Port of Beirut
Review and History

The Port of Beirut is Lebanon's biggest city, capital, and main seaport. Lying at the foot of the Lebanon Mountains, it is about 67 kilometers south-southwest of the Port of Tripoli and some 100 nautical miles southeast of Cyprus' Port of Famagusta. Until the mid-1970s, many Westerners viewed the Port of Beirut as the most westernized city of the Arab Middle Eastern states. Unfortunately, 15 years of civil war created terrible physical and cultural damage to the community. In spite of the violence, the Port of Beirut still has a tolerant liberal atmosphere. In the 1990s, the Port of Beirut began to rebuild, and tourists are beginning to return to this jewel of the Mediterranean. In 2003, almost 1.2 million people lived in the city, and over 1.7 million called the urban area home.

The Port of Beirut is one of the biggest seaports in the Mediterranean region. The Port of Beirut's central location and deep waters accommodate the largest of modern vessels. Tourism, especially among Arabs, thrives, and the Port of Beirut is investing significantly in new tourism-oriented infrastructure. The Port of Beirut is the seat of Lebanon's government, and it plays a vital role in the country's economy. Many corporate headquarters and banks are located in the Port of Beirut, and its redesigned city center, nightlife districts, and marinas attract tourists from around the world. The New York Times listed the Port of Beirut as the best place to visit in 2009.

Port History

Archeological excavations in the downtown Port of Beirut have uncovered layers of artifacts from ancient Phoenician , Greek , Roman , Arab , and Ottoman cultures. First mentioned in Egyptian writings dating to the 15th Century BC, the Port of Beirut has been inhabited since that time. In 1994, a dig proved that one of the city's modern streets still follows an ancient Greek and Roman road.

"Beirut" comes from the Canaanite Be'erot, describing the underground water table still in use. The Port of Beirut was given the status of Roman colony in 14 BC, and it had fashionable suburbs during Roman times. The Roman city was destroyed by earthquakes and a devastating tidal wave in 551, and it remained in ruins until conquered by Muslims in 635 AD.

Muslims reconstructed the city into a walled garrison with an insignificant role until the 10th Century. The Port of Beirut was taken by the Crusaders in 1110 and made a fief of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. Under that rule, the Port of Beirut enjoyed thriving trade with Italian cities. The Mamluks ended the Crusaders' rule in 1291, when the Port of Beirut was Syria's chief port for Venitian spice merchants.

Passing to Ottoman rule in 1516, the Port of Beirut's commercial importance declined. But by the 17th Century, it became an important exporter of Lebanese silk to Europe. Though technically under the rule of the Ottomans, the Port of Beirut fell to Ma'n and Shihab emirs for decades during the 18th Century. The Port of Beirut suffered greatly during the Russo-Turkish War and declined to the status of a village of 6000 souls.

The modern Port of Beirut was born with Europe's Industrial Revolution . Conquest of the area by Egypt brought a new era of commercial growth. By the middle 19th Century, population of the Port of Beirut had grown to 15 thousand and military conflicts brought refugees from the mountains.

In 1887, the Ottoman rulers granted the concession of the Port of Beirut to an Ottoman company called the "Compagnie du Port, des Quais et des Entrepots de Beyrouth." The concession was strengthened when the company gained the sole rights to store and carry all goods through the Customs. Construction was undertaken to expand the existing port, and the new Port of Beirut was opened in a large celebration in 1894.

In 1888, the Port of Beirut became the capital of a new province that included coastal Syria and Palestine and, by 1900, it had a population of 120 thousand. Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries were active in the Port of Beirut. In 1866, what later became the American University of Beirut was established. The missionaries brought printing presses to the Port of Beirut that stimulated the publishing industry. By 1900, the Port of Beirut was the center for Arabic journalism, and when intellectuals pushed for a revival of Arabic culture, Beirut became the first voice for modern Arab nationalism.

Occupied by the Allies after World War I, the Port of Beirut was made capital of the State of Greater Lebanon and the later Lebanese Republic (1926). Resenting Christian-dominated Lebanon, Beirut Muslims loyalty to Pan-Arabism led to conflict between the two religious groups. Added to social tensions due to rapid growth was the flood of Palestinian refugees after 1948. Open fighting in the Port of Beirut broke out first in 1958 and again, more violently, between 1975 and 1990. During the latter violence, the Port of Beirut was divided, and its long-standing foreign community largely fled the city. Lebanon has been rebuilding the city since 1990. Despite regional strife, by 2006, it was regaining its reputation as a popular Middle East tourist, intellectual, and cultural center.

While the Port of Beirut has long functioned as a center for trade and naval activity, the current port was founded at the end of the 19th Century. In 1887, the Ottomans gave the concession to an Ottoman company that fortified their property. In 1925, control of the Port of Beirut passed to France. In 1960, a Lebanese company won the concession. The private operations ended in 1990 when Lebanon gave control to a temporary committee to manage the Port of Beirut.

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