What You Need to Know
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast, Beirut is the country’s largest and main seaport. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, inhabited more than 5,000 years ago. The first historical mention of Beirut is found in the ancient Egyptian Tell el Amarna letters dating from the 15th century BC. The Beirut River runs south to north on the eastern edge of the city.
Beirut is Lebanon’s seat of government and plays a central role in the Lebanese economy, with many banks and corporations based in its Central District, Badaro, Rue Verdun, Hamra and Ashrafieh. Following the destructive Lebanese Civil War, Beirut’s cultural landscape underwent major reconstruction. Identified and graded for accountancy, advertising, banking/finance and law, Beirut is ranked as a Beta World City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. In May 2015, Beirut was officially recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz.
No recent population census has been done but in 2007 estimates ranged from slightly more than 1 million to slightly less than 2 million as part of Greater Beirut.
Area: 85 km²
The Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound, abbreviated “LBP” or “Lebanese Lira” abbreviated “LL”, which is the most common abbreviation. Its value is kept stable relative to the US dollar, with a value of about LL1,500 to US$1. Either Lebanese pounds or US dollars are accepted almost everywhere, and it is common to pay in dollars but receive change in pounds (in which case, make sure you don’t get short-changed).
Bills used are LL1000, LL5000, LL10,000, LL20,000, LL50,000 and LL100,000. p.s: you may find two forms of LL1000 and they are both accepted.
Bills not used are LL1, LL5, LL10, LL25, LL50, LL100, LL250, LL500.
There are LL25, LL50, LL100, LL250 and LL500 coins. LL25, LL50 and LL100 coins are virtually never used.
Beirut has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen: Csa) characterized by mild days and nights. Autumn and spring are warm, winter is mild and rainy, and summer can be virtually rainless. August is considered the only really hot muggy month, with a monthly average high temperature of 32 °C (90 °F), and January and February are the coldest months, with a monthly average low temperature of 11 °C (52 °F). The prevailing wind during the afternoon and evening is from the west (onshore, blowing in from the Mediterranean); at night it reverses to offshore, blowing from the land out to sea.
The average annual rainfall is 825 millimetres (32.5 in), with the majority falling in winter, autumn and spring. Much of the autumn and spring rain falls in heavy downpours on a limited number of days, but in winter it is spread more evenly over a large number of days. Summer receives very little rainfall, if any. Snow is rare, except in the mountainous eastern suburbs, where snowfall is common due to the region’s high altitudes.
The official language is Arabic and the dialect used is Lebanese Arabic. Most people are bilingual and can additionally speak French or English. Don’t worry about not speaking Arabic. In fact, Lebanese people use the 3 languages interchangeably in their daily lives.
Since 2009, Lebanon has become a safe place and the number of tourists is dramatically increasing (more than 2 million in 2009), although the number has peaked since then. The US government’s warning to travelers visiting Lebanon was lifted in mid-September 2009. Due to recent terror attacks in Lebanon carried out as part of the Syrian civil war, caution in necessary and it’s advised to check security threats before travelling.
The culture of Beirut has evolved under the influence of many different peoples and civilizations, such as Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and French. The law school in downtown Beirut was one of the world’s earliest and was considered to be a leading center of legal studies in the Eastern Roman Empire.
Beirut hosted the Francophonie and Arab League summits in 2002, and in 2007 it hosted the ceremony for the Prix Albert Londres, which rewards outstanding francophone journalists every year. The city also hosted the Jeux de la Francophonie in 2009. In the same year it was proclaimed World Book Capital by UNESCO.
Beirut has also been called the “party capital of the Arab world”. Rue Monnot has an international reputation among clubbers, and Rue Gouraud in districts such as Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael have emerged as new hotspots for bar patrons and clubbers, as well as “The Alleyway” in Hamra Street.
The city’s renovated airport is the Rafic Hariri International Airport, located in the southern suburbs. The Port of Beirut, one of the largest and most commercial in the eastern Mediterranean, is another port of entry. As a final destination, Lebanon can be reached by ferry from Cyprus via the nearby city of Jounieh or by road from Damascus via the Beqaa valley in the east.
Beirut has frequent bus connections to other cities in Lebanon and major cities in Syria such as Homs and its capital Damascus. There are a number of different companies providing public transport in Lebanon. The publicly owned buses are managed by Office des Chemins de Fer et des Transports en Commun (OCFTC – “Railway and Public Transportation Authority”). Buses for northern destinations and Syria leave from Charles Helou Station.
The ministry of transport and public works purchased an extra 250 intra and inter-buses in 2012 to better serve regions outside the capital as well as congestion-choked Beirut, hoping to lessen the use of private cars.
Beirut has also private buses that are provided by the Lebanese Commuting Company.