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. 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.In 2011 MasterCard Index revealed that Beirut had the second-highest visitor spending levels in the Middle East and Africa, totaling $6.5 billion.