Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and the country's largest city with just over one million inhabitants. Once known as the "Paris of the Middle East," Beirut suffered severely during Lebanon's 17-year war, which ended in 1990. Having seen earlier destruction by two earthquakes, a tidal wave and a fire, the city was able each time to rise again and recapture its splendor. Today, Beirut is back as a crossroads between three continents and as a gateway to the East. Not only restored, but also updated with a new airport, high-rise structures, commercial complexes and cultural centers.
This beautiful seaport is a marvelous departure point for sight-seeing in Israel. Drive through the orange and olive groves of the Judaen hills to Jerusalem, or take an excursion to Jericho, Nazareth, Bethlehem, or Acre.
The small town situated on the gulf of the same name enjoys a backdrop of majestic mountains. Iskenderun was founded by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, at which time it was called Alexandretta. Subsequently, the town came under the rule of the Sassanids, Arabs and Byzantines. In 1268, Iskenderun was occupied by the Mameluke and in 1515 Sultan Selim made it part of the Ottoman Empire. At the end of World War I, the port came under the French Protectorate of Syria but was reclaimed by Atatürk for the Turkish Republic in 1939. Today, Iskenderun is a busy commercial port with a fine harbor. The town spreads along the shores of a deep bay. It is an active place with a few good hotels, cafes and restaurants lining the sea front. While the tourism infrastructure is still rather limited, Iskenderun is a starting point for visits to some important sites of antiquity.
Syria's largest port after Latakia, enjoys a strategic location in the middle of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. During the Phoenician era, Tartous was known as Intrados. In Roman times, it became a vital military base providing a supply and landing seaport, remains of which are still visible. In the Middle Ages, when the Crusaders took their cause to the Holy Land, Tartous was an important stronghold for the Knights Templar, who called the town Tortosa. Remnants of the Knights' medieval town walls and ramparts, as well as the site of a 12th-century cathedral can be seen near the waterfront. The church?s rather austere exterior is no coincidence as the building was designed with its own defense in mind. The interior is a pleasant surprise, with graceful curves and arches and a small museum. With Syria's long and turbulent history, places of interest range from magnificent Crusader castles to Roman ruins. Its capital, Damascus, is said by its citizens to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, although the claim is disputed by Aleppo.
Tobruk in northeastern Libya boasts one of the finest sea ports, making it an important center for trade and transportation. But mainly, it is remembered as the scene of some of the fiercest and prolonged fighting in North Africa during World War II, in the course of which the town was almost reduced to rubble by relentless bombing attacks. Today, the local people live here in peace after all the invaders have gone. Industries include oil, flour milling and soap manufacturing.