Lebanon’s culture is a result of thousands of years of interaction between different civilizations. Originally inhabited by the Canaanite-Phoenicians, Lebanese culture has developed through millennia by drawing from all of these groups. It has been invaded and colonized by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, and most recently the French. Lebanon’s varied population, which includes people of many ethnic and religious backgrounds, has also influenced the country’s festivals, musical styles, literature, and food. The Lebanese “have an essentially similar culture” despite their ethnic, linguistic, religious, and denominational diversity. Lebanese Arabic is widely spoken, and the country’s cuisine, music, and literature are deeply entrenched in “broader Mediterranean and Arab Levantine traditions.”
Khalil Gibran is best known in literature for his novel The Prophet (1923), which has been translated into more than twenty languages. Elias Khoury, Amin Maalouf, Hanan al-Shaykh, and Georges Schehadé are among the modern Lebanese authors who have gained worldwide acclaim.
Moustafa Farroukh was one of Lebanon’s most well-known painters of the twentieth century. Over the course of his career, he exhibited in locations ranging from Paris to New York to Beirut. Many more modern artists are presently working, such as Walid Raad, a New York-based contemporary media artist.
The Arab Image Foundation contains a collection of over 400,000 images from Lebanon and the Middle East in the area of photography. The photos are on display at a research center, and the collection has been promoted via a variety of events and publications in Lebanon and throughout the globe.
Lebanon’s music pervades the country’s culture. Traditional folk music is still popular in Lebanon, but contemporary music that combines Western and traditional Arabic genres, as well as pop and fusion, is quickly gaining appeal. Lydia Canaan, a historical figure and Lebanese musical pioneer, is recognized as the first rock star in the Middle East in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Library and Archives in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Traditional Lebanese, classical Arabic, Armenian, and contemporary French, English, American, and Latin songs may be heard on radio stations.
According to film critic and historian Roy Armes, Lebanon’s cinema was the only cinema in the Arabic-speaking area that could be considered a national cinema, apart from Egypt’s. Lebanon has had a cinema since the 1920s, and the nation has produced more than 500 films.
Lebanon’s media is not only a regional manufacturing hub, but also one of the most liberal and free in the Arab world. Reporters Without Borders claims that “the media enjoy greater freedom in Lebanon than in any other Arab nation.” Despite its tiny population and geographical location, Lebanon plays a significant role in the Arab world’s information creation and is “at the heart of a regional media network with global consequences.”
There are four ski resorts in Lebanon. Due to Lebanon’s unusual location, skiing in the morning and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoon are both feasible. Basketball and football are two of Lebanon’s most popular competitive sports. Other popular recreational activities in Lebanon include canoeing, cycling, rafting, climbing, swimming, sailing, and caving. Every autumn, the Beirut Marathon attracts elite runners from Lebanon and across the world.
In Lebanon, rugby league is a relatively young but rapidly developing sport. Lebanon’s national rugby league squad competed in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup and qualified for the 2008 and 2013 editions by a whisker. Lebanon again competed in the 2009 European Cup, where the squad beat Ireland to finish third after barely missing out on qualifying for the final. Hazem El Masri, a Tripoli native, will always be remembered as the best Lebanese player of all time. In 1988, he moved from Lebanon to Sydney, Australia. He became the highest point-scorer in National Rugby League history in 2009, collecting 2418 points while playing with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Australia, where he also holds the record for most first-grade appearances (317) and tries (159). He is also the highest try scorer (12 tries) and top point scorer (136 points) for the Lebanese national team at the international level.
Basketball is played in Lebanon. Three times in a row, the Lebanese National Team qualified for the FIBA World Championship. Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut, the current Arab and Asian champions, and Club Sagesse, who have previously won the Asian and Arab championships, are two of Lebanon’s most dominant basketball teams. The most decorated player in the Lebanese National Basketball League is Fadi El Khatib.
The Lebanese Premier League, whose most successful teams are the Al-Ansar Club and the Nejmeh SC, and whose famous players include Roda Antar and Youssef Mohamad, the first Arab to lead a European premier league side, is one of the most popular sports in the nation.
Lebanon has hosted the AFC Asian Cup and the Pan Arab Games in recent years. Lebanon hosted the 2009 Jeux de la Francophonie from September 27 to October 6, and has competed in every Olympic Games since its inception, earning four medals in all.
Samir Bannout, Mohammad Bannout, and Ahmad Haidar are well-known Lebanese bodybuilders.
In recent years, water sports have also proven to be extremely popular in Lebanon. Since 2012, when the Lebanon Water Festival NGO was founded, greater focus has been put on such activities, and Lebanon has been promoted worldwide as a water sport destination. They hold various competitions and water show sports to encourage their followers to get involved and win big.