Lebanon, officially the Lebanese Republic, is a country in the East Mediterranean.

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Lebanon (i/ˈlɛbənɒn/ or /ˈlɛbənən/; Arabic: لبنان‎ Libnān or Lubnān, Lebanese Arabic: [lɪbˈneːn]), officially the Lebanese Republic[nb 1] (Arabic: الجمهورية اللبنانية‎ Al-Jumhūrīyah Al-Libnānīyah, Lebanese Arabic: [elˈʒʊmhuːɾɪjje l.ˈlɪbneːnɪjje]), is a country in the East Mediterranean. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel and the Palestinian territories to the south. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity.[6]

The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years, predating recorded history.[7] Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for over a thousand years (c.1550–539 BC). Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronites and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, establishing a unique political system – "confessionalism" – that is a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities. Bechara El Khoury (independent Lebanon's first President) and Riad El-Solh (Lebanon's first Prime Minister) are considered the founders of the modern Republic of Lebanon and are national heroes for having led the country's independence. troops withdrew from Lebanon in 1946.[8]

Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, and banking.[9] Because of its financial power and diversity, Lebanon was known in its heyday as the "Switzerland of the East".[10] It attracted large numbers of tourists,[11] such that the capital Beirut was referred to as "Paris of the Middle East." At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.[12]


The name Lebanon comes from the Semitic root LBN, meaning "white", likely a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon.[13]

Occurrences of the name have been found in different texts from the library of Ebla,[14] which date to the third millennium BC, nearly 70 times in the Hebrew Bible, and three of the twelve tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh (perhaps as early as 2100 BC).[15]

The name is recorded in Ancient Egyptian as Rmnn, where R stood for Canaanite L.[16]


Ancient history

Map of Phoenicia and trade routes

Evidence of an early settlement in Lebanon was found in Byblos, which is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world,[7] and date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists discovered remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars left by the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago.[17]

Lebanon was a part of northern Canaan, and consequently became the homeland of Canaanite descendants - the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great.[18] Their most famous colonies were Carthage in today’s Tunisia and Cadiz in today’s Spain. The Phoenicians are best known as the inventors of the alphabet, among many other things. After two centuries of Persian rule, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Egyptian Empire, Persian, Assyrian, Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman, Arab, Seljuk, Mamluk, the Crusader's state of County of Tripoli founded by Raymond IV of Toulouse that encompassed most of present day Lebanon, and the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman Era and French mandate

In 1590, Fakhr-al-Din II became successor to Korkmaz. He was a skilled politician and described as a pupil of Machiavelli. Fakhr-al-Din II adjusted to the lifestyles of the Druze, Christianity and Islam, according to his needs. He paid tribute to the Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire and shared the spoils of war with his masters. Eventually, Fakhr-al-Din II was appointed Sultan of Mt. Lebanon, with full authority. He was considered one of the greatest rulers of the region, also across the Middle of Lebanon. But, his enemies and governors angered the Ottoman Sultanate. Hence, a campaign, calling for the arrest of Fakhr-al-Din II, found the deposed leader in Istanbul, where he was executed by hanging.[19] Shortly afterwards, the Emirate of Mt. Lebanon that lasted more than 500 years was replaced, instead of the emirate meteor. Approximately 10,000 Christians were killed by the Druzes in 1860.[20]

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, until 1918 when the area became a part of the influence, following World War I. By the end of the war, famine had killed an estimated 100,000 people in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, about 30% of the total population.[21]

Maronite villagers building a church in Mount Lebanon, 1920s

In the first half of 1920, Lebanese territory was claimed as part of the Arab Kingdom of Syria, but shortly the Franco-Syrian War resulted in Arab defeat and capitulation of the Hashemites.

Map of the autonomous areas under the Mandate of Syria and Lebanon before 1937

On 1 September 1920, France reestablished Greater Lebanon after the Moutasarrifiya rule removed several regions belonging to the Principality of Lebanon and gave them to Syria.[22] Lebanon was a largely Christian country (mainly Maronite territory with some Greek Orthodox enclaves) but it also included areas containing many Muslims (including Druze).[citation needed] On 1 September 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. A constitution was adopted on 25 May 1926 establishing a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government.


Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany.[23] General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under political pressure from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle recognized the independence of Lebanon. On 26 November 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free government. Elections were held in 1943 and on 8 November 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the released the government officials on 22 November 1943 and recognized the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Maronite Christian, its speaker of the parliament to be a Shiite Muslim, its prime minister be Sunni Muslim, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy Prime Minister be Greek Orthodox.[24]

Lebanon's history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.[25]

In May 1948, Lebanon supported neighbouring Arab countries against Israel. While some irregular forces crossed the border and carried out minor skirmishes against Israel, it was without the support of the Lebanese government, and Lebanese troops did not officially invade.[26] Lebanon agreed to support the forces with covering artillery fire, armored cars, volunteers and logistical support.[27] On 5–6 June 1948, the Lebanese army captured Al-Malkiyya. This was Lebanon's only success in the war.[28]

During the war, some 100,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon, while Israel did not permit their return at the end of hostilities.[29] Palestinians, previously prevented from working at all due to denial of citizenship, are now forbidden to work in some 20 professions after liberalization laws.[30] Today, more than 400,000 refugees remain in limbo, about half in camps.[31]

With the defeat of PLO in Jordan, many Palestinian militants relocated to Lebanon, increasing their Armed resistance against the occupation in Israel. The relocation of Palestinian bases also led to increasing sectarian tensions between Palestinians vs. the Maronites and other Lebanese factions.

Civil war and occupation

The Green Line that separated west and east Beirut, 1982

In 1975, following increasing sectarian tensions, a full scale civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country's economy, and resulting in massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 wounded.[32] Some 900,000 people, representing one-fifth of the pre-war population, were displaced from their homes.[33] The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.[34]

Following the civil war, the Syrian occupation of Lebanon continued until 2005, while Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak led its full withdrawal driven by a belief that the violence would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence in Lebanon.[35] Hezbollah, however declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area was liberated.[36]

21st century

The internal political situation in Lebanon significantly changed in early 2000s. After the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the death of Hafez Al-Assad in 2000, the Syrian military presence faced criticism and resistance from the Lebanese population.[37]

Part of Rue Minet al Hosn, where Rafik Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005

On 14 February 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion.[38] Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack,[39] while the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials claimed that the Mossad was behind the assassination.[40] The UNSC Resolution 1595 called for an investigation into the assassination.[41] The UN International Independent Investigation Commission published its preliminary findings on 20 October 2005 in the Mehlis report, which cited indications that high-ranking members of the Syrian and Lebanese governments were involved in the assassination.[42][43][44]

The assassination triggered the Cedar Revolution, a series of demonstrations which demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. Under pressure from the West, Syria began withdrawing,[45] and by 26 April 2005 all Syrian soldiers had returned to Syria.[46][47] The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassinations that resulted in the death of many prominent Lebanese figures.[48]

Areas in Lebanon targeted by Israeli bombing, 12 July to 13 August 2006

On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah launched a series of rocket attacks and raids into Israeli territory, where they killed three Israeli soldiers and captured a further two.[49] Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire on targets in Lebanon, and a ground invasion of southern Lebanon, resulting in the 2006 Lebanon War. The conflict was officially ended by the UNSC Resolution 1701 on 14 August 2006, which ordered a ceasefire.[50] Some 1,191 Lebanese[51] and 160 Israelis[52] were killed in the conflict. Beirut's southern suburb was heavily damaged by Israeli airstrikes where Hezbollah military infrastructure was deeply embedded among the civilian population.[53]

In 2007, the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp became the center of the 2007 Lebanon conflict between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam. At least 169 soldiers, 287 insurgents and 47 civilians were killed in the battle. Funds for the reconstruction of the area have been slow to materialize.[54]

Between 2006 and 2008, a series of protests led by groups opposed to the pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demanded the creation of a national unity government, over which the mostly Shia opposition groups would have veto power. When Émile Lahoud's presidential term ended in October 2007, the opposition refused to vote for a successor unless a power-sharing deal was reached, leaving Lebanon without a president.

On 9 May 2008, Hezbollah and Amal forces, sparked by a government declaration that Hezbollah's communications network was illegal, seized western Beirut,[55] leading to the 2008 conflict in Lebanon.[56] The Lebanese government denounced the violence as a coup attempt.[57] At least 62 people died in the resulting clashes between pro-government and opposition militias.[58] On 21 May 2008, the signing of the Doha Agreement ended the fighting.[55][58] As part of the accord, which ended 18 months of political paralysis,[59] Michel Suleiman became president and a national unity government was established, granting a veto to the opposition.[55] The agreement was a victory for opposition forces, as the government caved in to all their main demands.[58]

In early January 2011, the national unity government collapsed due to growing tensions stemming from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was expected to indict Hezbollah members for the Hariri assassination.[60] The parliament elected Najib Mikati, the candidate for the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance, Prime Minister of Lebanon, making him responsible for forming a new government.[61] Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah insists that Israel was responsible for the assassination of Hariri.[62] A report leaked by the Al-Akhbar newspaper in November 2010 stated that Hezbollah has drafted plans for a takeover of the country in the case an indictment against its members is issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.[63]

The 2012 Syrian civil war threatens to spill over in Lebanon, causing more incidents of sectarian violence and armed clashes between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli.[64]


Lebanon from space. Snow cover can be seen on the western and eastern mountain ranges

Lebanon is located in Western Asia between latitudes 33° and 35° N, and longitudes 35° and 37° E.

The country's surface area is 10,452 square kilometres (4,036 sq mi) of which 10,230 square kilometres (3,950 sq mi) is land. Lebanon has a coastline and border of 225 kilometres (140 mi) on the Mediterranean sea to the west, a 375 kilometres (233 mi) border shared with Syria to the north and east and a 79 kilometres (49 mi) long border with Israel to the south.[65] The border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is disputed by Lebanon in a small area called Shebaa Farms.[66]

Lebanon is divided into four distinct physiographic regions: the coastal plain, the Lebanon mountain range, the Beqaa valley and the Anti-Lebanon mountains.

Mountain scenery in Barouk

The narrow and discontinuous coastal plain stretches from the Syrian border in the north where it widens to form the Akkar plain to Ras al-Naqoura at the border with Israel in the south. The fertile coastal plain is formed of marine sediments and river deposited alluvium alternating with sandy bays and rocky beaches. The Lebanon mountains rise steeply parallel to the Mediterranean coast and form a ridge of limestone and sandstone that runs for most of the country's length. The mountain range varies in width between 10 km and 56 km; it is carved by narrow and deep gorges. The Lebanon mountains peak at 3,088 metres (10,131 ft) above sea level in Qurnat as Sawda' in North Lebanon and gradually slope to the south before rising again to a height of 2,695 metres (8,842 ft) in Mount Sannine. The Beqaa valley sits between the Lebanon mountains in the west and the Anti-Lebanon range in the east; it's a part of the Great Rift Valley system. The valley is 180 km long and 10 to 26 km wide, its fertile soil is formed by alluvial deposits. The Anti-Lebanon range runs parallel to the Lebanon mountains, its highest peak is in Mount Hermon at 2,814 metres (9,232 ft).[65]

The mountains of Lebanon are drained by seasonal torrents and rivers foremost of which is the 145 kilometres (90 mi) long Leontes that rises in the Beqaa Valley to the west of Baalbek and empties into the Mediterranean Sea north of Tyre.[65]


Nahr Ibrahim running through the lush Adonis gorge

Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate. In coastal areas, winters are generally cool and rainy whilst summers are hot and humid. In more elevated areas, temperatures usually drop below freezing during the winter with heavy snow cover that remains until early summer on the higher mountaintops.[65][67] Although most of Lebanon receives a relatively large amount of rainfall, when measured annually in comparison to its arid surroundings, certain areas in north-eastern Lebanon receive little because of rain shadow created by the high peaks of the western mountain range.[68]


In ancient times, Lebanon was covered by large forests of Cedar, the national emblem of the country.[69] As a result of longstanding exploitation, few old Cedar trees remain in pockets of forests in Lebanon, but there is an active program to conserve and regenerate the forests. The Lebanese approach has emphasized natural regeneration over planting by creating the right conditions for germination and growth. The Lebanese state has created several nature reserves that contain cedars, including the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, the Jaj Cedar Reserve, the Tannourine Reserve, the Ammouaa and Karm Shbat Reserves in the Akkar district, and the Forest of the Cedars of God near Bsharri.[70][71][72] In 2010, the Environment Ministry set a 10-year plan to increase the national forest coverage by 20% that is equivalent to the planting of two million new trees each year.[73] The plan, which was funded the U.S. development agency, USAID, and overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, and the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative, was inaugurated in 2011 by planting of seedlings, such as cedar, pine, wild almond, juniper, fir and oak, in five regions around Lebanon.[73] The forests cover 13.4% of the Lebanese land area;[74] they are under constant threat from wildfires caused by the long dry summer season.[75]

Government and politics

The Lebanese parliament building at the Place de l'Étoile.

The Grand Serail, the government headquarters in downtown Beirut.

One of the many protests that occurred at Martyrs' Square

Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy, which implements a special system known as confessionalism.[76] This system is intended to deter sectarian conflict and attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of the 18 recognized religious groups in government.[77][78] High-ranking offices are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Greek Orthodox.[79][80]

Lebanon's national legislature is the unicameral Parliament of Lebanon. Its 128 seats are divided equally between Christians and Muslims, proportionately between the 18 different denominations and proportionately between its 26 regions.[81] Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975–1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions.[79] The Parliament is elected for a four-year term by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation.[5]

The executive branch consists of the President, the head of state, and the Prime Minister, the head of government. The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term by a two-third majority. The president appoints the Prime Minister,[82] following consultations with the parliament. The President and the Prime Minister form the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

The next nation-wide elections are scheduled for 2013.[83]


The Lebanese legal system is based on the system, and is a civil law country, with the exception for matters related to personal status (heritage, marriage, divorce, etc.), which are governed by a separate set of laws designed for each sectarian community. For instance, the Islamic personal status laws are inspired by the Sharia law.[84] For Muslims, these tribunals deal with questions of marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance and wills. For non-Muslims. personal status jurisdiction is split: the law of inheritance and wills falls under national civil jurisdiction, while Christian and Jewish religious courts are competent for marriage, divorce, and custody. Catholics can additionally appeal before the Vatican Rota court.[85]

The most notable set of codified laws is the Code des Obligations et des Contrats promulgated in 1932 and equivalent to the Civil Code.[84] Capital punishment is still used to sanction certain crimes.[84]

The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. The Constitutional Council rules on constitutionality of laws and electoral frauds. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage and inheritance.[86]

Foreign relations

Lebanon concluded negotiations on an association agreement with the European Union in late 2001, and both sides initialed the accord in January 2002. Lebanon also has bilateral trade agreements with several Arab states and is working toward accession to the World Trade Organization.

Lebanon enjoys good relations with virtually all of the other Arab countries (despite historic tensions with Libya, the Palestinians, Syria and Iraq), and hosted an Arab League Summit in March 2002 for the first time in more than 35 years. Lebanon is a member of the Francophone countries and hosted the Francophone Summit in October 2002 as well as the Jeux de la Francophonie in 2009.


Soldiers of the Lebanese army, 2009

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has 72,000 active personnel,[87] including 1,100 in the air force, and 1,000 in the navy.[88] The motto of the Lebanese Armed Forces is "Honor, Sacrifice, Loyalty" (Arabic: "شرف · تضحية · وفاء"‎ – Sharaf.Tadhia.Wafa'). The Lebanese Armed Forces Emblem consists of a Lebanon Cedar tree surrounded by two laurel leaves, positioned above the symbols of the three branches: the ground forces represented by the two swords, the navy represented by an anchor, and the air force represented by two wings.

The Lebanese Armed Forces' primary missions include defending Lebanon and its citizens against external aggression, maintaining internal stability and security, confronting threats against the country's vital interests, engaging in social development activities, and undertaking relief operations in coordination with public and humanitarian institutions.[89]

Lebanon is a major recipient of foreign military aid.[90] With $400 million since 2005, it is the second largest per capita recipient of American military aid behind Israel.[91]

Governorates and districts

Lebanon is divided into six governorates (mohaafazaat, Arabic: محافظات —‎;singular mohafazah, Arabic: محافظة‎) which are further subdivided into twenty-five districts (aqdya—singular: qadaa).[92] The districts themselves are also divided into several municipalities, each enclosing a group of cities or villages. The governorates and their respective districts are listed below:

  • Beirut Governorate
    • The Beirut Governorate is not divided into districts and is limited to the city of Beirut
  • Nabatieh Governorate (Jabal Amel)
    • Bint Jbeil
    • Hasbaya
    • Marjeyoun
    • Nabatieh
  • Beqaa Governorate
    • Baalbek
    • Hermel
    • Rashaya
    • Western Beqaa (al-Beqaa al-Gharbi)
    • Zahle
  • North Governorate (al-Shamal)
    • Akkar
    • Batroun
    • Bsharri
    • Koura
    • Miniyeh-Danniyeh
    • Tripoli
    • Zgharta
  • Mount Lebanon Governorate (Jabal Lubnan)
    • Aley
    • Baabda
    • Byblos (Jbeil)
    • Chouf
    • Keserwan
    • Matn
  • South Governorate (al-Janoub)
    • Jezzine
    • Sidon (Saida)
    • Tyre (Sur)


Graphical depiction of Lebanon 's product exports in 28 color coded categories.

Lebanon’s economy follows a laissez-faire model.[93] Most of the economy is dollarized, and the country has no restrictions on the movement of capital across its borders.[93] The Lebanese government’s intervention in foreign trade is minimal.[93]

The Lebanese economy grew 8.5% in 2008 and a revised 9% in 2009[94] despite a global recession.[95] Real GDP growth is estimated to have slowed from 7.5% in 2010 to 1.5% in 2011, according to IMF preliminary estimates, with nominal GDP estimated at $41.5 billion in 2011.[93] The Banque du Liban projects real GDP growth could reach 4% in 2012, with 6% inflation (versus 4% in 2011).[93] The political and security instability in the Arab world, especially in Syria, is expected to have a negative impact on the domestic business and economic environment.[93]

Lebanon faces major financial challenges, notably a very high level of public debt and large external financing needs.[93] The 2010 public debt exceeded 150.7% of GDP, ranking fourth highest in the world as a percentage of GDP, though down from 154.8% in 2009.[5] Finance minister Mohamad Chatah stated that the debt reached $47 billion in 2008 and would increase to $49 billion if privatization of two telecoms companies did not occur.[96] The Daily Star wrote that exorbitant debt levels have "slowed down the economy and reduced the government's spending on essential development projects."[97]

The urban population in Lebanon is noted for its commercial enterprise.[98] Emigration has yielded Lebanese "commercial networks" throughout the world.[99] Remittances from Lebanese abroad total $8.2 billion[100] and account for one fifth of the country's economy.[101] Lebanon has the largest proportion of skilled labor among Arab States.[102]

The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon was established with the aim of promoting investment in Lebanon. In 2001, Investment Law No.360[103] was enacted to reinforce the organisation's mission.


GDP per capita in international dollars, 1980-2012[104][105]
Year Lebanon MENA avg
1980 5,322 3,346
1981 5,897 3,581
1982 3,970 3,681
1983 5,064 3,781
1984 7,592 3,903
1985 9,613 3,980
1986 9,025 3,873
1987 10,722 3,869
1988 7,875 3,826
1989 4,674 4,001
1990 4,158 4,191
1991 5,649 4,472
1992 5,925 4,570
1993 6,352 4,658
1994 6,868 4,764
1995 7,320 4,860
1996 7,606 5,138
1997 7,892 5,352
1998 8,031 5,512
1999 7,928 5,585
2000 8,077 5,876
2001 8,478 6,063
2002 8,792 6,261
2003 9,144 6,711
2004 9,959 7,175
2005 10,367 7,360
2006 10,751 7,882
2007 11,893 8,354
2008 13,116 8,735
2009 14,197 8,862
2010 15,168 9,220
2011 15,523 9,896
2012 15,985 10,188

The 1975–1990 civil war heavily damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure,[88] cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a West Asian entrepôt and banking hub.[5] The subsequent period of relative peace enabled the central government to restore control in Beirut, begin collecting taxes, and regain access to key port and government facilities. Economic recovery has been helped by a financially sound banking system and resilient small- and medium-scale manufacturers, with family remittances, banking services, manufactured and farm exports, and international aid as the main sources of foreign exchange.[106]

Until July 2006, Lebanon enjoyed considerable stability, Beirut's reconstruction was almost complete,[107] and increasing numbers of tourists poured into the nation's resorts.[11] The economy witnessed growth, with bank assets reaching over 75 billion US dollars,[108] Market capitalization was also at an all time high, estimated at $10.9 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2006.[108] The month-long 2006 war severely damaged Lebanon's fragile economy, especially the tourism sector. According to a preliminary report published by the Lebanese Ministry of Finance on 30 August 2006, a major economic decline was expected as a result of the fighting.[109]

Over the course of 2008 Lebanon rebuilt its infrastructure mainly in the real estate and tourism sectors, resulting in a comparatively robust post war economy. Major contributors to the reconstruction of Lebanon include Saudi Arabia (with US$ 1.5 billion pledged),[110] the European Union (with about $1 billion)[111] and a few other Persian Gulf countries with contributions of up to $800 million.[112]


Although Lebanon is ideally suited for agricultural activities in terms of water availability and soil fertility, as it possesses the highest proportion of cultivable land in the Arabic speaking world,[113] it does not have a large agricultural sector. Attracting only 12% of the total workforce,[114] agriculture is the least popular economic sector in Lebanon. It contributes approximately 11.7% of the country's GDP, also placing it in the lowest rank compared to other economic sectors. Major produce includes apples, peaches, oranges, and lemons.[9]

Oil has recently been discovered inland and in the seabed between Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt and talks are underway between Cyprus and Egypt to reach an agreement regarding the exploration of these resources.The seabed separating Lebanon and Cyprus is believed to hold significant quantities of crude oil and natural gas.[115]


Industry in Lebanon is mainly limited to small businesses that reassemble and package imported parts. In 2004, industry ranked second in workforce, with 26% of the Lebanese working population,[114] and second in GDP contribution, with 21% of Lebanon's GDP.[9]


Lebanese GDP real economic Growth

The majority of the Lebanese workforce (nearly 65%)[114] attain employment in the services sector. The GDP contribution, accordingly, amounts to roughly 67.3% of the annual Lebanese GDP.[9] However, dependence on the tourism and banking sectors leaves the economy vulnerable to political instability.[116]

Lebanon's strict financial secrecy and capitalist economy have given it significant, though no longer dominant, economic status among Arab countries. Given the frequent turmoil it has faced, the Lebanese banking system has adopted a conservative approach, with strict regulations imposed by the central bank to protect the economy from political instability. These regulations have generally left Lebanese banks unscathed by the Financial crisis of 2007–2010. Lebanese banks remain, under the current circumstances, high on liquidity and reputed for their security.[117] Lebanon was one of the only seven countries in the world in which the value of the stock markets increased in 2008.[118]


Baalbek Temple of Jupiter

The tourism industry has been historically important to the local economy and remains a major source of revenue to this day. Between 2005 and 2007, a state of turmoil led to a sharp fall in tourism. Lebanon has seen a recovery in tourism since 2006.[119] Lebanon managed to attract around 1,333,000 tourists in 2008, thus placing it as rank 79 out of 191 countries.[120] In 2009, the New York Times ranked Beirut the No. 1 travel destination worldwide due to its Unique Nightlife and Hospitality.[121] In January 2010, the Ministry of Tourism announced that 1,851,081 tourists had visited Lebanon in 2009, a 39% increase from 2008.[119] In 2009, Lebanon hosted the largest number of tourists to date, eclipsing the previous record set before the Lebanese Civil War.[122]

Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Japan are the three most popular origin countries of foreign tourists to Lebanon.[123] The recent influx of Japanese tourists is probably the reason for the recent rise in popularity of Japanese Cuisine in Lebanon.[124]


Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon.

The population of Lebanon was estimated to be 4,125,247 in July 2010,[5] however no official census has been taken since 1932 due to the sensitive confessional political balance between Lebanon's various religious groups.[125] Identifying all Lebanese as ethnically Arab is a widely employed example of panethnicity since in reality, the Lebanese “are descended from many different peoples who have occupied, invaded, or settled this corner of the world,” making Lebanon, “a mosaic of closely interrelated cultures”.[126] While at first glance, this ethnic, linguistic, religious and denominational diversity might seem to cause civil and political unrest, “for much of Lebanon’s history this multitudinous diversity of religious communities has coexisted with little conflict”.[126]

Millions of people of Lebanese descent are spread throughout the world, mostly Christians,[127] especially in Latin America.[128] Brazil has the largest expatriate population.[129] (See Lebanese Brazilians). Large numbers of Lebanese migrated to West Africa,[130] particularly to the Ivory Coast (home to over 100,000 Lebanese)[131] and Senegal (roughly 30,000 Lebanese).[132] Australia is home to over 270,000 Lebanese (1999 est.).[133]

As of 2012, Lebanon was host to over 460,000 refugees and asylum seekers: 405,425 Palestinians,[5] 50,000–60,000 from Iraq,[134][135] over 80,000 from Syria,[136] and 4,500 from Sudan. Their primary sources of income are UNRWA aid and menial labor sought in competition with about 300,000 Syrian guest workers.[137]

In the last three decades, lengthy and destructive armed conflicts have ravaged the country. The majority of Lebanese have been affected by armed conflict; those with direct personal experience include 75% of the population, and most others report suffering a range of hardships. In total, almost the entire population (96%) has been affected in some way – either personally or because of the wider consequences of armed conflict.[138]


Lebanon is the most religiously diverse country in the .[139]

Major Religions in Lebanon by sect (2010)[140]

Lebanon's population of the major religions are estimated to be 59% Muslim (27% Sunni; 27% Shia; 5% Druze), 41% Christian (21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, 7% other Christian groups such as Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant).[141] The rest of the population in Lebanon include those of other religions and non believers.

Over the past 60 years, there has been a steady decline in the ratio of Christians to Muslims, due to higher emigration rates of Christians, and a higher birth rate in the Muslim population.[140] The most recent study conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research firm, found that approximately 27% of the population was Sunni, 27% Shi'a, 21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Druze, 5% Greek Catholic, and 7% other Christian sects such as Armenians who are 4% of the population and Syrian Orthodox.[140] There are 18 state-recognized religious sects – 4 Muslim, 12 Christian, 1 Druze, and 1 Jewish.[140]

The Shi'a community is estimated to be 27%[140] of Lebanon's total population. Shi'a residents primarily live in South Beirut, the Beqaa Valley, and southern Lebanon.[142]

An estimate of the area distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups.

The Sunni community is estimated to be 27% of Lebanon's total population.[140] Sunni residents primarily live in West Beirut, the southern coast of Lebanon, and northern Lebanon.[142] Kurds in Lebanon are Sunni Muslims.

The Maronite community is estimated to be approximately 21% of Lebanon's total population.[140] Maronite residents tend to live in East Beirut and the mountains of Lebanon.[142] They are the largest Christian community in Lebanon.[142]

The Greek Orthodox community is estimated to be approximately 8% of Lebanon's total population. Greek Orthodox residents primarily live in Koura, Beirut, Zahleh, Rachaya, Matn, Aley, Akkar, Tripoli, Hasbaya and Marjeyoun. They are the second largest Christian community in Lebanon and the 4th largest religious community in the country.

Ethnic Groups in Lebanon
Ethnicity Percent
Arabs(of all races) 93%
Armenians 4%
Kurdish 2%
others 1%


Article 11 of Lebanon's Constitution states that "Arabic is the official national language. A law determines the cases in which the language may be used".[144] The majority of Lebanese people speak Lebanese Arabic, while Modern Standard Arabic is mostly used in magazines, newspapers, and formal broadcast media. Almost 40% of Lebanese are considered francophone, and another 15% "partial francophone," and 70% of Lebanon's secondary schools use as a second language of instruction.[145] By comparison, English is used as a secondary language in 30% of Lebanon's secondary schools.[145] The use of is a legacy of the post-World War I League of Nations mandate over Lebanon given to France; as of 2004, some 20% of the population used on a daily basis.[146] It should be noted, however, that Arabic is increasingly becoming less and less used by Lebanon's educated youth, who prefer to speak in and .[147][148]

is increasingly used in science and business interactions.[149] Lebanese people of , Assyrian, or Greek descent often speak , Neo-Aramaic, or Greek with varying degrees of fluency. There are currently around 150,000 Armenians in Lebanon, or around 5% of the population.[150]


Votive marble statue of a royal child, inscribed in Phoenician, from the Eshmun sanctuary, c. 400s BC

Temple of Bacchus is considered one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world, c. 150 AD

The culture of Lebanon is the cross culture of various civilizations over thousands of years. Originally home to the Phoenicians, and then subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks and most recently the , Lebanese culture has over the millennia evolved by borrowing from all of these groups. Lebanon's diverse population, composed of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country's festivals, musical styles and literature as well as cuisine.

Despite the ethnic, linguistic, religious and denominational diversity of the Lebanese, they “share an almost common culture”.[151] Lebanese Arabic is universally spoken while food, music, and literature are deep-rooted “in wider Mediterranean and Levantine norms”.[151]


Khalil Gibran (April 1913)

In literature, Khalil Gibran is particularly known for his book The Prophet (1923), which has been translated into more than twenty different languages.[152] Several contemporary Lebanese writers have also achieved international success; including Elias Khoury, Amin Maalouf, Hanan al-Shaykh, and Georges Schehadé.

In visual arts, Moustafa Farroukh was one of Lebanon's most prominent painters of the 20th century. Formally trained in Rome and Paris, he exhibited in venues from Paris to New York to Beirut over his career.[153] Many more contemporary artists are currently active, such as Walid Raad, a contemporary media artist currently residing in New York.[154]

In the field of photography, the Arab Image Foundation has a collection of +400,000 photographs from Lebanon and the . The photographs can be viewed in a research center and various events and publications have been produced in Lebanon and worldwide to promote the collection.

Popular culture

The Music of Lebanon is pervasive in Lebanese society.[155] While traditional folk music remains popular in Lebanon, modern music reconciling Western and traditional Arabic styles, pop, and fusion are rapidly advancing in popularity.[156] Radio stations feature a variety of music, including traditional Lebanese, classical Arabic, [157] and modern , , American, and Latin tunes.[158]

Cinema of Lebanon, according to film critic and historian, Roy Armes, was the only other cinema in the Arabic-speaking region, beside Egypt's, that could amount to a national cinema.[159] Cinema in Lebanon has been in existence since the 1920s, and the country has produced over 500 films,[160]

The Media of Lebanon is not only a regional center of production but also the most liberal and free in the Arab world.[161] According to Press freedom's Reporters Without Borders, "the media have more freedom in Lebanon than in any other Arab country".[162] Despite its small population and geographic size, Lebanon plays an influential role in the production of information in the Arab world and is "at the core of a regional media network with global implications".[163]

Holidays and Festivals

Lebanon celebrates national and both Christian and Muslim holidays. Christian holidays are celebrated following both the Gregorian Calendar and Julian Calendar. Catholics, Protestant, and Melkite Christians follow the Gregorian Calendar and thus celebrate Christmas on 25 December. Greek Orthodox and Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on 6 January, as they follow the Julian Calendar. Muslim holidays are followed based on the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslim holidays that are celebrated include Eid al-Fitr (the three-day feast at the end of the Ramadan month), Eid al-Adha (The Feast of the Sacrifice) which is celebrated during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and also celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God,the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, and Ashura (the Shiite Day of Atonement). Lebanon's National Holidays include Workers Day, Independence day, and Martyrs Day.

Beiteddine Palace, venue of the Beiteddine Festival

Music festivals, often hosted at historical sites, are a customary element of Lebanese culture.[164] Among the most famous are Baalbeck International Festival, Byblos International Festival, Beiteddine International Festival, Broumana Festival, Batroun Festival, Dhour Chwer Festival and Tyr Festival.[164][165] These festivals are promoted by Lebanon's Ministry of Tourism. Lebanon hosts about 15 concerts from international performers each year, ranking 1st for nightlife in the , and 6th worldwide.[166]


Both summer and winter sports thrive in Lebanon because of the unique geography. In autumn and spring, for example, it is possible to go skiing in the morning and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoon.[167] At the competitive level, basketball and football are among Lebanon’s most popular sports. In recent years, Lebanon has hosted the AFC Asian Cup and the Pan Arab Games.

Lebanon has six ski resorts, with opportunities also available for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. In the summer, skilifts can be used to access hiking trails, with views stretching as far as Cyprus to the west and Syria to the east on clear days. Canoeing, cycling, rafting, climbing, swimming, sailing and caving are among the other common leisure sports in Lebanon. Adventure and extreme sports are also possible throughout the country. The Beirut Marathon is held every fall, drawing top runners from Lebanon and abroad. Race day is promoted as a fun, family event, and it has become a tradition for many to participate in costumes or outlandish clothing.

Rugby league is a relatively new but growing sport in Lebanon. The Lebanon national rugby league team participated in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, and narrowly missed qualification for the 2008 and 2013 tournaments. Lebanon also took part in the 2009 European Cup where, after narrowly failing to qualify for the final, the team defeated Ireland to finish 3rd in the tournament. Lebanon international Hazem El Masri holds the record as the all-time highest points scorer in Australia's National Rugby League, having moved from Lebanon to Australia as a child.

The strongest sport in Lebanon is Basketball with the Lebanese National Team qualifying for the FIBA World Championship 3 times in a row. Considered as one of the basketball power houses in Asia, Lebanon was able to defeat strong teams such as Venezuela and France. In 2010 FIBA World Championship, Lebanon defeated Canada national men's basketball team but failed to qualify to the second round. Lebanese Rony Seikaly played in the NBA for over a decade, and Fadi El Khatib is the most decorated player in the Lebanese National Basketball League. Dominant Basketball teams in Lebanon are Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut, who are the current Arab and Asian champions, Club Sagesse who were able to earn the Asian and Arab championships before, along with Champville SC, Al Mouttahed Tripoli, and Hoops Club,and Byblos.

Football is also one of the more popular sports in the country with the Lebanese Premier League with its most successful clubs being Al-Ansar Club and Nejmeh SC with notable players being Roda Antar and Youssef Mohamad, the first Arab to captain a European premier league team.

Lebanon hosted the 2009 Jeux de la Francophonie from 27 September to 6 October, and have participated in every Olympic Games since its independence, winning a total of four medals.

Prominent Lebanese bodybuilders include Samir Bannout, Mohammad Bannout and Ahmad Haidar.


The United Nations assigned Lebanon an education index of 0.871 in 2008. The index, which is determined by the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio, ranked the country 88th out of the 177 countries participating.[168]


All Lebanese schools are required to follow a prescribed curriculum designed by the Ministry of Education. Some of the 1400 private schools offer IB programs,[169] and may also add more courses to their curriculum with approval from the Ministry of Education. The main subjects taught are mathematics, sciences, Arabic, and at least one secondary language (either or ).

The government introduces a mild form of selectivity into the curriculum by giving 11th graders choice between two "concentrations": sciences, humanities, and 12th graders choose between four concentrations: life sciences, general sciences, sociology and economics, and humanities and literature. The choices in concentration do not include major changes in the number of subjects taken (if at all). However, subjects that fall out of the concentration are given less weight in grading and are less rigorous, while subjects that fall within the concentration are more challenging and contribute significantly to the final grade.

Students go through three academic phases:

Name Number of years Annotations
Elementary 5
Intermediate 4 students earn Intermediate Certification (Lebanese Brevet) at completion
Secondary 3 students who pass official exams earn a Baccalaureate Certificate (Baccalauréat Libanais) in the concentration they chose in 12th grade. Students studying at French-system schools or American-system schools may also graduate with a French Baccalaureate that is considered equivalent to the Lebanese Baccalaureate. Students can also graduate with an International Baccalaureate (currently in some of the private schools).

The first eight years are, by law, compulsory.[9]

Higher education

Haigazian University in Beirut.

Following secondary school, Lebanese students may choose to study at a university, a college, or a vocational training institute. The number of years to complete each program varies. While the Lebanese educational system offers a very high quality and international class of education, the local employment market lacks sufficient opportunities, thus encouraging many of the young educated to travel abroad.

Lebanon has forty-one nationally accredited universities, several of which are internationally recognized.[170][171] The American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Université Saint-Joseph (USJ) were the first Anglophone and the first Francophone universities to open in Lebanon, respectively.[172][173] Another prestigious and internationally recognized university is the Lebanese American University.[174] Universities in Lebanon, both public and private, largely operate in or .[175]

At the universities, students who have graduated from an American-style high school program enter at the freshman level to earn their baccalaureate equivalence from the Lebanese Ministry of Higher Education. This qualifies them to continue studying at the higher levels. Such students are required to have already taken the SAT I and the SAT II upon applying to college, in lieu of the official exams. On the other hand, students who have graduated from a school that follows the Lebanese educational system are directly admitted to the sophomore year. These students are still required to take the SAT I, but not the SAT II. The university academic degrees for the first stage are the Bachelor or the Licence, for the second stage are the Master or the DEA and the third stage is the doctorate.


As of 2011 the average life expectancy in Lebanon was 79.5 years old with 84 years old for the females and 77 for males.

LEBANON: Health (Source: EIU) 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Life expectancy, average (years) 78.8 78.8 78.9 79.0 79.1 79.5
Healthcare spending (% of GDP) 6.7 7.7 7.2 7.6 8.0 6.2
Healthcare spending ($ per head) 233 277 298 300 311 325

Further reading

  • Arkadiusz, Plonka. L’idée de langue libanaise d’après Sa‘īd ‘Aql, Paris, Geuthner, 2004 (French) ISBN 2-7053-3739-3
  • Firzli, Nicola Y. Al-Baath wa-Lubnân [Arabic only] ("The Baath and Lebanon"). Beirut: Dar-al-Tali'a Books, 1973
  • Fisk, Robert. Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon. New York: Nation Books, 2002.
  • Glass, Charles, "Tribes with Flags: A Dangerous Passage Through the Chaos of the Middle East", Atlantic Monthly Press (New York) and Picador (London), 1990 ISBN 0-436-18130-4
  • Hitti Philip K. History of Syria Including Lebanon and Palestine, Vol. 2 (2002) (ISBN 1-931956-61-8)
  • Holst, Sanford. Phoenicians: Lebanon's Epic Heritage. Los Angeles: Cambridge and Boston Press, 2005.
  • Norton, Augustus R. Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon. Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1987.
  • Sobelman, Daniel. New Rules of the Game: Israel and Hizbollah After the Withdrawal From Lebanon, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel-Aviv University, 2004.
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Salibi, Kamal. A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
  • Schlicht, Alfred. The role of Foreign Powers in the History of Syria and Lebanon 1799–1861 in: Journal of Asian History 14 (1982)

More information

Airports7 (2012)
Borders WithIsrael
Borders WithSyria
Coastline225 km
Coordinates33 50 N, 35 50 E
Domain Suffix.lb
Ethnic GroupArab 95%
Ethnic GroupArmenian 4%
Ethnic Groupother 1%
Female Life Expectancy76.88 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age31.5 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate1.76 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$61.44 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$60.53 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$56.57 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth1.5% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth7% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth8.5% (2009 est.)
Government typerepublic
Highest PointQornet es Saouda 3,088 m
Land Area10,230 sq km
Land boundary454 km
LanguageArabic (official)
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria
Lowest PointMediterranean Sea 0 m
Male Life Expectancy73.67 years
Male Median Age29.2 years
NationalityLebanese (singular and plural)
Population Growth-0.38% (2012 est.)
Railways401 km
Roadways6,970 km (includes 170 km of expressways) (2005)
Terrainnarrow coastal plain; El Beqaa (Bekaa Valley) separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains
Total Area10,400 sq km
Total Life Expectancy75.23 years
Total Median Age30.4 years
Water Area170 sq km


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