The City of Beirut has a five-thousand year history made up of Canaanites, Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Omayyads, Abbassids, Crusaders, Mumlukes, and Ottomans. Its name was first written in cuneiform in the 14th Century BC, and it was a Roman colony in the first Century BC. Arab conquerors controlled the Port of Beirut from the 6th Century AD until the Crusaders arrived in the early 12th Century. After the Crusaders came the Mamlukes and the Turks. After World War I, the French ruled the area for a time. In 1943, Lebanon won its independence, and the modern era began with the Port of Beirut as the nation's capital.
Today, the modern city is a mysterious and romantic place to visit. The Port of Beirut is bathed in sunlight over 80% of the time. In the winter, the nearby mountains are covered with a glistening blanket of snow. What was not long ago a destroyed town center is once again alive and active, and the Port of Beirut has again become the crossroads between the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Port of Beirut's old downtown boasts hundreds of ancient and historic structures and memories of times long past. Visitors to the Port of Beirut have unlimited opportunities to enjoy history, nature, and a dazzling nightlife. For details on the many things to see and do in the Port of Beirut, please visit the city's tourism website.
The Port of Beirut has a subtropical Mediterranean climate that is hot and dry (but humid) in the summer and cool, mild, and rainy in the winter. Snow is rare and does not normally accumulate when it does fall. Spring and autumn are the most comfortable times of year, although the rainy season begins in the middle of the fall. Temperatures range from an average high of 29 °C (85 °F) in August to an average low of 5 °C (50 °F) in January.
Though it's one of the most historically rich cities in the world, the Port of Beirut is famous for its nightlife. There are endless choices of restaurants and cafes in the downtown district, including traditional Lebanese cuisine as well as choices from all of the world's fine kitchens. Monnot and Gemayzeh are busy areas in the Port of Beirut for an exciting nightlife, offering new restaurants, nightclubs, and pubs every day. However, these are not the only districts where party people find places enjoy the night. Outside the city is the Casino Du Liban with slot machines, gaming rooms, and plenty of entertainment.
For natural wonders, the Jeita Grotto is about 15 kilometers northeast of the Port of Beirut. The Jeita Grotto is the longest cave structure in the Middle East, a set of inter-connected limestone caves with a river running through the lower cave and the upper galleries. At 300 meters above sea level, explorers have ventured almost seven thousand meters from the entry of the lower grotto to the deepest part of the underground river and another two thousand meters into the upper galleries. In the upper galleries are stalagmites, stalactites, columns, ponds, mushrooms, draperies, and curtains that have formed over millennia. The world's longest stalactite hides in the White Chamber of the Jeita Grotto. Illuminated with electric lighting, the Jeitta Grotto will carry visitors from the world of sun and sand to a magical world of breathtaking beauty and mystery.
The National Museum of Beirut is one of the most popular attractions in the Port of Beirut and a virtual tour through thousands of years of Lebanese (and world) history. Its collections cover prehistory; the Bronze and Iron Ages; the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods; and the period of Arab conquest to the Mamlukes, including the era of the Crusaders. The Prehistory collection tells of the time when the first inhabitants of the Port of Beirut area settled on the coast with displays of lithic tools, scrapers and burins, flint tools, pottery, and copper fishing hooks used by early man. The Bronze Age collection tells the story of urbanization and man's first writing. During this period from 3200 to 1200 BC, the first Lebanese villages were fortified and commercial and maritime trade began with Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. The Iron Age collection, covering 1200 BC to 400 BC, displays artifacts and information about the emerging city-states and dominance from Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and the Phoenician conquerors who brought their cultures to the Port of Beirut area.
The Hellenistic collection, covering 333 BC and the victory of Alexander the Great over Persian King Darius III through the period of Greek colonialism when local craftsmen copied work imported from the Aegean world and the Semitic and Greek cultures produced a new style of art and architecture.
The Roman collection tells of Roman general Pompey's conquest of the area of the Port of Beirut and the arrival of the Roman world, bringing a new era of prosperity to the region of the Port of Beirut. Roman city planning, public entertainment, aqueducts, fountains, and baths brought a new level of sophistication to life in the Port of Beirut as well as new trades and crafts like silversmiths, glassmakers, and ceramics manufacturers. The Byzantine collection tells of the time between the late 4th Century AD and the Arab conquest of the middle 7th Century when many Lebanese were converted to Christianity which became the state religion. New basilicas with complex mosaics and religious themes appeared in the city, and urban development and expansion continued in the region. The collection addresses the terrible 551 AD earthquake and tidal wave that destroyed the Port of Beirut and the subsequent reconstruction.
The Arab to Mamluk period collection illustrates the time when the Arabs conquered Lebanon in 637 AD, and the harbors and shipyards became busy commercial centers. New fortifications arose as dynasties changed and Islam spread throughout the Arab world. The Crusaders ruled for a time from the late 11th to the late 13th Centuries, and they built citadels and palaces from Tripoli to Tyre. The Mamluk sultan Baibars drove the Crusaders out of Lebanon, and the Mumluks constructed many religious and civic buildings.
No trip to the Port of Beirut is complete without a trip to the Hippodrome Du Parc De Beyrouth where Arabian thoroughbreds race and people enjoy a tradition that dates back many centuries. (Relics of the old Roman hippodrome of Beirut can be found in the Beirut National Museum.) The modern Beirut Hippodrome was founded in 1885 in a suburb of Beirut and moved to Residence des Pins in 1920. The hippodrome is managed by the non-profit Society for the Protection and Improvement of the Arabia Horse in Lebanon (SPARCA). The hippodrome was created to preserve the integrity of the Arabian horse, and the sandy racetrack is a great place to demonstrate this remarkable animal's stamina and speed. One weekly meeting of eight races occurs each Sunday when from ten to twelve horses compete in each race. This is a definite must-do for visitors to the Port of Beirut.