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Beirut (بيروت) is the capital, largest city and chief seaport of Lebanon. Beirut is the home of about 1.8 million inhabitants.

The city is one of the most diverse of the Middle East being divided between Christians (Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, Roman Catholic, and Protestants, and Muslims (Sunni and Shi'ite) as well as a minority of Druze. Most of the Jews of Beirut immigrated to the USA when the war started in 1975 and now predominately live in Brooklyn, New York. It was torn apart during the Lebanese Civil War and was divided between the Muslim West Beirut and the Christian East.

Beirut is the commercial, banking and financial center for the region, with twenty-one universities including the American University of Beirut, Université de Saint-Joseph, Hagazian University, Lebanese University, American Lebanese University, American University of Science and Technology, and Beirut Arab University.


Originally named Beroth, the city of wells, by the Phoenicians.

It has long been a trading centre of the eastern Mediterranean. For much of the Middle Ages Beirut was overshadowed by Acre as the largest Arab trading centre, but in the eighteenth century Beirut, with the help of Damascus, successfully broke Acre's monopoly on trade and in a few years supplanted it as the main trading centre in the region. 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 converting but did build an impressive education system. This include the Syrian Protestant College, which was established by American missionaries and eventually became the AUB. Beirut began the centre of Arab intellectual activity in the nineteenth century. The city thrived on exporting silk grown on nearby Mount Lebanon. 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.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War Beirut and all of Lebanon were thus given to the French. The French administration showed great preference for the Christian minority leading to religious strains in the city. Lebanon was given its independence following the Second World War and Beirut became its capital city. Beirut remained the intellectual capital the Arab world and a major commercial and tourist centre until 1975 when a brutal civil war broke out in Lebanon. The city was heavily damaged in the fighting and many of it best and brightest inhabitants fled to other countries. Since the end of the war, the people of Lebanon have been rebuilding Beirut, and the city has regained its status as a tourist, cultural and intellectual centre of the Middle East, as well as the center for commerce, fashion and media.