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(bāro͞ot`), Arab. Bayrut, Fr. Beyrouth, city (1996 est. pop. 1,200,000), W Lebanon, capital of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Lebanon Mts. Beirut is an important port and financial center with food processing industries. Tourism is also significant. The American Univ. of Beirut (1866) and Lebanese Univ. (1951) are located in the city.

Beirut was originally a Phoenician city and in ancient times was called Berytus. After 1500 B.C. it became known as a trade center. Beirut was prominent under the Seleucids but became more important under the Romans, when it was not only a commercial town—with a large trade in wine and linens—but also a colony with some territory. In the 3d cent. A.D., Beirut had a famous school of Roman law. The city declined after an earthquake in 551. Beirut was captured by the Arabs in 635. The Crusaders under Baldwin I took the city in 1110, and it was part of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291, despite a siege by Saladin and the Egyptians in 1182. After 1517 the Druze controlled the city under the Ottoman Empire.

In the 19th cent. Beirut was one of the centers of the revolt of Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali,
1769?–1849, pasha of Egypt after 1805. He was a common soldier who rose to leadership by his military skill and political acumen. In 1799 he commanded a Turkish army in an unsuccessful attempt to drive Napoleon from Egypt.
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 of Egypt against the Ottoman Turks. Ibrahim PashaIbrahim Pasha
, 1789–1848, Egyptian general. He was the eldest son of Muhammad Ali, governor of Egypt under the Ottoman Empire. Ibrahim conducted (1816–19) largely successful campaigns against the Wahhabis in Arabia.
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 took it for the Egyptians (1830), but in 1840 the French and British bombarded and captured the city, reestablishing Ottoman rule. It was taken (1918) by French troops in World War I. Beirut became the capital of Lebanon in 1920 under the French mandate. The French rapidly developed the city, despite the domestic tensions that arose between the Muslim and Christian populations.

After World War II and the creation of Israel in 1948, thousands of Palestinian refugees entered Lebanon, many settling in Beirut. Violence erupted in 1958, and fierce fighting began again in 1975 and 1976 when the civil war broke out. Beirut was divided into territories run by many separate, religious-based militias. West Beirut was devastated in 1982 by Israeli forces fighting Palestine Liberation OrganizationPalestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), coordinating council for Palestinian organizations, founded (1964) by Egypt and the Arab League and initially controlled by Egypt.
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 (PLO) units based there. A multinational peacekeeping force was established after some 1,000 Palestinians were massacred by Israel's Lebanese Christian allies. In Apr., 1983, a terrorist bombing partially destroyed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 50 people. In October, 260 U.S. Marines and 60 French soldiers were killed in Beirut when a truck filled with explosives was driven into their military compound. U.S. and French forces were withdrawn in 1984. Throughout the 1980s the city was a base for a number of militant extremist groups.

In 1990 Christian and Muslim militias withdrew, ending the division of Beirut and returning it to the control of the national government. However, Beirut's economy and infrastructure had been destroyed by the years of fighting. In the early 1990s Lebanese billionaire Rafiq Hariri, who became Lebanon's prime minister, launched a multibillion dollar effort, through the company Solidere, to rebuild central Beirut as a symbol of the nation's postwar aspirations. Although there has been much rebuilding, Beirut has not fully recovered its prewar prosperity, and in Aug., 2020, the port was devastated and neighboring areas damaged when a large ammonium nitrate stockpile exploded.


See L. Fawaz, Merchants and Migrants in Nineteenth Century Beirut (1983); F. Debbas, Beirut, Our Memory (1986); F. Ajami, Beirut: City of Regrets (1988).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



capital of the Republic of Lebanon. It lies on a hilly peninsula on the east coast of the eastern Mediterranean. The climate is subtropical with a hot dry summer. The mean January temperature is 14° C, and the mean August temperature is about 28° C. The average annual precipitation is about 900 mm. Estimated population, 700,000 (1964–68).

History. Beirut (Benita or Berk in ancient times) was, from the 18th century B.C (according to other sources, from the 15th century B.C.), a town and port of Phoenicia. In Greek and Roman times (from the third century B.C. to the fourth century A.D.) it had become an important autonomous trade and handicraft center with the right to its own coinage. In 635 A.D. it was incorporated in the Arabian Caliphate. From the beginning of the 12th century to the 13th century, Beirut was, except for a few intervals, ruled by the Crusaders, and in the 14th and 15th centuries, by the Egyptian Mamelukes. In 1516 it was conquered by the Turks. During the Russo-Turkish war of 1768–74, it was twice besieged by a Russian fleet (June 1772 and July-September 1773), which was supporting the uprising of the population of north Palestine and Lebanon against their Turkish rulers. From August 1860 to June 1861 it was occupied by French troops. In 1887 it became the center of the vilayet of Beirut in the Ottoman Empire. In October 1918 it was occupied by the troops of the Entente. Beginning Sept. 1, 1920, it was the capital of the state of Greater Lebanon, under French mandate, and from 1926, the capital of the Lebanese Republic (under French mandate until November 1943). From the early 1920’s, Beirut was a center of the national liberation and workers’ movement in Lebanon. (The largsst demonstrations occurred in the 1930’s, in 1943, and in 1958.)

Economy. Beirut is an important port, with a freight turnover of 4.9 million tons in 1965. It is a railway and road junction and a transit center for trade between the Near and Middle East and the European countries, and it is the industrial, trade, and financial center of Lebanon. Its industries include textiles, knitted goods, leather, food (tobacco and others), and metalworking. It exports citrus fruits, apples, olive oil, raw silk, and wool. The international airport is a center for tourist travel.

Architecture. Beirut’s monuments include Phoenician, Roman, and Byzantine remains, the Mosque al-Omari (rebuilt in 1291 from a Christian church), and the Palace Mosque, begun in the 16th century. It is in the main a modern town with straight streets, an attractive seafront, multistory houses, hotels, office and bank buildings, and villas. In the center of Beirut are three main squares—al-Borj, al-Nijmah, and Assur—from which broad streets fan out to the south, southeast and east, changing into highways connecting Beirut with other towns. In architecture, modern simplicity of form and volume predominates, with much glass combined with smooth wall surfaces and flat roofs, which are often used for cafes, restaurants, and the like. Buildings erected between 1930 and 1960 include the bank building (architect, A. Salam), the office building al-Azaria (architect, M. Ecochard), al-Sayad, the press building (architect, B. H. Makdisi), the Palace of Justice (architect, F. Trad), the Hotel Phoenicia (American architect, E. Stone; Lebanese architect, R. Elias), and apartment buildings (architect, A. Tabet). There is a monument on al-Borj Square to the victims of Turkish rule and a monument to Riad al-Solh on the Assur Square.

Education and scientific institutions. Educational and scientific institutions include the Lebanese state university; an American, a French, and an Arab university; the National Library; the American University Museum (archaeological); the National Museum of Lebanon (history of art); and the Sursock Museum (modern art).


Stolitsy stran mira. Moscow, 1965.
Chehabe al-Dine, S. Géographie humaine de Beyrouth. [Beirut, 1960.]
Churchill, Charles W. The City of Beirut. [Beirut, 1954.]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Beyrouth
the capital of Lebanon, a port on the Mediterranean: part of the Ottoman Empire from the 16th century until 1918; four universities (Lebanese, American, French, and Arab). Pop.: 1 875 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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