(Beirut) is Lebanon’s capital and largest city with a population of 2.2 million. Before the war (1975-92), Beirut was known as the Paris of the East, but after 17 years of conflict its motto is now “the city that wouldn’t die.” Its war wounds are still visible — whole neighborhoods, including the city center, were severely damaged — but today Beirut is once again showing the world that it is a city that wants and knows how to live.

The destroyed city center is once again active. City planners are constructing their new Beirut with high-rise buildings, commercial complexes and cultural centers. They see its former reputation as a crossroads between three continents and a gateway to the east not only as restored but also as updated.

The new city’s founding fathers developed computer-rendered plans for an extended coastline, a new mixed residential area and tourist recreation centers built around a central park. By the start of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict the city had somewhat regained its status as a tourist, cultural and intellectual center in the Middle East and as a center for commerce, fashion, and media. Underground parking and wider roads also relieved some of the traffic that currently causes chaos as construction workers vie for space with vendor carts and the expensive cars of the corporate executives.

Despite the disorganized state of Beirut during its rebuilding period, it lost neither its vibrancy nor historical relics from previous centuries.

Four new archaeological excavation sites have already unearthed finds from the Ottoman, Byzantine, Roman, Persian and Phoenician periods. Traces of Roman ruins excavated before the war await a good cleanup and an improvement to their surrounds, but are nevertheless worth visiting. They include the Roman baths behind Bank Street and the Roman columns west of St. George’s Cathedral.

Much of Beirut can be seen on foot. Many of the major banks, hotels, restaurants, travel, airline, and telecommunications offices are in the Hamra district, but with the reconstruction of Beirut, these features have extended throughout the city and continue to expand.

The unit of currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese pound (LL), known locally as the lira. There are only notes (LL 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000, 10,000) in circulation as the currency lost much of its value during the war. As of 2015, virtually every business, certainly shops, restaurants and hotels, will accept US dollars.

The currency fluctuates according to the international market and to political developments in Lebanon and the Middle East. Most banks will only change US dollars and UK pounds in cash and travelers cheques, but moneychangers will buy and sell almost any currency.

Lebanon has been actively pursuing a policy of infrastructure reconstruction, especially of its telecommunications systems.

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