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Beirut, Lebanon
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    First mentioned in the 14th century BC
    Capital and main seaport of Lebanon
    Population: 1.7 million (2007)
    An earthquake killed 30,000 (AD 551).
    By the end of the 18th century, its population had declined to under 10,000.
    During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-91), it was divided into Muslim and Christian halves with a no-man's zone in between.
    Christian militias massacred 300 to 3,500 Palestinian civilians in refugee camps (September 15-16, 1982).
    Suicide bombings killed 63 at the US embassy (April 18, 1983), 242 at the US Marine barracks (October 23, 1983) and 63 at the French military barracks (also October 23, 1983).
    It is the birthplace of Hezbollah.
    A large number of Americans and Europeans living in the city were kidnapped by Hezbollah and similar groups.
    It was known as the 'Parisof the East.'
    The American University of Beirut is one of the most prestigious universities in the Middle East.
    It hosted the Miss Europe pageant eight times (1960-64, 1999,2001-02).
    After the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a demonstration of 1-1.5 million people prompted Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon (2005).
    It was Travel & Leisure's 9th best city (2005).

Credit: C. Fishel

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