Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. As there has been no recent population census, the exact population is unknown; estimates in 2007 ranged from slightly more than 1 million to slightly less than 2 million. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport. The Beirut metropolitan area consists of the city and its suburbs. The first mention of this metropolis is found in the ancient Egyptian Tell el Amarna letters, dating from the 15th century BC. The city has been inhabited continuously since then.
Beirut is Lebanon's seat of government and plays a central role in the Lebanese economy, with many banks and corporations based in its Central District, Hamra Street, Rue Verdun and Ashrafieh. The city is the focal point of the region's cultural life, renowned for its press, theatres, cultural activities and nightlife. After the destructive Lebanese Civil War, Beirut underwent major reconstruction, and the redesigned historic city centre, marina, pubs and nightlife districts have once again made it a tourist attraction.
Identified and graded for accountancy, advertising, banking/finance and law, Beirut is ranked as a Beta World City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
Beirut was named the top place to visit by The New York Times in 2009, and as one of the ten liveliest cities in the world by Lonely Planet in the same year.According to a 2010 study by the American global consulting firm Mercer comparing high-end items such as upscale residential areas and entertainment venues, Beirut was ranked as the 4th most expensive city in the Middle East and 15th among the Upper Middle Income Countries included in the survey. Beirut came in first place regionally and 10th place internationally in a 2010 study by "EuroCost International" about the rental markets for high quality housing 2011 MasterCard Index revealed that Beirut had the second-highest visitor spending levels in the Middle East and Africa, totaling $6.5 billion. Beirut was chosen in 2012 by Condé Nast Traveler as the best city in the Middle East.
The Lebanese capital hosted the Mediterranean Games in 1959, FIBA Asia Champions Cup in 1999, 2000, 2012, the AFC Asian Cup in 2000, and the FIBA Asia Cup in 2010. Beirut was the host city for the 6th Annual Games of the Jeux de la Francophonie in 2009. Beirut also hosted the Pan Arab Games in 1957, 1997, and 2015.