The word Corniche has its etymology in the French phrase route en corniche, meaning road (route) on (en) a rock ledge (corniche). The English word cornice has similar connotations.

The most well known corniche in the world is the Corniche du Littoral which winds along the length of the French Riviera. The Corniche du Littoral actually consists of three roads, the Grande Corniche at the top of the cliffs (built by Napoleon), the Corniche Inférieur, which winds its way along the water's edge (built by the prince of Monaco), and the Corniche Moyenne, the primary road, which traverses the cliffs halfway between the other two.

In recent years, the word "corniche" in the Middle East has come to refer to a waterfront promenade, parkway or boulevard, with connotations of all three. This usage was first engendered by the splendid corniche in Alexandria, Egypt. Many modern Middle Eastern cities have impressive corniches which act as a centerpiece to the city and a source of local pride. Among these are:

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