Lebanon is a sovereign state in Western Asia, formally known as the Lebanese Republic. It is bounded on the north and east by Syria and on the south by Israel, while on the west by Cyprus across the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon’s geographical position at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland enabled its illustrious past and created a religious and ethnically diverse cultural identity. With a geographical area of just 10,452 km2 (4,036 sq. mi. ), it is the smallest recognized nation on the whole Asian peninsula.
The oldest trace of civilisation in Lebanon predates recorded history by more than seven thousand years. Lebanon was home to the Canaanites/Phoenicians and their kingdoms, a maritime civilization that thrived for almost 1,000 years (c. 1550–539 BC). The area was conquered by the Roman Empire in 64 BC and ultimately developed into one of the Empire’s major centers of Christianity. A monastic tradition known as the Maronite Church was founded in the Mount Lebanon area. The Maronites retained their faith and identity when the Arab Muslims invaded the area. However, a new religious group, the Druze, established themselves on Mount Lebanon as well, resulting in a centuries-old religious split. The Maronites reestablished communication with the Roman Catholic Church and reaffirmed their communion with Rome during the Crusades. Their alliances with the Latins affected the area far into the contemporary period.
From 1516 until 1918, the area was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. During the fall of the empire following World War I, the French Mandate of Lebanon took over the five provinces that comprise modern Lebanon. The French extended the Mount Lebanon Governorate’s boundaries, which were mostly Maronites and Druze, to accommodate more Muslims. Lebanon achieved independence in 1943, creating a distinct political system known as confessionalism, a kind of Consociationalism centered on religious groups. Bechara El Khoury, President of Lebanon during the country’s independence, Riad El-Solh, the country’s first prime minister, and Emir Majid Arslan II, the country’s first minister of defense, are regarded the country’s founders and national heroes for leading the country’s freedom. On 31 December 1946, all foreign soldiers departed entirely from Lebanon. Lebanon has been a member of the International Francophonie Organization since 1973.
Despite its little size, the nation has established a well-known culture and a strong presence in the Arab world. Prior to the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the nation had relative peace and prosperity, fueled by tourism, agriculture, trade, and banking. Lebanon was dubbed the “Switzerland of the East” in the 1960s due to its financial strength and variety, and its city, Beirut, drew so many visitors that it was dubbed “the Paris of the Middle East.” At the conclusion of the war, significant efforts were made to rehabilitate the economy and restore the nation’s infrastructure. Despite these difficulties, Lebanon has the highest Human Development Index and GDP per capita in the Arab world, surpassing the Persian Gulf’s oil-rich economy.
The tourist sector contributes about 10% of GDP. In 2008, Lebanon received approximately 1,333,000 visitors, putting it at number 79 out of 191 nations. Due to its nightlife and friendliness, the New York Times rated Beirut as the top tourist destination in the world in 2009. The Ministry of Tourism reported in January 2010 that 1,851,081 visitors visited Lebanon in 2009, up 39 percent from 2008. Lebanon welcomed the most visitors to date in 2009, breaking the previous record established before the Lebanese Civil War. Tourist arrivals peaked at 2 million in 2010, but dropped by 37% in the first ten months of 2012, owing to the conflict in neighboring Syria.
The three most common countries of origin for international visitors visiting Lebanon are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Japan. The increase in popularity of Japanese cuisine in Lebanon has been attributed to the recent inflow of Japanese visitors.
The people of Lebanon are divided into Christian (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek-Catholic Melkites, Armenians, Protestant, Coptic Christians) and Muslim (Shi’a, Sunni, Alawites) and Druze groups, with the majority being Christian (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek-Catholic Melkites, Armenians, Protestant, Coptic Christians). Other minor groups include the country’s significant population of Palestinian refugees (approximately 250,000). Due to the huge inflow of visitors, many of whom are returning members of the Lebanese diaspora and Lebanese nationals working abroad, the population surges significantly during the summer months (June to September). There are also a large number of Arabs from the Gulf and Levant.
People are extremely laid-back and kind. You should not be afraid to approach strangers on the street and ask for information, since the majority of them will try their best to assist you.
Although this is true particularly in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and some of the bigger towns, Lebanon is inhabited by a relatively open and highly educated population. In the Bekaa Valley and the rural north and south, attitudes and behaviors are more conservative.
Lebanon was formerly known as (the self-proclaimed) Switzerland and the Eastern Paris. This prestige has been eroded by previous conflicts, but the Lebanese have learnt to adapt. Their quest of pleasure and enjoyment has overshadowed their financial capacities and political issues, resulting in a slew of issues throughout the years, including political issues, religious conflicts, and infrastructural issues.
Lebanon is situated between latitudes 33° and 35° N and longitudes 35° and 37° E in Western Asia. Its territory is “northwest of the Arabian plate.”
The country’s total area is 10,452 square kilometers (4,036 square miles), with land covering 10,230 square kilometers (3,950 square miles). Lebanon has a 225-kilometer (140-mile) Mediterranean coast and border to the west, a 375-kilometer (233-mile) border with Syria to the north and east, and a 79-kilometer (49-mile) border with Israel to the south. Lebanon’s boundary with Israel’s occupied Golan Heights is contested in a tiny region known as Shebaa Farms.
The coastal plain, the Lebanon mountain range, the Beqaa valley, and the Anti-Lebanon highlands are the four main physiographic areas of Lebanon.
From the Syrian border in the north, where it expands to create the Akkar plain, to Ras al-Naqoura on the Israeli border in the south, the narrow and discontinuous coastal plain spans. The rich coastal plain is made up of marine sediments and alluvium deposited by rivers, with sandy bays and stony beaches interspersed. The Lebanon mountains rise sharply parallel to the Mediterranean coast, forming a limestone and sandstone range that stretches the length of the nation. The mountain range is formed by narrow and steep canyons and ranges in width between 10 km (6 mi) and 56 km (35 mi). The Lebanon mountains rise to a height of 3,088 meters (10,131 feet) above sea level in Qurnat as Sawda’ in North Lebanon, before gently sloping to the south and rising to 2,695 meters (8,842 feet) in Mount Sannine. The Beqaa Valley is a component of the Great Rift Valley system, located between the Lebanon mountains in the west and the Anti-Lebanon range in the east. The valley is 180 kilometers (112 miles) long and 10 to 26 kilometers (6 to 16 miles) broad, with alluvial deposits forming the rich soil. The Anti-Lebanon range extends parallel to the Lebanon mountains, with Mount Hermon at 2,814 meters as its highest point (9,232 ft).
Seasonal torrents and rivers drain Lebanon’s highlands, the most famous of which being the 145-kilometer-long Leontes, which originates in the Beqaa Valley west of Baalbek and empties into the Mediterranean Sea north of Tyre. All of Lebanon’s rivers are non-navigable; 13 start on the western slope of the Lebanon range and flow down steep gorges to the Mediterranean Sea, while the remaining three originate in the Beqaa Valley.
The climate of Lebanon is moderate Mediterranean, with hot, humid summers and chilly, rainy winters.
Summer is typically the most popular season for visitors, since there is almost no rain between June and August, and temperatures vary from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius (68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit). During the summer months, however, there may be periodic heatwaves with temperatures increasing, and it may be very humid near the shore. Because the mountains are cooler and drier than the coast, many Lebanese choose to come and holiday in the highlands during the summer to escape the heat and humidity of the shore.
Autumn and spring are other excellent seasons to visit, with a little more rain than summer, but without the tourist throngs, and with much less humidity.
In the mountain areas that make up a significant section of the nation, snow falls for most of the winter, and there are many ski resorts. The coast, on the other hand, is still quite warm, with maximum temperatures seldom dropping below 13°C (55°F), though it may and has done so on many occasions.
The population of Lebanon was estimated to be 4,125,247 in July 2010, however owing to the delicate confessional political balance between Lebanon’s different religious groups, no official census has been performed since 1932. Because the Lebanese “are derived from numerous distinct peoples who have inhabited, conquered, or populated this corner of the globe,” creating Lebanon “a patchwork of closely linked civilizations,” identifying the Lebanese as ethnically Arab is a frequently used example of panethnicity. While this ethnic, linguistic, religious, and denominational variety may seem to create social and political turmoil at first sight, “this multitudinous plurality of religious groups has coexisted with minimal strife throughout most of Lebanon’s history.”
In 1971, the fertility rate was 5.00, but by 2004 it had dropped to 1.75. Fertility rates varied significantly across religious groups: 2.10 for Shiites, 1.76 for Sunnis, and 1.61 for Maronites in 2004.
Over 1,800,000 individuals moved from Lebanon between 1975 and 2011, resulting in a succession of migration waves. Millions of individuals of Lebanese ancestry, mainly Christians, live all over the globe, particularly in Latin America. Brazil is home to the world’s biggest expat community. Many Lebanese moved to West Africa, especially the Ivory Coast (where over 100,000 Lebanese live) and Senegal (roughly 30,000 Lebanese). Over 270,000 Lebanese live in Australia (1999 est.). There is also a sizable Lebanese diaspora in Canada, with an estimated 250,000–700,000 individuals of Lebanese ancestry. (For further information, see Lebanese Canadians.) The Persian Gulf, where Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar (approximately 25,000 people), Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates host many Lebanese, is another area with a large diaspora.
In 2012, Lebanon was home to approximately 1,600,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including 449,957 Palestinians, 5,986 Iraqis, over 1,100,000 Syrians, and 4,000 Sudanese. UNRWA assistance and menial labor, which they compete for with approximately 500,000 Syrian guest laborers, are their main sources of income. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, 71 percent of Syrian refugees live in poverty. The United Nations’ most recent estimates put the number of Syrian refugees at around 1,250,000.
Long and devastating military wars have devastated the nation over the past three decades. Armed conflict has impacted the majority of Lebanese; 75 percent of the population has direct personal contact with the war, while the majority of the rest have experienced a variety of difficulties. Almost the entire population (96 percent) has been touched in some manner by armed conflict, either directly or as a result of the broader repercussions.
Lebanon is the Middle East’s most religiously diverse nation. The CIA World Factbook estimates the following as of 2014: Muslim 54% (27 percent Shia Islam, 27 percent Sunni Islam), Christian 40.5 percent (21 percent Maronite Catholic, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, 1% Protestant, 5.5 percent other Christian), Druze 5.6 percent, and extremely tiny numbers of Jews, Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, and Mormons. According to a research performed by the Lebanese Information Center based on voter registration data, the Christian population remained steady in 2011 compared to prior years, accounting for 34.35 percent of the population; Muslims, including the Druze, accounted for 65.47 percent of the population. According to the 2014 World Values Survey, 3.3 percent of Lebanon’s population is atheist.
The ratio of Christians to Muslims is thought to have decreased during the last 60 years, owing to greater Christian emigration rates and a higher birth rate in the Muslim community. Christians made up 53 percent of Lebanon’s population in 1932, according to the latest census. In 1956, the population was projected to be 54 percent Christian and 44 percent Muslim.
According to a demographic survey performed by Statistics Lebanon, about 27% of the population was Shia, 27% Sunni, 21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Druze, 5% Melkite, and 1% Protestant, with the other 6% mainly adhering to minor non-native to Lebanon Christian groups.
Other sources, such as Euronews and the Madrid-based newspaper La Razón, put the number of Christians at approximately 53%.
A national census has not been performed since 1932 because the relative number of confessional groupings remains a contentious subject. There are four Muslim sects, 12 Christian sects, one Druze sect, and one Jewish group recognized by the state.
Residents of Southern Beirut, the Beqaa Valley, and Southern Lebanon are mostly Shi’a.
Tripoli, Western Beirut, Lebanon’s southern coast, and Northern Lebanon are home to the majority of Sunni people.
The Maronites are mainly found in Eastern Beirut and Lebanon’s highlands. They are Lebanon’s biggest Christian community.
Koura, Beirut, Zahleh, Rachaya, Matn, Aley, Akkar, Tripoli, Hasbaya, and Marjeyoun are home to the Greek Orthodox, Lebanon’s second biggest Christian group.
Lebanon’s economy is based on a laissez-faire approach. The majority of the economy is denominated in dollars, and capital movement throughout the nation is unrestricted. The involvement of the Lebanese government in international commerce is limited.
Despite the worldwide crisis, the Lebanese economy expanded by 8.5 percent in 2008 and a revised 9 percent in 2009. According to IMF preliminary estimates, real GDP growth fell from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 1.5 percent in 2011, with nominal GDP projected at $41.5 billion in 2011. According to the Banque du Liban, real GDP growth may reach 4% in 2012, with inflation reaching 6%. (versus 4 percent in 2011). The Arab world’s political and security turmoil, particularly in Syria, is anticipated to have a detrimental effect on local business and economic conditions.
Lebanon’s national debt is very substantial, and it has significant external funding requirements. Although down from 154.8 percent in 2009, the public debt in 2010 surpassed 150.7 percent of GDP, ranking fourth highest in the world as a percentage of GDP. Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah said at the end of 2008 that the debt would exceed $47 billion in that year and would rise to $49 billion if two telecommunications firms were not privatized. Exorbitant debt levels, according to the Daily Star, have “slowed the economy and restricted the government’s expenditure on vital development projects.”
Lebanon’s urban populace is known for its entrepreneurial spirit. Emigration has resulted in the creation of Lebanese “business networks” all over the globe. Remittances from Lebanese living abroad amount to $8.2 billion, accounting for one-fifth of the country’s GDP. Among Arab countries, Lebanon has the highest percentage of skilled workforce.
The Lebanon Investment Development Authority was created with the goal of encouraging investment in the country. Investment Law No.360 was adopted in 2001 to strengthen the organization’s purpose.
Agricultural workers account for 12% of the overall workforce. In 2011, agriculture accounted for 5.9% of the country’s GDP. Lebanon has the largest percentage of cultivable land in the Arab world, with major crops such as apples, peaches, oranges, and lemons.
Although gold coins are produced in large quantities in Lebanon, they must be reported when exported to any other country, pursuant to International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations.
Oil has recently been found inland and on the seabed between Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt, and negotiations between Cyprus and Egypt are now ongoing to achieve an agreement on the exploitation of these resources. The seafloor between Lebanon and Cyprus is thought to have substantial crude oil and natural gas reserves.
Small companies that reassemble and package imported components make up the majority of industry in Lebanon. In 2004, industry ranked second in terms of employment, accounting for 26% of the working population in Lebanon, and second in terms of GDP contribution, accounting for 21% of the country’s GDP.
Approximately 65 percent of the Lebanese workforce works in the service industry. As a result, the GDP contribution accounts for approximately 67.3 percent of yearly Lebanese GDP. However, the economy’s reliance on the tourist and banking industries makes it susceptible to political unrest.
Lebanese banks are well-known for their liquidity and security. In 2008, Lebanon was one of just seven nations in the world whose stock markets grew in value.
On May 10, 2013, the Lebanese ministry of energy and water stated that seismic pictures of the Lebanese seabed are undergoing comprehensive explanations of their contents, with just around 10% of them covered so far. Preliminary analysis of the findings revealed that 10% of Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone held up to 660 million barrels of oil and up to 301012 cubic feet of gas, with a probability of more than 50%.
The Syrian conflict has had a major impact on the economic and financial condition of Lebanon. The demographic pressure exerted by Syrian refugees currently residing in Lebanon has resulted in labor market competitiveness. As a result, unemployment has more than quadrupled in three years, reaching 20% in 2014. Less-skilled employees have had a pay drop of 14%. The impact of financial restrictions was also felt: the poverty rate rose, with 170.000 Lebanese falling below the poverty line. Between 2012 and 2014, government expenditure rose by $1 billion, but losses totaled $7.5 billion. The Central Bank of Lebanon estimates that spending for Syrian refugees alone amounts to $4.5 billion per year.