The city of Beirut is located in Lebanon. It serves as the capital city. Not only is it the capital, but it also the largest by population, despite not having a recent census. Estimates put the population at around 361,000, with the broader metro area being home to over 2.2 million residents.
One of the most interesting things about Beirut is that a formal census or population count has not been taken since the 1930s. Because of that, the population numbers are estimated and vary depending upon the source. The most recent estimates of the city put it at 361,000. The population of the metro area have been estimated from just under 1 million to over 2 million.
Another standout feature about the population of Beirut is that it is one of the most religiously diverse cities in the Middle East. There is a total of 18 recognized religions within the area, include four Muslim sects, twelve Christian sects, and a Jewish sect. The city was relatively well blended until the civil war when segregation occurred. The eastern side of the city is mainly Christian, while the western side has a Sunni Muslim majority. However, in recent years, religious groups are becoming more integrated.
Beirut was settled over 5,000 years ago and has a very long history. Throughout its earliest history, the city was taken over multiple times. It was also destroyed and rebuilt. It was during the 1500s that the city came under the rule of the Ottomans. It was fortified in the 17th century before the Ottomans retook rule in 1763.
During the 19th century, the city was strengthening its ties among European powers. Beirut was carving out a name for itself as a major port and a hub for commercial activity.
During the 1860s, the Lebanon conflict occurred as the result of religious disputes and changes in the political system. Because many Christians fled the area, the ethnic composition changed, and this sowed the seeds for future conflict.
In the late 1800s, the city was more cosmopolitan and had ties to Europe and the United States. At the end of World War I, the city went under the French Mandate. However, Lebanon – and with it, Beirut – gained its independence in 1943. The city soon became prosperous as a tourist destination and a center for financial and banking activity, but this came to an end during the 1970s. At that time, the Lebanese Civil War occurred, divided the Muslims and Christians of the city. Tens of thousands of people died because of the war, and many others left to reside in other countries.
Another war occurred in 1982, which finally came to an end in 1990. The people began to rebuild the city and had made progress toward becoming the prosperous and cultural city of yesteryear. However, the city has continued to see its share of dark times, including the 2006 Lebanon War, the assassination of Rafic Hariri and the subsequent Cedar Revolution, and bombings.
The future growth of Beirut’s population is difficult to predict. While the city has made attempts to rebuild and to bring together its divided population, continuous wars and bombings have become a threat to this city. Add in the fact that a formal census does not exist, and current numbers are unknown and difficult to track, and it’s easy to see why predicting population growth is more difficult for this city. In recent years, Christian residents have been fleeing the city to live elsewhere, a trend that is expected to continue through the 2020s and beyond. Because the country is war-torn and there is still much work to be done to bring its people together, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a declining population in the meantime.