyre Lebanon

Beirut (Berytus)

Capital and largest city of Lebanon, located on the Mediterranean Sea with a population of 1,500,000 (1988 estimate). Situated on a peninsula that projects slightly westward into the Mediterranean, Beirut is contained by the Lebanon Mountains that rise to the east. The Mediterranean climate of the city brings hot summers and mild winters, with high humidity in the summer. The area of the city is roughly 67 sq km (26 sq mi); some sites located outside the municipal boundary are commonly associated with the city. Once a famous port, and as recently as the 1970s a banking and cultural center for the Middle East, Beirut was devastated by civil war and occupation by Israel between 1975 and 1991. Since 1991, the city has been under massive reconstruction. The Arabic name Beirut came from the Canaanite word for “wells”; the city was so named because of the underground water supply in the area.

Beirut and Its Metropolitan Area

Beirut is a cosmopolitan city, with a mixture of European and Arab influences. The city's organization is haphazard, with residential and commercial areas intermingled. On the city's northern edge, the port area dominates East Beirut; in West Beirut, important tourist facilities and institutions, including many of the city's hotels, foreign embassies, and the American University of Beirut, are located along the shore on the Avenue de Paris. The Avenue de Paris forms part of the Corniche, a wide boulevard that continues south along the Mediterranean and encircles much of the city. Avenue de l'Aéroport, a major thoroughfare, runs from the port area to the Beirut International Airport, 8 km (5 mi) south of the city's center.

The city has other major north-south and east-west roads, although the east-west roads were blocked by the creation of the Green Line. This line, so named because it is depicted on maps in green, was the unofficial boundary dividing Beirut into Muslim and Christian sides during the violent period from 1975 to 1990. In that fighting many of the structures adjacent to the Green Line, including parts of Beirut's downtown area, were destroyed. The Hamra district in West Beirut, south of the American University of Beirut, has replaced the downtown area as the city's center.


With rapid growth since the 1950s, Beirut is now home to nearly half of Lebanon's population; estimates exceed 1.5 million for the city. The primary religions represented in Beirut include Islam, Christianity, and the Druze religion. Maronites make up the largest Christian sect in the city, and the majority of Islamic residents are Shiite Muslims or Sunni Muslims. The Druze, whose beliefs are based in Islam but incorporate some elements of Judaism and Christianity, live in West Beirut.

Education and Culture

Starting in the 19th century, Beirut became both a center for Arab nationalist thought and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East. Beirut was known as the most liberal of the Arab capitals, and it provided a safe haven in the Middle East for Arabs who wanted to experience Western cultures. Beirut was also a port of entry for the rest of the world. Some outside powers sought to influence the region by promoting the interests of local Christians. To this end, the Syrian Protestant University, later called the American University of Beirut, was founded in 1866 by American missionaries. Fifteen years later the Université Saint Joseph was established by French Jesuits. These institutions served to bring the philosophies of Europe to the Middle East.

The residents of Beirut took pride in calling their town the “Paris of the Middle East.” When violence erupted in 1975, much of the cultural life and economic activity in Beirut came to a rapid end. Nevertheless, many educational institutions have survived. In addition to the American University of Beirut and the Université Saint Joseph, the city contains the Beirut Arab University (founded in 1960), the Université Libanaise (founded in 1951), and the Lebanese American University (formerly Beirut University College) (founded in 1955), among others.


Beirut is mentioned as far back as the 15th century BC; its name appears in the Tall al'Amarinah tablets. Prominence came when it was given the status of a colony of Rome in the year 14 BC, under the name Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Berytus. The original town was located in the valley between the hills of Ashrafeyah and Musaytibah. Under the Romans, Beirut was famous for its law school, which existed for more than 300 years. The Roman city was destroyed by a series of earthquakes, culminating in the year 551 AD. Arab invaders found little to suggest earlier development when they occupied the city in 635. King Baldwin I of Jerusalem conquered the city in 1110 during the First Crusade, although the city had little importance at that time. Primarily serving as a port for trade with Europe, the town's orientation was to the sea, so it was vulnerable to attack from the adjacent mountain area.

The city changed hands several more times, its fortunes rising and falling with fluctuations in trade with Europe in spices and silk. In 1187 it was taken by Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria. After 1516 the region became nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, but the city was ruled by a variety of local powers. The town began to develop as commerce increased, and by the middle of the 19th century Beirut's population of about 15,000 had expanded beyond the city's walls. During this period of expansion, missionaries from the West and intellectuals of the Arab world began to shape the city.

On October 8, 1918, at the end of World War I, the city was captured from the Ottoman Empire by Allied forces under the command of the British general Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby. Beirut was then included in the mandate granted to France by the League of Nations. In 1920 the city was designated by the French to be the capital of the State of Greater Lebanon. The State of Greater Lebanon became the Lebanese Republic in 1926; it was not established as an independent republic, however, until 1943, and the French withdrawal was not completed until 1946. During this period Beirut absorbed many European elements, including architecture, language, and outlook. The city continued to prosper after the mandate ended, but urban growth was less controlled than during French rule. With the rapid development of banking and tourism industries, the city acquired great wealth, and, at the same time, a sizable underclass of urban poor. After the first Arab-Israeli war, which lasted from 1947 to 1949, many Palestinians entered Lebanon and established a large refugee community in Beirut.

The Lebanese civil war, which erupted in 1975, completely divided Beirut into East and West Beirut. Many Lebanese fled the capital, and most services in the city collapsed. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon and attacked Beirut. After 1982, Israel withdrew to south Lenbanon and was replced by a multinational force, including French, Italian, American, and British troops. Fighting persisted in Beirut through 1990. In the early 1990s the situation in Lebanon became more stable, and ambitious plans for the reconstruction of the city were undertaken.

Sights from Beirut

City of Beirut

Beirut Port

Roucheh Rock on the Mediterranean

Tripoli (Tripolis) [Back to top]

Tripoli (Arabic: Tarabulus) is a city in northwestern Lebanon located north of Beirut on the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon's second largest city, it is a major commercial port with a population of 350,000 (1985 est.). Petroleum refining, sponge fishing, fruit and tobacco processing, and citrus fruit exporting dominate the economy. Of historical interest are the Great Mosque (1294), the Teynal Mosque (1336), and the 15th-century Tower of the Lions, which protected the port and is located in the old city.

Founded in the 7th century BC, Tripoli was in 300 BC the capital of Tripolis, a Phoenician federation including Sidon, Tyre, and Aradus. Tripoli was ruled by the Seleucids (198-64 BC), Romans and Byzantines (64 BC-AD 638), and Arabs (from AD 638). The city and its famous library were destroyed in the early 12th century during the First Crusade. Crusaders rebuilt the city and made it a bishopric, but it was destroyed in 1289 by Mamelukes, who ruled until 1516. Tripoli became part of Lebanon in 1920.

Sidon (syduhn) [Back to top]

Sidon was a city in ancient Phoenicia situated on the upper Palestinian coast near modern Beirut. It survives today as Saida, a Lebanese town of about 45,000 persons.

With Tyre, Sidon symbolized Phoenician maritime enterprise, attaining prominence (c.1300 BC) as a trading center. By the 9th century BC, however, it had become a dependency of Tyre and, like all Phoenician cities, was at the mercy of large Near Eastern powers, thriving or suffering according to its willingness to pay tribute. Thus Sidon was destroyed (677 BC) by Esarhaddon of Assyria. The city was rebuilt, but it declined under the Babylonians and was later revived (after 539 BC) by the Persians. Sidon's sailors were among the Phoenician naval contingents during the Battle of Salamis (480 BC), a Persian War encounter. In 351, Sidon was burned following a revolt against Persia. Eighteen years later, Sidon surrendered to Alexander the Great without a fight. The city later became famous for its glassware and purple-dye industries.

Tyre (Tyrus) (my home town) (Tyrus) (my home town) (Tyrus) (my home town)  
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[More Infromation about Tyre]

Tyre was the most important city and a great trading port of ancient Phoenicia, located on the Mediterranean Sea about 40 km (25 mi) south of Sidon. The city gave its name to the dye known as Tyrian purple. Today Tyre (sometimes called Sur) survives as a small town in southern Lebanon (1990 est. pop., 18,000).

Founded on an island, perhaps as a colony of Sidon, Tyre possessed one of the best harbors on the coast. Until the 4th century BC the city was almost impregnable against siege, but Alexander the Great reduced Tyre in 332 BC by building a causeway that joined the island to the mainland.

Already long established, Tyre entered history as a vassal of the 18th dynasty of Egypt (1570-1320 BC). Following the disruption of Egypt and other Near Eastern powers in the age of the Sea Peoples, the city not only had attained an independent position but seems to have dominated Sidon. During the 10th century BC, Tyre supplied cedars, carpenters, masons, and bronzesmiths for King David (r. c.1000-c.960 BC) and King Solomon (r. c.960-c.921 BC), and Tyrian sailors were available for Solomon's Red Sea fleet. In the Mediterranean, under Hiram (r. 969-936 BC) and earlier rulers Tyre developed trade with Cyprus and Spain and founded such colonies as Utica and Carthage.

Subject to Assyria during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Tyre was dominated by the Persians from 538 to 332 BC. After its capture by Alexander the Great, Tyre was ruled by the Ptolemies, Seleucids, Romans, and Muslim Arabs (AD 638-1124). It was part of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th and 13th centuries but fell to the Mamelukes and was destroyed in 1291.