Beirut

The city of Beirut is the capital of which country?

And the answer: Lebanon.

Photo credit: revivme.com

Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Beirut is the largest city and capital of Lebanon. Having been inhabited for more than 5,000 years, it's one of the oldest cities in the world.

As one of the oldest cities in the world, the history of Beirut and more broadly Lebanon is extensive and complex. To give an example of the breadth of this history: the country is mentioned in the Bible over 70 times, has been destroyed and rebuilt seven times, been occupied by over 16 nations, and proudly boasts the longest-standing name of a country ("Lebanon" has remained unchanged for over 4,000 years).

The modern-day borders of the nation come from French mandate following the fall of the Ottoman Empire; however, prior to modern times there were a number of expansive, powerful empires that occupied the space of Lebanon. These empires date back over 7,000 years – in fact, archaeologists have discovered Phoenician temples buried under churches buried under mosques.

Lebanon has an expansive natural landscape, often characterized by their cedar trees (seen pictured on the nation's flag). Known throughout the ancient world as one of the most highly prized and sought-after trees for their nice color, fragrance and extracts, about 14% of Lebanon is forested in cedar trees.

Flag of Lebanon. Photo credit: Public domain.

Today, Lebanon thrives in modernity. The country is home to around 6 million residents, with around 18 recognized religious sects (the largest of which being Islam, at about half the population). The diverse face of the nation, history of the city, and desire to modernize creates a city of baffling contradictions whose character blends the sophisticated and cosmopolitan with the provincial. In the 1970s, Beirut became an established banking centre for Arab wealth, much of which was invested in construction, commercial enterprise, and industry (mostly the manufacture of textiles and shoes, food processing, and printing). The city was a haven for relative liberalism, and attracted a diverse community of refugees seeking opportunity and safety. However, sectarian violence following conflict with Israel has deeply affected the established order of the city.

In the years after the end of the civil war, a major effort to reconstruct Beirut’s devastated infrastructure began. The city developed a plan to modernize its transport facilities, restore many of its historic buildings, and revive its economic sectors through a model driven by private investment. Today, the city continues to build and rebuild, as it has time and time again.

Read more about this ancient nation here.


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