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Ghent is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe with some 60,000 people in 1300 AD, 70,000 in 1400 growing to 175,000 Shortly after 1500 AD. Today it is a busy city with a port and a university.
The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbruges, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. With 240,191 inhabitants in the beginning of 2009, Ghent is Belgium's second largest municipality by number of inhabitants. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 1,205 km² (465 sq mi) and has a total population of 594,582 as of 1 January 2008, which ranks it as the fourth most populous in Belgium.
The ten-day-long "Ghent Festival" (Gentse Feesten in Dutch) is held every year. About two million visitors attend.