In the 7th century, Moslem Arabs took over and in the 12th century the coastal plains and mountains came temporarily under the Crusaders. Beirut has been governed by many hands, its fortunes being linked with fluctuations in trade of spices and silks with Europe. In the 16th century, though the region became part of the Ottoman Empire, it was ruled by various local powers. Increase in commerce lead to development of the town. By the middle of the 19th century, Beirut’s population had increased and now expanded beyond the city walls. Missionaries from the West and Arab intellectuals moulded the city and their influence could be seen in education, architecture, etc. The Syrian Protestant University, later called the American University of Beirut, was founded in 1866 by American missionaries.
At the end of World War I, the city was captured by the Allied Forces and then included in the mandate granted to France by the League of Nations. Lebanon achieved independence in 1943 and Beirut became the capital of the state of Greater Lebanon. In 1946, the French withdrew completely leaving behind them a Lebanese society which had absorbed many French elements; their language, their outlook and their architecture, among others.
A series of civil wars has led to Beirut being destroyed many a times, but this city has risen again and again to re-establish itself as an important commercial center, as well as a leading tourist destination.