Approaching Beirut either by sea or air promises an unforgettable sight. The mountains rising behind the city are bathed in sunlight 300 days of the year and in winter, when they glisten under a blanket of snow.
The destroyed town center is once again active. Its former reputation as a crossroads between three continents and gateway to the East has been restored and modernized. The new city planners hold computer-rendered plans that show an extended coastline, a new residential area, and a touristic recreational zones built around a central park.
Beirut’s history dates back over 5,000 years. Under the city’s downtown area lie remnants of Ottoman, Mamluke, Crusader, Abbassid, Omayyad, Byzantine, Roman, Persian, Phoenician and Canaanite Beirut. Its name first appeared in cuneiform as early as the 14th century B.C. In the first century B.C., it became a Roman colony, only to be destroyed later by a triple catastrophe of earthquake, tidal wave and fire in 551A.D. Arab control then dominated until the Crusaders took over in 1110. Following the Crusaders were the Mamlukes and the Turks. After World War I there was a French mandate period, and in 1943 Lebanon gained its independence.
A tour of the old downtown should include the Omari Mosque, the Municipality Building, the Assaf and Amir Munzir Mosques, the Arcaded Maarad Street, the Parliament Building, the Roman columns on Nejmeh Square and the historic Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches opposite the Parliament.
Beirut's commercial and cultural life has been mended. The city has 80 banks, countless import-export firms, port and airport as well as a free exchange market.
The best way to see Beirut is on foot. A good place to rest is the area of Raouche, where Beirut's famous Pigeon Rocks stand tall and proud in the sparkling sea. Area restaurants serve local and foreign cuisine and cliff-side cafes offer a good range of snacks.
Sundays afford a special opprtunity to those who appreciate the best in horse racing. Beirut's race track run pure bred Arabians. Fans of this sport can change their dollars, sterlings, etc... on the spot to place bets.