Beirut has survived a rough history, falling under the occupation of one empire after another. Excavations in the downtown area have unearthed layers of Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman civilizations. Following World War II, Lebanon gained its independence from France and Beirut became its capital in - Bechara El-Khoury and Riad El-Solh, Lebanon's first president and prime minister respectively, are considered the founders of the modern Republic of Lebanon and national heroes.
Beirut thrived as a major commercial and tourist center of the Middle East.
It was a top destination among wealthy Arabs and European tourists, due to Beirut's unique geography, climate, diverse culture, and freedom. Beirut was seen as the "European gateway to the Middle East" and vice versa, and was often called the "Paris of the Middle East". Beirut is home to more than 10 recognized religious sects. Religious tension between the Christian and Muslim factions sparked a brutal civil war in The conflict lasted nearly a decade and a half, ravaging the city.
The central area of the city, previously the focus of much of the commercial and cultural activities, became a no-man's land. Throughout the war, the city was divided between the Muslim west part and the Christian east, and tensions between different sects remain to this day. Since the end of the war in , the people of Lebanon have been rebuilding Beirut.
The city has undertaken an aggressive rebuilding policy. The city is working hard to regain its status as a tourist, cultural and intellectual center in the Middle East which it has lost to Cairo as well as a center for commerce, fashion and media which is dominated by Dubai and other rich Gulf states. However Beirut with the rest of the Middle East has gained momentum. Some areas of Beirut have a friendly atmosphere, and some Beirutis have a reputation for being very sociable and outgoing.
The locals are used to the sight of foreigners and would be happy to show you around the city, if you ask them. Sectarianism is still prevalent in Lebanon, as a result of the French colonial legacy of divide and rule, which leads some Christian Lebanese to identify culturally with Europeans, particularly the French, and some denying Arab identity altogether; preferring to identify themselves as Phoenician referring to their ancestral roots in ancient Phoenicia. It is helpful to display some basic courtesies. A simple Bonjour when entering a cafe or shop can work wonders, and might even get you a special rate, or when hopping into a taxi, might just keep the driver from overcharging you.
19 Things to Know Before You Go to Beirut
Say Merci when given or offered something, and if you'd rather not accept, then say La'a merci and smile; otherwise you might be taken as rude, even though you're not. Most Beirutis love going out. If and when you go out at night, depending on the venue, dressing up well will most certainly get you some respect. The locals like to see that foreigners are doing what they can to fit in. Expect to be offered a drink or a cigarette. Alcohol is very cheap in shops and supermarkets, yet in night venues, prices can rise up to European standards e.
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Smoking is very common in Beirut, a large portion of the people smoke both outdoors and indoors. However, most restaurants and bars now abide by the law forbidding smoking indoors. Beirut enjoys Mediterranean climate. The wettest months are December to February so bring a good coat, rain boots, and umbrella because the rain often comes in torrential downpours. Streets have poor drainage and can quickly turn into rivers, so waterproof boots are highly recommended for the rainy season. Lebanon's ski season runs from December till early April.
Despite the diverse climate that changes noticeably per season, the weather is very predictable; the weather forecast, on radio and TV stations are normally very accurate, so you normally shouldn't find yourself caught in a sudden downpour in the winter months. Based on the lunar calendar, Islamic holidays move forward approximately 11 days every Western year. Anything goes in Beirut.
Shorts and T-shirts are perfect for the summer heat, for both men and women, while heavier clothing is necessary during the winter. You should cover up if visiting religious sites, such as mosques and churches. Some neighborhoods are more conservative than others, so bear that in mind when exploring the city. Going out at night is a smart affair, so dress fashionably to fit in, although this does not mean dressing up in a suit; you will find many men in sporty T-shirts, dark jeans, and smart running shoes at even the trendiest nightclubs.
Beirut is very culturally diverse, and thus, multilingual. Lebanese Arabic is the native language but everyone speaks Standard Arabic, the official language, while English and French especially the former are also spoken by most people. Shop signs are in both Standard Arabic, English and French. Most restaurant menus, event listings, and such are also in English alongside Standard Arabic and sometimes in French. Road signs, however, are in Standard Arabic and French. The parking time is rounded to the upper hour i. There are regular public minivans usually every five-ten minutes that go to the Downtown area and to the Charles Helou Station from the airport.
Beirut – Travel guide at Wikivoyage
They are run by private individuals but are distinguished from normal vehicles by a red number plate indicating that it is a public transport vehicle. There is no set bus stand outside the terminal, but it is outside the departures terminal upstairs. Both currencies are accepted. Wait outside the terminal and flag the vans down, as they may not stop. You pay when you leave. Tell the driver where you are going before entering and they will say yes or no. They are plentiful and comfortable taxis that are authorized by the airport are parked next to the terminal in the arrivals level and have an airport logo on the side official airport taxi fares.
Although these taxis claim to be regulated by the airport authorities, they are definitely not honest in their rates. They are also available and are located a little farther from the airport, but these are not guaranteed and are to be used at your own risk.
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The approximate rate Airport - Hamra street is LL25, Taxi types are wildly changing, so pick the best and newest looking ones to guarantee aircon, and collision safety in Beirut traffic. All major car rental companies have booking offices inside the airport. More information can be obtained through the airport's webpage on the topic. Beirut is linked with all coastal cities through the coastal road. Stay updated with safety conditions in Syria if coming from there.
There are no reports so far that border points were closed; however, check the news to stay up-to-date. From there you can take the city buses or hop onto the larger coaches that link Beirut with the neighboring cities. Buses connecting Beirut with the south of Lebanon arrive at an intersection next to the Cola bridge. The bus stop is known as "Cola" among the locals. This place is in the southern part of Beirut - in area known as Mazraa. As of April most buses to and from Damascus in Syria have been relocated to the Charles Helou station.
Be sure to check the security situation in Syria before leaving. Taxis to Damascus , Syria are lined up at the Charles Helou bus station. The security situation between Beirut and Damascus has improved significantly in early as of April , but this does not mean that the trip can in any way be considered safe. If you must go, see war zone safety. Taxis in Beirut will drive you to anywhere along the coastal road, but may be reluctant to drive to Tripoli given the security situation there.
It is also possible to rent a taxi for the whole day for about the same prices at renting your own car. Refer to the Get Around section for information on how to get to other parts of the city. There are two types of taxis in Beirut; the old often battered hail-taxis, and the prebooking taxis. Keep in mind the names of the landmarks around the city , as they will come in handy when traveling by public transport some drivers aren't that good at orienting!
The more common form of transport, especially with daily commuters, as they are cheaper than the taxis, but ironically, are in fact the same. Service [ser-vee-s] are shared-taxis, the same taxis as above but shared between four or more people.
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