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Republic of Lebanon

Al-Jumhuriyah al-Lubnaniyah

CAPITAL: Beirut (Bayrut)

FLAG: The national flag, introduced in 1943, consists of two horizontal red stripes separated by a white stripe which is twice as wide; at the center, in green, is a cedar tree.

ANTHEM: Kulluna lil watan lil'ula lil'alam (All of Us for the Country, Glory, Flag).

MONETARY UNIT: The Lebanese pound, or livre libanaise (ll), is a paper currency of 100 piasters. there are coins of 1, 2½, 5, 10, 25, and 50 piasters and 1 Lebanese pound, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 1,000 and 10,000 Lebanese pounds. ll1 = $0.00066 (or $1 = ll1,507.5) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but traditional weights and measures are still used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Arab League Day, 22 March; Independence Day, 22 November; Evacuation Day, 31 December. Christian religious holidays include Feast of St. Maron, 9 February; Good Friday; Easter Monday; Ascension; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints' Day, 1 November; and Christmas, 25 December. Muslim religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


Situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon has an area of 10,400 sq km (4,015 sq mi), extending 217 km (135 mi) nesw and 56 km (35 mi) senw. It is bordered on the n and e by Syria, on the s by Israel, and on the w by the Mediterranean Sea, with a total boundary length of 679 km (422 mi), of which 225 km (140 mi) is coastline. Comparatively, the area occupied by Lebanon is about three-fourths the size of the state of Connecticut.

The Lebanon of today is the Greater Lebanon (Grand Liban) created by France in September 1920, which includes the traditional area of Mount Lebanonthe hinterland of the coastal strip from Şaydā (Sidon) to Tarābulus (Tripoli)some coastal cities and districts such as Beirut and Tarābulus (Tripoli), and the Bekaa (Biqā') Valley in the east. Since January 1988, more than two-thirds of the territory was under foreign military occupation. In May 2000, Israeli troops withdrew from a 1,000 sq km (400 sq mi) strip along the Israeli border. Syrian forces, which had held northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley since 1976 and West Beirut and the Beirut-Şaydā coastal strip since February 1987, withdrew in April 2005.

Lebanon's capital city, Beirut, is located on the Mediterranean coast.


The name of the country comes from the name Djebel Libnan, which is the Arabic name for the Mount Lebanon range stretching from northeast to southwest through the center of the country. This area is rugged; there is a rise from sea level to a parallel mountain range of about 2,0003,000 m (6,6009,800 ft) in less than 40 km (25 mi), and heavy downpour of winter rains has formed many deep clefts and valleys in the soft rock. the terrain has profoundly affected the country's history, in that virtually the whole landscape is a series of superb natural fortresses from which guerrilla activities can render the maintenance of control by a centralized government an intermittent and costly affair.

East of the Mount Lebanon Range is the Bekaa Valley, an extremely fertile flatland about 16 km (10 mi) wide and 129 km (80 mi) long from north to south. At the eastern flank of the Bekaa rise the Anti-Lebanon Range and the Hermon extension, in which stands Mount Hermon straddling the border with Syria. Lebanon contains few rivers, and its harbors are mostly shallow and small. Abundant springs, found to a height of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) on the western slopes of the Lebanon Mountains, provide water for cultivation up to this height.


Lebanon's extraordinarily varied climate is due mainly to the wide range of elevation and the westerly winds that make the Mediterranean coast much wetter than the eastern hills, mountainsides, and valleys. Within a 16-km (10-mi) radius of many villages, apples, olives, and bananas are grown; within 45 minutes' drive in winter, spring, and fall, both skiing and swimming are possible. Rainfall is abundant by Middle Eastern standards, with about 89 cm (35 in) yearly along the coast, about 127 cm (50 in) on the western slopes of the mountains, and less than 38 cm (15 in) in the Bekaa. About 80% of the rain falls from November to March, mostly in December, January, and February. Summer is a dry season, but it is humid along the coast. The average annual temperature in Beirut is 21°c (70°f), with a range from 13°c (55°f) in winter to 28°c (82°f) in summer.


Lebanon is rich in flora, with over 3,000 species. Olive and fig trees and grapevines are abundant on lower ground, while cedar, maple, juniper, fir, cypress, valonia oak, and Aleppo pine trees occupy higher altitudes. Vegetation types range from subtropical and desert to alpine. Although hunting has killed off most wild mammals, jackals are still found in the wilder rural regions, and gazelles and rabbits are numerous in the south. Many varieties of rodents, including mice, squirrels, and gerbils, and many types of reptiles, including lizards and snakes (some of them poisonous), may be found. Thrushes, nightingales, and other songbirds are native to Lebanon; there are also partridges, pigeons, vultures, and eagles. As of 2002, there were at least 57 species of mammals and 116 species of birds.


Lebanon's forests and water supplies suffered significant damage in the 197576 war and subsequent fighting. Rapid urbanization has also left its mark on the environment. Coastal waters show the effects of untreated sewage disposal, particularly near Beirut, and of tanker oil discharges and oil spills. The water pollution problem in Lebanon is in part due to the lack of an internal system to consistently regulate water purification. The nation has about 5 cu km of renewable water resources.

Air pollution is a serious problem in Beirut because of vehicular exhaust and the burning of industrial wastes. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 15.2 million metric tons. Control efforts have been nonexistent or ineffective because of political fragmentation and recurrent warfare since 1975.

The effects of war and the growth of the nation's cities have combined to threaten animal and plant life in Lebanon. In 1986, the National Preservation Park of Bte'nayel was created in the region of Byblos to preserve wooded areas and wildlife. In 2003, less than 1% of the total land area was protected, including four Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included five types of mammals, ten species of birds, one type of reptile, nine species of fish, and one species of invertebrate. The Mediterranean monk seal, African softshell turtle, and dogfish shark are on the endangered list. the Arabian gazelle and Anatolian leopard are extinct.


The population of Lebanon in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,779,000, which placed it at number 126 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 6% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 28% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 96 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.6%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 4,581,000. The population density was 363 per sq km (941 per sq mi), with most of the population living on the coastal plains where the major cities are located.

The UN estimated that 87% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.49%. The capital city, Beirut (Bayrut), had a population of 1,792,000 in that year, and Tarābulus (Tripoli), the largest city, had an estimated population of 2,093,000.


The economic roots of emigration may be traced to the increase of crop specialization during the 19th century and to the subsequent setbacks of the silk market toward the end of the century. Political incentives also existed, and many Lebanese left their country for Egypt (then under British rule) or the Americas at the turn of the century. After the mid-1960s, skilled Lebanese were attracted by economic opportunities in the Persian Gulf countries. Large numbers fled abroad, many of them to France, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf countries, during the civil war in 197576. In 1986, the Lebanese World Cultural Union estimated that some 13,300,000 persons of Lebanese extraction were living abroad, the largest numbers in Brazil, the United States, and Argentina. In 2003 remittances were $977 million.

Since the outbreak of war in 1975, internal migration has largely followed the pattern of hostilities, peaking in 1975/76 and again after the Israeli invasion of 1982. In 1993, the number of refugees in various parts of the country was estimated at over 600,000.

In 2004 there were 2,434 persons of concern to UNHCR in Lebanon, 1,753 refugees and 681 asylum seekers. By years' end, 17,302 Lebanese sought refuge in Germany. In that same year Lebanese sought asylum in Germany, Sweden, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated zero per 1,000 population, down from 12.1 per thousand in 1990. The government views the migration levels as too high.

As of 2004 there were 300,000 internally displaced persons.


Ethnic mixtures dating back to various periods of immigration and invasion are represented, as are peoples of almost all Middle Eastern countries. A confusing factor is the religious basis of ethnic differentiation. Thus, while most Lebanese are Arabs, they are divided into Muslims and Christians, each in turn subdivided into a number of faiths or sects, most of them formed by historical development into separate ethnic groups. The Muslims are divided into Sunnis and Shias. The Druzes, whose religion derives from Islam, are a significant minority. The Christians are divided mainly among Maronites, Greek Orthodox, and Greek Catholics. All the major groups have their own political organizations, paramilitary units, and territorial strongholds. Other ethnic groups include Armenians (most of them Armenian Orthodox, with some Armenian Catholics) and small numbers of Jews, Syrians, Kurds, and others. The number of Palestinian refugees is estimated at 390,000. As of 2005, population estimates stood at 95% Arab, 4% Armenian, and 1% other.


Arabic is the official language and is spoken throughout the country. Much of the population is bilingual, with French as the main second language. There are also significant numbers of English, Armenian, and Turkish speakers. The distinctive Lebanese Arabic dialect contains various relics of pre-Arabic languages and also shows considerable European influence in vocabulary.


Religious communities in the Ottoman Empire were largely autonomous in matters of personal status law and were at times treated as corporations for tax and public security matters. Membership in a millet, as these religious communities were called in Ottoman law, gave the individual citizenship, and this position, although somewhat modified, has given Lebanese politics its confessional nature. Religion is closely connected with civic affairs, and the size and competing influence of the various religious groups are matters of overriding political importance. The imbalance of power between Christians and Muslims, aggravated by the presence of large numbers of Palestinians, was a major factor contributing to the bitter civil war in 197576.

As of 2004, it was estimated that about 70% of the population practice Islam; there were five legally recognized groupsAlawite or Nusayri, Druze, Isma'ilite, Shia, and Sunni. Muslims have come to outnumber Christians as the result of long-term demographic trends and population displacements during and after the civil war. The main branches of Islam are Shia and Sunni. Christians made up 23% of the population; there were eleven legally recognized groupsfour Orthodox Christian, six Catholic, and one Protestant). The Maronites are the largest Christian group, with Greek Orthodox being the second-largest. There were also small numbers practicing Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Baha'ism.

Under an unwritten agreement made at the time of the National Covenant of 1943, the president of Lebanon must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim, with a ratio of six Christians to every five Muslims in the legislature. But this arrangement has subsequently ceased to reflect the strength of competing religious groups in the population and is widely criticized. Religious groups must be officially recognized by the government in order for the group or its members to participate in certain activities. For instance, members of unrecognized faiths cannot run for parliament. Proselytizing is generally discouraged. Public blasphemy is prohibited under the law. Certain Christian and Muslim holidays are officially observed.


As of 2002, Lebanon had 7,300 km (4,536 mi) of roads, of which 6,198 km (3,855 mi) were paved. Construction of new roads has been frequently delayed by recurrent hostilities. Many roads were badly in need of repair; since 1982, fully one-third of the country's roads have been rehabilitated. Some new mileage was also added. In 2003 there were 406,920 registered passenger autos and 85,125 commercial vehicles.

In 2004, Lebanon had 401 km (249 mi) of standard and narrow gauge railroad lines, of which 319 km (198 mi) were standard gauge. However, due to the civil war in the 1980s, only short sections are operable due to damage.

Beirut, a major Mediterranean port, was closed during the 197576 war and intermittently thereafter, reopening by March 1991. When the Beirut port was closed, Şaydā (Sidon) became the principal port for Muslims and Jūniyah for Christians. Other ports include Tarābulus (Tripoli) and Tyre. The rehabilitation and modernization of Beirut port was underway as of 2005, and the rehabilitation and development of Tarābulus (Tripoli) port was completed in 2001. As of 2005, Lebanon had a merchant fleet of 44 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, with a capacity of 198,602 GRT.

There were an estimated eight airports in 2004, five of which had paved runways as of 2005. Beirut International, Lebanon's principal airport, remained generally open until bombing during the Israeli invasion forced its closure in JuneOctober 1982. It had handled 1,660,000 passengers in 1980; by 1985, the number was down to 599,000. In 2003, about 935,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights. Lebanon's two airlines, Middle East Airlines (MEA) and Trans-Mediterranean Airways (TMA), suffered heavy losses during the 197576 war and the Israeli invasion.


The geographical features of Lebanon have had a major effect on its history. Its mountains enabled the minority communities to survive the despotisms that submerged the surrounding areas. The sea provided trade routes in ancient times for exports from Lebanese cedar and spruce forests, and for commerce in copper and iron during the time of the Ptolemies and the Romans. Both Lebanon and Syria were historically associated from early times as part of Phoenicia (c.1600c.800 bc), and both were later swept up into the Roman Empire. In the 7th century ad, the Arabs conquered part of Lebanon. Maronite Christians had long been established there; Islam gradually spread by conversion and migration, although the country remained predominantly Christian. In the 11th century, the Druzes established themselves in the south of the Mount Lebanon area as well as in Syria. Parts of Lebanon fell temporarily to the Crusaders; invasions by Mongols and others followed, and trade declined until the reunification of the Middle East under the Ottoman Empire.

For the most part, Ottoman officials of the surrounding areas left the Mount Lebanon districts to their own emirs and sheikhs. Fakhr ad-Din (15861635) of the Ma'an family set out to create an autonomous Lebanon, opened the country to Western Europe through commercial and military pacts, and encouraged Christian missionary activity. In 1697, the Shihab family acquired dominance, and from 1788 to 1840, except for a few intervals, Mount Lebanon was ruled by Bashir II of the Shihab family, who extended his power and was partly successful in building a strong state. The Egyptian occupation of Syria (183240) opened the Levant to large-scale European penetration and tied Lebanese affairs to international politics. It also heightened the antipathy between Christians and Druzes, with the occupiers from time to time using armed groups of one against the other. The British invasion of 184041 served to deliver Lebanon from Egyptian rule and forced Bashir II into exile, but it also involved France and the United Kingdom in the problem of finding a modus vivendi for the religious factions. A partition of government did not work. Economic discontent was inflamed by religious antagonisms, and the Druzes, feeling their power dwindling, organized a major onslaught against the Christians in 1860. When the latter, fearing annihilation, requested European intervention, major powers sent fleets into Syrian waters and the French sent an army into Mount Lebanon. Under European pressure, the Ottoman government agreed to the establishment of an international commission to set up a new, pro-Christian government; an autonomous province of Mount Lebanon was created in 1864, with a Christian governor who, though the servant of the Ottoman state, relied upon European backing in disputes with his sovereign.

The entry of the Ottoman Empire into World War I led to an Allied blockade, widespread hunger, and the destruction of Lebanese prosperity. An Anglo-French force took the country in 1918, and in 1920, an Allied conference gave France a mandate over Syria, in which Mount Lebanon was included. the French separated from Syria the area they called Greater Lebanon (Grand Liban), which was four times as large as the traditional Mount Lebanon and included a Muslim population almost as large as the Christian. The mandate years were a time of material growth and little political development.

Lebanon came under Vichy control in 1940, but in 1941, Lebanon and Syria were taken by a combined AngloFree French force. The Free French proclaimed Lebanese independence in November 1941, but when a strongly nationalistic government was created in 1943, the French intervened and arrested the new president, Bishara al-Khuri. An insurrection followed, prompting UK intervention and the restoration of the government. In 1945 agreement was achieved for the withdrawal of both UK and French forces, and in 1946 Lebanon assumed complete independence.

The 1950s and 1960s were generally characterized by economic and political stability. Beginning in 1952, Lebanon received increased US aid and also benefited from an influx of Western commercial personnel and from growing oil royalties. It also seemed the calmest center of the Middle East, taking little part in the ArabIsraeli war of 1948 and no action in the wars of 1967 and 1973. In 1958, however, a reported attempt by President Camille Chamoun (Sha'mun) to seek a second term precipitated a civil war, and in July the United States sent forces to help quell the insurrection; this move was in keeping with the Eisenhower Doctrine, which pledged US military and economic aid to any country requesting it in order to counter a Communist threat. The crisis was settled when Gen. Fu'ad Shihab (Chehab), who was supported by both government and opposition groups, was elected president in July. By October US forces were withdrawn, and public security was reestablished.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Lebanon's economy was disrupted by conflict in the Middle East, vividly brought home by the presence, near the border with Israel, of thousands of wellarmed Palestinian guerrillas, many of whom had come from Jordan following the "Black September" fighting there in 197071. Serious clashes between them and the Lebanese army occurred in 1969. Fearing civil war, the government that year signed the so-called Cairo Accord with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which virtually made it a state within the state. the PLO gained the right to establish military bases and launch cross-border raids into Israel. This inevitably led to Israeli reprisals, and PLO interference in Lebanese affairs accelerated a slide toward anarchy. In April and May 1974, a series of Palestinian attacks on Lebanese villages killed scores of persons and injured hundreds. Government efforts to deal with the problem were denounced as insufficient by Christian rightists, while Muslim leftists defended the Palestinians, and both factions formed private militias.

During the early months of 1975, sporadic violence between the two factions gradually erupted into a full-scale civil war that pitted Maronite Christians against Muslims and against other Christian sects, and rightist militants against Palestinian guerrillas and other leftist Arab forces. At least 100,000 people on all sides were killed and some 600,000 persons displaced during the 18 months of fighting. In April 1976 Syrian forces entered Lebanon in an apparent effort to prevent an all-out victory by left-wing Muslims and Palestinians; by the fall, some 20,000 Syrian troops controlled the Bekaa Valley. A cease-fire arranged through the mediation of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries enabled a peacekeeping force (including Syrian troops) to separate the combatants and end the war in October. the conflict not only devastated Lebanon economically, but so weakened the central government that effective power lay with the Syrians, the Palestinians, and some 30 sectarian militias. In general, the Christian Phalangists held sway over east-central Lebanon; fighters loyal to Maj. Sa'ad Haddad, a right-wing Lebanese army officer, controlled the southern border area, in a security zone set up by Israel; and the PLO, other Muslim leftists, and Syrian forces occupied northern and eastern Lebanon.

Intermittent fighting between the armed factions continued, and raids by Palestinian guerrillas based in southern Lebanon drew Israel into the conflict. In March 1978 the Israeli army invaded southern Lebanon, destroyed PLO bases, and then withdrew when the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established to keep the peace. Continuing PLO rocket attacks on northern Israel and Syria's installation of antiaircraft missiles in the Bekaa Valley prompted Israel to launch a full-scale invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. Israeli forces quickly destroyed PLO bases in the south and in Tyre and Şaydā (Sidon), penetrated to the outskirts of Beirut, and disabled the Syrian missile bases. Several cease-fires arranged by US envoy Philip Habib broke down, but following a two-month Israeli siege of West Beirut, where the Palestinians were encamped, a truce was agreed to by Israel, the PLO, and Syria; by 1 September, more than 14,000 Palestinian and Syrian fighters had been evacuated. The Lebanese estimated their war casualties at more than 19,000 dead and 30,000 wounded (figures disputed by Israel). A multinational peacekeeping force, comprising British, French, and Italian soldiers and US marines, was stationed in the Beirut area in early September.

Despite the truce, the violence continued. On 14 September Bashir Gemayel, a Phalangist leader who in August had been elected president by the Lebanese parliament, was assassinated. Almost immediately, Israeli troops moved into West Beirut to wipe out pockets of Palestinian resistance causing tens of thousands of casualties. Phalangist forces were allowed into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and at least 600 Palestinians, many of them civilians, were massacred; a subsequent Israeli government inquiry was critical of senior officials for indirect responsibility for the killings. In 1983 Israeli and Syrian troops still occupied large portions of Lebanon, and they became targets of attack by Muslim and Druze forces. In May 1983 Lebanon, Israel, and the United States signed an agreement by which Lebanon and Israel agreed to end their state of war. Israel agreed to withdraw all its forces, and both countries agreed to establish a security zone in southern Lebanon patrolled by Lebanese forces and joint Israeli-Lebanese teams. However, Syria opposed it and the agreement, never implemented, was repudiated by Lebanon in 1984.

The American embassy in Beirut was bombed in April 1983, and US marines were harassed by sniper fire. On 23 October, 241 American servicemen, including 220 marines, were killed by a truck-bomb explosion in their barracks at Beirut airport; on the same day, a similar bombing caused at least 58 deaths at a French paratroop barracks. Shortly before, Lebanon and Syria had agreed to a cease-fire pending a reconciliation conference, which began in Switzerland in November, with all major Lebanese political factions participating. Meanwhile, fighting broke out between a radical Syrian-supported PLO faction and guerrillas loyal to Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO; defeated at Tarābulus (Tripoli), Arafat withdrew from Lebanon in December.

As 1984 began, the position of the government headed by Amin Gemayel, who had been elected president to succeed his brother, was deteriorating. In February the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy pulled their ground troops and nonessential personnel out of the Beirut area. In March, the Lebanese reconciliation conference dissolved without reaching substantial agreement. The following month a "national unity" government was formed, bringing together the leaders of all the major warring factions. But it almost never met and could not pacify the country; intermittent clashes between factions continued. Israel's withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon (except the south) in early 1985 left in its wake renewed fighting for the evacuated territory. In December a Syrian-sponsored cease-fire agreement that included constitutional reforms was signed by the Druze, Amal (Shia), and Christian factions, but its terms were never implemented. the general lawlessness encouraged terrorist groups of all kinds to promote their own ends by assassinations, kidnappings, and bombings. Among the most feared was the Hezbollah, or Party of God, which was aligned with fundamentalist Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

In 198586 there was sporadic fierce fighting between Palestinian and Shia Amal militia. Syria pushed for political reform and, when opposed by Gemayel and militant Christians, influenced Muslim ministers not to deal with the president, thus paralyzing the government. With the economy in serious decline, Prime Minister Rashid Karami was assassinated, to be succeeded by Salim alHuss. The badly divided factions could not agree on a successor to Gemayel when his term expired in September 1988. Christian Army Commander Michel Aoun asserted himself as prime minister, giving Lebanon two governmentsa Muslim one in West Beirut and a Christian one in East Beirut. Aoun was opposed by the Syrians and Muslims and by rival Christian factions.

In January 1989 the Arab League appointed a committee on Lebanon which, in September, arranged for a seven-point ceasefire and convened a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Taif, Saudi Arabia. The Taif Accord that resulted in November led to the election of Elias Hrawi, a Maronite Christian, as president. He named al-Huss prime minister. When forces of General Aoun (who was technically deposed by Hrawi) attacked Christian and Syrian positions, they retaliated in strength and finally obliged him to take exile in France in 1991.

In 199192 the government gradually began to reassert its authority. Militias, except notably Hezbollah and the Israeli-backed army of South Lebanon, were dissolved in May 1991. Palestinian militants were repressed in Şaydā (Sidon) in July. In May 1992 the last Western hostages were released after years of confinement. Lebanon joined the Israeli-Arab peace talks in Madrid in October 1991. Internally, the poor economy aggravated political instability, but parliamentary elections, the first in 20 years, were scheduled for 1992. Poor preparations, widespread irregularities, and Christian abstention produced results that did not prepare Lebanon for an assured future. Yet, the appointment of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in November 1992 promised a serious effort at reconstruction.

Al-Hariri, a self-made billionaire who made his fortune in Saudi Arabia, was perceived by many to be a savior of sorts for the war-torn country. He had a long history of philanthropic giving, donating large sums to rebuild Beirut, for instance. As prime minister, he was frequently accused of corruption and of making sure government rebuilding efforts were directed toward companies under his control. Still most Lebanese approved of his efforts to stabilize the country and unite its many long-warring factions. In 1996, al-Hariri was reelected prime minister in a unanimous vote of parliament.

In 1996 Lebanon was still subject to political violence, especially in the Israeli-occupied south, where that year 255 people were killed (27 Israeli soldiers) in violence. Some 54 of the dead were members of Hezbollah, and 19 were militiamen in the Israeli-controlled South Lebanon Army (SLA). The violence continued into 1997.

President Ilyas Hrawi had been elected to the six-year post in 1989. In 1995 when his term was set to expire in accordance with the constitution, parliament extended his term for an additional three years. Hrawi proved to be a weak leader and his standing with the Maronites was low. Emile Lahoud, of a prominent Maronite family, had been promoted to major-general in 1985 and general and army commander in 1989. In 1998 his name surfaced as a potential successor to Hrawi. In October 1998 the assembly introduced an amendment to the constitutional clause requiring senior public officials to leave office before running for president. Within two days Lahoud was elected president of the National Assembly. Lahoud was sworn in on 24 November 1998 as Lebanon's 11th president. On 4 December 1998 Salim al-Huss began his fifth term as prime minister after Hariri's sudden resignation.

In early 1999 fighting in southern Lebanon escalated as the Hezbollah staged attacks on Israeli forces and the Israeli-backed SLA. Israel retaliated on Hezbollah strongholds, and by February, expanded air strikes beyond the "security zone" to southern and northern Lebanon. The al-Huss government's fiscal austerity aimed at reducing the deficit, which had grown to 15% of gross domestic product, met with resistance from the trade unions. On 24 June 1999 Israel destroyed bridges and power stations with its heaviest air raids in three years. In July 1999 the UN Security Council renewed for six months the mandate for UNIFIL, and restated its support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon.

At the end of 1999 in anticipation of elections in August 2000, the government passed a law creating 14 constituencies of suspiciously varying sizes, based on rewarding or punishing political foes or friends. A bill to curb the medialimiting all elections news, advertisements, and coverage to the state-run Tele-Liban and Radio Libanand limiting campaign spending was also drafted. On 24 May 2000 Israel made a quick withdrawal from southern Lebanon. With the Israeli withdrawal the SLA disintegrated. The exact border between Lebanon and Israel remained unsettled as they disputed ownership of the Shabaa Farms. the Lebanese government sent police and intelligence officers to the newly liberated area, but refused to deploy troops until there was evidence of stability or a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel.

In March 2001, Lebanon began to divert waters from the Wazzani River to supply villages in southern Lebanon. the Wazzani feeds into the Hatzbani, which in turn flows into the Jordan River watershed and Lake Kinneret (Lake Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee), a major source of Israel's water supply. In September 2002, Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon identified measures to divert water from Israel as a cause for war.

Syrian troops withdrew from Beirut in June 2001 to redeploy in other parts of Lebanon, in response to greater Lebanese criticism of Syria's presence there. In February 2003, the Syrian army completed its redeployment out of north Lebanon. The majority of the Syrian army remaining in Lebanon was assembled in a stretch of the Bekaa Valley on the Syrian border. As of early 2003, there were approximately 350,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Hezbollah and Israeli forces continued to exchange fire over the Shabaa Farms.

Parliamentary elections held 27 August and 3 September 2000 resulted in the appointment on 23 October of Rafiq al-Hariri as prime minister once again. In October 2004, Hariri stood down as prime minister in protest over the continued presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon. On 14 February 2005, Hariri and 19 others were killed in a massive bomb blast in central Beirut. the UN Security Council unanimously authorized an international investigation into the assassination. In the wake of Hariri's murder, numerous public demonstrations took place, both for and against the presence of Syrian troops and security agents in Lebanon. the cabinet of then-prime minister Omar Karami resigned two weeks after the first wave of anti-Syrian rallies. After Karami resigned, a moderate pro-Syrian member of parliament, Najib Mikati, was named prime minister. Syria pulled all of its military forces (15,000 troops) out of Lebanon by the end of April 2005, in what was dubbed the "Cedar Revolution." In June, journalist Samir Qasir, another critic of Syrian influence in Lebanon, was killed in a car bomb attack.

Parliamentary elections were held in May and June 2005 (they had been postponed for one year). An anti-Syrian alliance led by Saad Hariri, son of the late Rafiq Hariri, won control of parliament, and parliament chose an ally of Rafiq Hariri, Fouad Siniora, to become prime minister. The anti-Syrian alliance won 72 of 128 seats in parliament. Also in June, George Hawi, anti-Syrian former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, was killed when his car blew up. In September 2005, four pro-Syrian generals were charged in connection with Rafiq Hariri's assassination.


As defined by the constitution of 1926 and subsequent amendments, Lebanon is an independent republic. Executive power is vested in a president (elected by the legislature for six years) and a prime minister and cabinet, chosen by the president but responsible to the legislature. On 3 September 2004, the National Assembly voted 9629 to extend President Emile Lahoud's six-year term by three years. Under an agreement dating back to the French mandate, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the president of the National Assembly a Shia Muslim. Decisions by the president must be countersigned by the prime minister and concerned minister(s) after approval by the National Assembly.

Legislative power is exercised by a 128-member National Assembly (formerly the Chamber of Deputies), elected for a fouryear term by universal adult suffrage (compulsory for males age 21 or over, permitted for women age 21 or over with elementary education). The electoral reform law of 1960 determined the denominational composition of the legislature as follows: 30 Maronites; 20 Sunni, 19 Shia; 11 Greek Orthodox; 6 Greek Catholics; 6 Druzes; 4 Armenian Orthodox; 1 Armenian Catholic; 1 Protestant; and 1 other. Deputies were elected to the legislature in 1972, but elections scheduled for 1976 were postponed because of the war, and the legislature extended its term every two years until 1992. The Taif Accord of 1989 set the Christian-Muslim balance in parliament at 50-50, but the failure of Christians to participate in the elections of 1992 and 1996 gave Muslim groups the largest number of seats in the legislature. There has been no official census in the country since 1932, but most observers believe Muslims now form the majority with the Shia as the largest single group. The denominational composition of the legislature following the 1989 Taif Accord is: 34 Maronites, 27 Sunni, 27 Shia, 14 Greek Orthodox, 8 Greek Catholics, 8 Druzes, 5 Armenian Orthodox, 2 Alaouites, 1 Armenian Catholic, 1 Protestant, and 1 Christian Minorities.


Political life in Lebanon is affected by the diversity of religious sects and the religious basis of social organization. the mainly Christian groups, especially the Maronites, favor an independent course for Lebanon, stressing its ties to Europe and opposing the appeals of Islam and pan-Arabism. The Muslim groups favor closer ties with Arab states and are opposed to confessionalism (political division along religious lines). Principal political groups, with mainly Christian membership, have been the National Liberal Party and the Phalangist Party. There are various parties of the left, including the Progressive Socialist Party (of mostly Druze membership), the Ba'ath Party, and the Lebanese Communist Party. The various Palestinian groups, allied under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization, have played an important role in the political life of Lebanon from the late 1960s. Amal, a conservative group, and Hezbollah, more militant, represent the Shia community. The former gained 18 seats and the latter 12 seats in the elections of 1992. The Christian community, which was supposed to have half the seats, largely boycotted the elections and, as a result, won only 59 seats.

In 1996, parliamentary elections were again held, and again certain Christian sects called for a boycott. Still, turnout was much higher than in the 1992 elections, reflecting the country's increasing political stability (turnout was about 45%). International observers found the elections substantially fair, but noted some irregularities, including Syrian interference, vote buying and ballot stuffing. The government itself acknowledges these shortcomings and has instituted some reforms.

The 1996 elections took place in five stages between August and September. The balloting gave a strong majority to a coalition of pro-Syrian parties, notably the Hezbollah-Amal coalition. there were 49 newcomers elected3 of whom were femaleand 19 seats were contested on charges of voter fraud. Following the election, Prime Minister al-Hariri stepped down, as is tradition, so that President Hrawi and the new parliament could chose a new prime minister. In late October, the parliament, with presidential backing, nominated al-Hariri for his second term, as was expected. The vote in parliament was 121-0 with four abstentions.

Al-Hariri, a billionaire, was one of the richest men in the world: in 1996 there were 3 billionaires and 35 millionaires in parliament. Asked by Lahoud to be prime minister in 1998, Salim al-Huss became prime minister after al-Hariri abruptly resigned office. AlHariri was asked by President Lahoud to become prime minister once again in October 2000; he received 107 parliamentary votes backing him.

In the aftermath of al-Hariri's assassination on 14 February 2005, Hariri's son, Saad Hariri, led an anti-Syrian alliance spearheaded by his Future Movement Bloc to victory in parliamentary elections held between 29 May and 19 June of that year. Saad Hariri's bloc took 72 of the 128 seats in the National Assembly. Syrian military forces pulled out of Lebanon in April 2005, following massive street demonstrations. The 2005 election results, broken down by seats, were as follows: Future Movement Bloc 36; Democratic Gathering 15; Development and Resistance Bloc 15; Loyalty to the Resistance 14; Free Patriotic Movement 14; Lebanese Forces 6; Qornet Shewan 5; Popular Bloc 4; Tripoli Independent Bloc 3; Syrian National Socialist Party 2; Kataeb Reform Movement 2; Tachnaq Party 2; Democratic Renewal Movement 1; Democratic Left 1; Nasserite Popular Movement 1; Ba'th Party 1; Kataeb Party 1; and independents 5.

Palestinian refugees have no right to vote, despite numbering approximately 350,000.


Lebanon is divided into the six provinces (muhafazat ) of Beirut, North Lebanon, South Lebanon, Bekaa, Mount Lebanon, and Nabatiye, each with its district administration. The muhafazat are subdivided into districts (aqdiya ), municipalities, and villages. Provincial governors and district chiefs are appointed by presidential decree. In most villages, councils of village elders or heads of families or clans still play a considerable role.

Municipal elections had not been held since 1963, despite widespread civil desire for such elections. In 1995, parliament passed a law extending the term of municipal officers until 31 December 1996, after which elections were slated to be held. Municipal elections were held in May and June 1998, and in May 2004. the number of municipal councilors and mukhtar or mayors elected in 2004 was 15,300. The voter turnout tended to be low, reaching only 20% of the voters in Beirut and the turnout was not much higher in Tarābulus (Tripoli). Only in Mount Lebanon and in the south, where Hezbollah won 87 out of 142 contested municipalities, was the turnout high. In 2001, municipal elections took place in the newly liberated areas of South Lebanon after the Israeli withdrawal of May 2000.


Ultimate supervisory power rests with the minister of justice, who appoints the magistrates. Courts of first instance are presided over by a single judge and deal with both civil and criminal cases. Appeals may be taken to the courts of appeal, each made up of three judges. Of the four courts of cassation, three hear civil cases and one hears criminal cases. A six-person Council of State handles administrative cases. A Constitutional Council, called for in the Taif Accord, rules on the constitutionality of laws upon the request of 10 members of parliament. Religious courtsIslamic, Christian, and Jewishdeal with marriages, deaths, inheritances, and other matters of personal status in their respective faiths. There is also a separate military court system dealing with cases involving military personnel and military related issues.

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial and an independent and impartial judiciary. In practice, politically influential elements succeed in intervening to obtain desired results.

Matters of state security are dealt with by a five-member Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is a permanent tribunal, and the cabinet, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice, decides whether to bring a case before the Judicial Council.

In the refugee camps, the Palestinian elements implement an autonomous system of justice in which rival factions try opponents without any semblance of due process. Hezbollah applies Islamic law in the area under its control.


The conflict of 197590 split the regular Lebanese army along Christian-Muslim lines. The force was later reformed, first by the United States, then by Syria. In 2005, the armed forces totaled 72,100 active personnel, of which the Army had 70,000 active members. Equipment included 310 main battle tanks, 60 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,257 armored personnel carriers, and 541 artillery pieces. Active Navy personnel that year totaled 1,100. Major naval units included 32 patrol/coastal vessels and 2 amphibious landing craft. Lebanon's Air Force had 1,000 personnel. Equipment included six fighter ground attack aircraft and two attack helicopters. Paramilitary forces consist of an Internal Security Force with an estimated 13,000 active personnel under the Ministry of Interior.

Much of the opposition militia has disbanded, and the Muslim Hezbollah (3,000 active) is the only significant communal army remaining. The defense budget was $530 million in 2005. Also stationed in Lebanon were a number of UN peacekeeping troops. Some 16,000 Syrian troops, in the country as part of the UN peacekeeping force, were removed in April 2005.


Lebanon is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined 24 October 1945, and belongs to ESCWA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, the World Bank, the ICAO, ILO, UNESCO, UNHCR, and WHO. Lebanon was one of the founding members of the Arab League. It also serves as a member of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, G-24, G-77, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The country has observer status in the OAS and the WTO.

Lebanon is part of the Nonaligned Movement. It is the home site of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA, est. 1949). Lebanon and Israel have a longstanding unresolved dispute concerning boundaries in the Golan Heights region. In 2000, the United Nations mapped out a Lebanese-Israeli line of separation known as the Blue Line, pending negotiations to determine a final international border. Israeli forces withdrew from their occupation across the Blue Line; however, the UN monitors have reported violations of the agreement from both countries. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL), which was originally established in 1978, continues to monitor the area and to assist in reestablishing Lebanese authority in the region.

In environmental cooperation, Lebanon is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Lebanon is traditionally a trading country, with a relatively large agricultural sector and small but well-developed industry. Until the civil war, it had always figured prominently as a center of tourist trade. The 197576 war caused an estimated $5 billion in property damage and reduced economic activities to about 50% of the prewar level. The cost of reconstruction after the Israeli Palestinian-Syrian war of 1982 was estimated at $1215 billion. Lebanon has been able to survive economically because of remittances from abroad by Lebanese workers and companies, external aid by the United States, France, Germany, and Arab countries, and foreign subsidies to various political groups. A residual effect of the 1982 war was political uncertainty, which poisoned the economic climate in the following years. In 1984 and after, there was a pronounced deterioration in the economy. In 1987 inflation peaked at 487%. After the 1989 Taif Accord for National Reconciliation ended hostilities, the economy began to recover. Economic activity surged in 1991, and in 1993 the Hariri government was able to stabilize the economy, and launch a program to reconstruct the economy's infrastructure. Real GDP grew 4.2% in 1992, after growing by about 40% in 1991.

After 1988, the economy posted growth rates averaging 7.5%, although a rising budget deficit threatens to hamper economic reforms. Israel's Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1996 cut economic development short, but in the same year, the stock market had reopened, and investment had made significant returns. In 1997, unemployment remained high at about 18% although inflation had been reduced to around 5% by 1998. Gross domestic product grew by 3% in 1998. Growth in 1999 was 1% and flat in 2000. Inflation was 1% in 1999 and zero in 2000, and did not exceed 3% in 2001. High unemployment remained a persistent problem, at 2025% in 1999 and 2000, and 1520% in 2001. Among Lebanese youth unemployment is estimated to be 30%.

In 2002, the government met with international donors to seek bilateral assistance in restructuring its massive domestic debt at lower rates of interest. Receipts from donor nations helped to stabilize government finances in 2003, but did little to reduce the debt, which stood at approximately 200% of GDP in 2005. In 2004, the Hariri government issued eurobonds to try to manage maturing debt. Hariri stepped down as prime minister later in 2004, and was assassinated in February 2005, which led to a downturn in the economy. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora pledged to push forward with economic reforms, including privatization and more efficient government. In 2005, the GDP growth rate was estimated at a mere 0.5%, and the inflation rate was estimated at 2.4%.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2005 Lebanon's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $19.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $5,100. the annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 0.5%. the average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 12% of GDP, industry 21%, and services 67%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $2.7 billion or about $600 per capita and accounted for approximately 13.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $228 million or about $51 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.3% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Lebanon totaled $18.27 billion or about $4,062 per capita based on a GDP of $19.9 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 19902003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.3%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 31% of household consumption was spent on food, 10% on fuel, 7% on health care, and 9% on education. It was estimated that in 1999 about 28% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The labor force in 2001 was approximately 2.6 million workers, with as many as one million additional foreign laborers in Lebanon. The estimated unemployment rate in 1997 (the latest year for which data was available) was 18%. There is no data on the workforce by occupation.

There are some 160 labor unions and organizations enrolling about 42% of the workforce as of 2001. the General Confederation of Workers is composed of 22 unions with about 200,000 members. Organized labor has grown slowly, partly because of the small number of industrial workers, but also because of the availability of a large pool of unemployed. Agricultural and most trade workers are not organized. Palestinians in Lebanon are free to organize their own unions. While Lebanese workers have the right to strike, there are limitations on public demonstrations which somewhat undermine this right. Lebanese workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively and this is the standard practice in employment situations.

Workers as young as eight may legally work with restrictions as to working hours and conditions. However, in reality, age limitations are not effectively enforced. In 2002, a monthly minimum wage of $200 was in effect. The standard workweek is set at 48 hours, with a 24-hour rest period. In practice, most laborers average around 35 hours of work per week.


In 2003, an estimated 4% of the working population was engaged in agricultural activity, and agriculture accounted for about 12% of GDP. Less than 30% of Lebanon's land is arable, and expansion of cultivated areas is limited by the arid and rugged nature of the land. About 33% of the arable land was irrigated in 2003.

Agricultural production was severely disrupted by the 197576 war, and production of citrus fruits, the main crop, was reduced to low levels in the fertile Bekaa Valley by Israeli-Syrian fighting during 1982. Principal crops and estimated 2004 production (in thousand tons) were potatoes, 350; oranges, 190; olives, 180; apples, 140; wheat, 120; lemons and limes, 83; bananas, 66; grapefruit, 14; and peanuts, 7. In 2004, Lebanon exported $252.3 million in agricultural products (14% of total exports) and imported $1.3 billion (14% of all imports). Two profitable, albeit illegal, crops produced are opium poppy (for heroin) and cannabis (for hashish). A joint Lebanese-Syrian eradication effort has practically wiped out the opium crop and significantly reduced the cannabis crop.


Much of Lebanon's livestock was lost during the protracted hostilities since the 197576 war and the Israeli invasion in 1982. In 2005 there were an estimated 430,000 goats, 346,000 sheep, 90,000 head of cattle, and 35,000,000 poultry. As Lebanon's own meat and milk production is below consumption needs, animal and milk products are imported.


The fishing industry has not progressed significantly, despite a government-sponsored effort to reduce fish imports and provide employment in the canned-fish industry. The catch in 2003 was 4,688 tons.


Forests comprised about 36,000 hectares (89,000 acres), or nearly 3.5% of the total area, in 2000. Most of the forests are in the central part of the country, with pine and oak predominant. Few of the ancient cedars have survived; small cedar forests have been planted at high altitudes. Roundwood production in 2004 was 88,700 cu m (3,131,000 cu ft).


Lebanon's mineral industry continued its historically small contribution to the economy. Mining activity was limited to the production of salt and the quarrying of raw materials for the construction industry, particularly limestone and silica for cement manufacture. In 2004, hydraulic cement production was estimated at 2.9 million metric tons, unchanged from an estimated 2.9 million metric tons in 2003. Gypsum production in 2004 was estimated at 1,700 metric tons, while lime production in that same year was estimated at 14,000 metric tons; and salt output estimated at 3,500 metric tons. In 2004, Lebanon also produced phosphatic fertilizers, phosphoric acid, and sulfuric acid. Modest deposits of asphalt, coal, and iron ore existed, and the country had no petroleum or gas reserves. The success of Lebanon's minerals industry depended on the long-term restoration of peace and stability in the country.


Lebanon, as of 1 January 2005, has no known proven reserves of oil or natural gas. As a result, the country must import all the oil and natural gas it consumes. Although Lebanon had two coastal refineries, Tarābulus (Tripoli) in the north and Zahrani in the south, neither is operational, with the refinery in Tarābulus (Tripoli) closed since 1982.

In 2004, imports and demand for oil each averaged an estimated 108 barrels per day. There were no recorded imports or consumption of natural gas in 2003.

Lebanon's electric power generating sector is controlled by a state-owned public utility, Electricite du Liban (EdL). EdL is in charge of power generation, distribution and transmission. In 2003, total installed electrical capacity was estimated at 2 GW, with production in that year estimated at 10.7 billion kWh. Demand is estimated to have equaled output in 2003, but Lebanon's seven power plants are known to be operating below capacity and the country must import power. In 2002, Lebanon imported 1.09 billion kWh. Of the electric power produced, 97.2% came from conventional thermal sources, while hydropower accounted for 2.8%.


The 16-year civil war that ended in 1991 caused tremendous damage to the industrial sector. By 1993, it was estimated that the Lebanese industry suffered losses of $1.5 billion. Inadequate infrastructure and shortage of skilled labor are major obstacles in the process of rehabilitation. By 1995, the industrial sector was showing signs of improvement. Industrial exports in the first quarter of 1995 were up 76% (to $79.5 million) compared with the same period in 1994. Major industrial products are clothing, metal, food, marble, sanitary equipment, cement, jewelry, furniture, paper, beverages, and plastic. In 2002, manufacturing contributed 17% to GDP and accounted for 40% of total exports. Industrial activity is concentrated in construction material; food and beverages; textiles and ready-made garments; and furniture. the industrial sector remains weak due to obsolete equipment, high operating costs, low productivity, and limited access to financing.

Lebanon's two main oil refineries at Zahrani and Tarābulus (Tripoli) suspended operations for most of the 1990s after 1992 and were inoperative as of 2006.


Lebanon's advanced technology is limited to oil refining, the facilities for which were installed by international oil companies. the National Council for Scientific Research, established in Beirut in 1962, draws up national science policies and fosters research in fundamental and applied research. The council operates a marine research center at Al-Batrun. Seven colleges and universities in Beirut offer degrees in basic and applied sciences.

In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 30% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, high technology exports totaled $16 million, or 3% of all manufactured exports.


Trade is by far the most important sector of the Lebanese economy. Before the 197591 civil war, Beirut was an important commercial center of the Middle East. During the first year of civil violence alone, 3,600 commercial establishments were destroyed, burned, or looted. Reconstruction and returning confidence have improved commercial activities since 1995.

The main trading activity is related to the importation of goods and their distribution in the local market. Distribution is generally handled by traders who acquire sole right of import and sale of specific trademarks, and although competition is keen, the markup tends to be high. Distribution of local products is more widely spread among traders. Franchising has become popular, with major firms representing the restaurant, hotel, and clothing industries.

Prices are generally controlled by the Consumer Protection Department of the Ministry of Economy and Trade. Retail credit is

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,523.9 7,167.5 -5,643.6
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 379.1 216.1 163.0
Iraq 121.8 121.8
United Arab Emirates 104.4 96.1 8.3
Saudi Arabia 104.3 219.6 -115.3
Syria 99.5 259.3 -159.8
United States 66.2 432.3 -366.1
Turkey 63.3 234.1 -170.8
Kuwait 50.8 50.8
Jordan 48.4 48.4
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 28.5 674.4 -645.9
() data not available or not significant.

common, and advertising has developed rapidly in motion picture theaters, television, radio, and the press.

Government offices are generally open from 8 am to 2 pm Monday through Thursday, from 8 to 11 am on Friday, and from 8 am to 1 pm on Saturday. Most banks are open with similar hours, occasionally with a half-day on Saturday as well. Private businesses and shops have varying hours, sometimes exceeding a 40-hour workweek.


Foreign trade has been important in the economic life of Lebanon as a source of both income and employment. Some 40% of total exports are actually reexports, principally machinery, metal products, foods, wood products, textiles, and chemicals.

The most expensive products that Lebanon exports are gold, silverware, jewelry, and precious stones. Other exports include fruits, nuts and vegetables, scrap metal, and printed matter. Major imports include food, machinery and transport equipment, consumer goods, and chemicals.

Lebanon's major exporting partners in 2004 were: Syria, the UAE, Turkey, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia. Lebanon's primary suppliers were: Italy, France, Syria, Germany, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom.


Lebanon traditionally maintained a favorable balance of payments, with rising trade deficits more than offset by net earnings from services, transfers of foreign capital, and remittances from Lebanese workers abroad. Although the trade deficit increased substantially between 1977 and 1984, a balance of payments deficit was recorded only for the last two years of the period. By 1985, a surplus of $249 million was again achieved, with a modest trade recovery following in 198687. Hostilities in the industrial and prosperous areas of Lebanon in 198990 triggered a substantial outflow of capital and a deficit in the balance of payments. Order was restored in 1991 and a resumption of capital inflows averted larger deficits in the following years. In 1995, net capital inflows offset a large trade deficit to produce a $256 million surplus in the balance of payments. A large portion of the trade imbalance consists of imports of machinery that should ultimately increase productivity. In 2000, the balance of payments registered a deficit of $289 million, which compared to a $267.7 million surplus in 1999.

In 2003, exports of goods and services totaled $2.9 billion, and imports totaled $7.6 billion. The trade deficit widened in 2005 that year, Lebanon's exports totaled $1.782 billion, and imports were valued at $8.855 billion. The current-account balance in 2005 was estimated at -$4.09 billion.


The Bank of Lebanon, established on 1 April 1964, is now the sole bank of issue. Its powers to regulate and control commercial banks and other institutions and to implement monetary policy were expanded by amendments to the Code of Money and Credit promulgated in October 1973. To encourage the movement and deposit of foreign capital in Lebanon, a bank secrecy law of 1956 forbids banks to disclose details of a client's business even to judicial authorities. There are no restrictions on currency conversions and transfers, and no foreign exchange controls effect trading.

In the late 1990s, the banking sector was undergoing a period of expansion and consolidation with a number of banks listed on the Beirut Stock Exchange. In 1998, over 70 banks were operating in Lebanon with total assets of around $31 billion. the International Monetary Fund reported that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.6 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $35.1 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 20%.

The Beirut Stock Exchange was officially opened in 1952 as a center in which the few available company shares could be traded. The exchange closed during the civil war but reopened in 1979. However, there was little trading in stock during 198081. In

Revenue and Grants 5,385 100.0%
     Tax revenue 4,166 77.4%
     Social contributions 75 1.4%
     Other revenue 1,144 21.2%
Expenditures 9,056 100.0%
     General public services 5,576 61.6%
     Defense 932 10.3%
     Public order and safety 395 4.4%
     Economic affairs 808 8.9%
     Environmental protection 9 0.1%
     Housing and community amenities 73 0.8%
     Health 298 3.3%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 59 0.7%
     Education 728 8.0%
     Social protection 178 2.0%
() data not available or not significant.

1982, Beirut was chosen as the headquarters of the Arab Stock Exchange Union, reflecting Lebanon's continuing importance as financial center of the Middle East.

In September 1995, the Beirut Stock Exchange reopened after a 12-year closure. Trading began in January 1996, but with just three companies listed, all of them producers of cement or construction material. A fourth company joined in mid-1996. A secondary market was opened to trade shares in the private property company, Solidere. Solidere is developing the destroyed business heart of Beirut. With the secondary market considerably more successful than the stock exchange, plans to list Solidere on the latter have, for the moment, been shelved. In 1997, however, Solidere moved its shares from the secondary market to the Beirut Stock Exchange. An important reason for the move was a plan to cross-list Solidere shares on the Kuwait Stock Exchange. Kuwait said it would do so only if shares were traded on the official bourse rather than on the secondary market. The Lebanese Stock Exchange authority signed an agreement to cross-list shares not only with Kuwait but also withe gypt from early in 1997. Solidere has a 115 million-125 million GDR (global depository receipt) to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

In 2001, the stock market remained sluggish, with only 12 companies, including Solidere, listed. Market capitalization was at around $1.2 billion. As of 2004, the Beirut Stock Exchange listed only 13 companies, and had a total market capitalization that year of $2.322 billion. In 2004, the BLOM index rose 39.3% from the previous year to 636.8.


Activities of insurance companies are regulated by the National Insurance Council. All insurance companies must deposit a specific amount of money or real investments in an approved bank and must retain in Lebanon reserves commensurate with their volume of business. There are at least 85 insurance companies operating in Lebanon, most of them national insurance companies. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $520 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $381 billion. In 2002, Lebanon's top nonlife insurer was Medgulf, with gross written nonlife premiums (including healthcare) of $46.7 million. In 2004, the country's leading life insurer was Alico, which had gross written life premiums of $69.8 million.


The annual budget of the central government must be approved by the National Assembly. The Lebanese government annually faces the formidable problem of financing a massive deficit resulting from heavy financial obligations and huge shortfalls in revenues. To reduce the deficit, the government has tried to increase revenues by raising taxes and tightening the budget. the government relies heavily on grants and loans from multilateral agencies, Arab governments, and the French to cover the deficit. As a result, the country's total debt reached $28 billion in 2001, about 150% of total GDP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Lebanon's central government took in revenues of approximately $4.9 billion and had expenditures of $6.5 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$1.6 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 200.7% of GDP. Total external debt was $25.92 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were ll5,385 billion and expenditures were ll9,056 billion. The value of revenues was us$4 million and expenditures us$6 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = ll1,507.5 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 61.6%; defense, 10.3%; public order and safety, 4.4%; economic affairs, 8.9%; environmental protection, 0.1%; housing and community amenities, 0.8%; health, 3.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.7%; education, 8.0%; and social protection, 2.0%.


A graduated tax is imposed on individual salaries, real profits, and real estate income. Corporations and joint stock companies generally are taxed on net real profits derived in Lebanon at a flat rate of 15%. Dividends, interest and royalties are generally subject to a 10% withholding tax. Bank interest is subject to a 5% rate. Also levied are inheritance and gift taxes, social security payroll taxes, flat and graduated property taxes, and a stamp duty.


Customs duties, based on the Harmonized System of tariffs, depend on the type of product and range from 070%, averaging 15%. Lebanon acceded to Arab League's Arab Free Trade Area agreement in 1997 and also has bilateral free trade agreements with egypt, Kuwait, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. It also adheres to the Arab League boycott of Israel. Lebanon has applied for World Trade Organization membership and is in negotiations for accession.


Lebanon's liberal investment policies are designed to attract foreign direct investment to foster economic recovery and rebuild its war damaged infrastructure. Some analysts estimated that the rebuilding costs would exceed $18 billion with construction accounting for a large part of foreign investment. By 2006, French, Italian, German, British, Korean, and Finnish companies were the predominant investors in Lebanon. Their presence is most strongly felt in the fields of electricity, water, and telecommunications. US-based investment was only $7 million in 1996, though this had climbed to $65 million by 1999. The movement of funds in and out of Lebanon is free from taxes, fees, or restrictions. the top corporate tax rate is 15%. Lebanon also has bilateral trade investment agreements with China and a number of European and Arab countries.

To conserve cash, the government uses "build, operate, transfer" (BOT) agreements to finance major projects. In 1997 total foreign direct investment (FDI) totaled $150 million. By 2000 this had nearly doubled to $297.8 million. In 2001, the annual FDI inflow fell to $249.3 million. In 2003, net FDI inflow amounted to $246.5 million. Construction and real estate account for the largest share of FDI. Other forms of capital inflowremittances, repatriated capital and placements in treasury billsfar outweigh inward FDI.


Since World War II, Lebanon has followed free-enterprise and free-trade policies. The country's favorable geographical position as a transit point and the traditional importance of the trading and banking sectors of the economy helped make Lebanon prosperous by the early 1970s. Lebanon became a center of trade, finance, and tourism by means of a stable currency backed largely with gold, by a conservative fiscal policy, by various incentives for foreign investors, and by minimization of banking regulations.

Lebanon's development went awry in the mid-1970s, as factional conflict, always present in Lebanese society, erupted into open warfare. The loss to the economy was enormous, particularly in Beirut. In November 1979, Saudi Arabia and six other oil-producing Arab countries promised to contribute $2 billion for Lebanon's reconstruction effort over a five-year period, but only $381 million had been provided by October 1987. (After Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982, the Arab countries decided to withhold future funds until Israeli forces had withdrawn completely.)

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, Lebanon embarked on the Horizon 2000 program in 1993. Areas of major activity targeted by the plan were the rehabilitation of telecommunications, electricity grids, highways, sewage, waste management, water networks, the renovation of the Beirut International Airport, harbor, the education system, and housing. the plan also called for investment in commercial facilities to reestablish Beirut as an international business center in competition with Hong Kong and Singapore. The government established a private company, Solidere, to carry out the reconstruction and development of downtown Beirut. Under the Horizon 2000 guidelines, no single investor would be permitted to hold more than a 10% share in the company. The parliament also established a public company, Elyssar, for developing southwest Beirut. Under the government's five-year program (200105) the "three pillars" of reform were affirmed by the Hariri government to be 1) economic revival and sustained growth with the private sector as the engine of growth; 2) fiscal consolidation and administrative reform; and 3) monetary, financial, and price stability.

By 2006, the Lebanese government was continuing its plans for economic reforms. These included an improvement in the management of the national debt (in 2005, it stood at over 200% of GDP); an expansion of state revenues by widening the tax base, improving the collection of revenues, and rationalizing expenditure; and strengthening financial management. As of December 2005, the government was formulating a new five-year plan with the aim of helping the government reduce its $37 billion public debt. The World Bank, the United States, and European nations declared they would only aid Lebanon if the government submitted to an "implementable program."


A government social security plan is intended to provide sickness and maternity insurance, accident and disability insurance, family allowances, and end-of-service indemnity payments. the employer contributes 8.5% of payroll, while the employee and government make no contribution. The system provides lump sum payments only for retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. Foreigners employed in Lebanon are entitled to benefits if similar rights are available for Lebanese in their home countries. Family allowances are provided for workers' families with children and nonworking wives. Voluntary social work societies also conduct relief and welfare activities.

Careers in government, the professions, and, less commonly, business are open to women. However, in some segments of society, social pressure prevents them from taking full advantage of employment opportunities. Lebanese citizenship is passed on only by fathers to their children. The children of Lebanese women married to foreigners are unable to secure citizenship. Many of the religious laws governing family and personal status discriminate against women. Despite these circumstances, there are a growing number of women in business and in government. Domestic abuse and violence affects a significant percentage of women. the absence of economic independence and the fear of losing custody of children prevent women from leaving abusive spouses. Foreign domestic servants are frequently abused.

Human rights abuses include arbitrary arrest and detention and the use of excessive force and torture. Prison conditions are substandard and include severe overcrowding. Human rights organizations are allowed to operate freely.


As of 2004, there were an estimated 325 physicians, 118 nurses, 121 dentists, and 95 pharmacists per 100,000 people. the Lebanese Ministry of Health's review of hospital use identified major health problems to be hypertension, diabetes, and asthma, in addition to eye and ear diseases, cardiac conditions, and dermatological problems. In 2000, 100% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 99% had adequate sanitation.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 8.2 and 14.7 per 1,000 people. About 61% of married women (ages 1549) used contraception. Life expectancy in 2005 was 72.63 years and the infant mortality rate was 24.54 per 1,000 live births. The fertility rate was 2.3 births per childbearing woman. The maternal mortality rate was 100 per 100,000 live births. Immunization rates for children up to one year old included diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 94%, and measles, 88%. Vitamin deficiencies are a problem; an estimated 25% of all school-age children have goiter.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 2,800 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Despite substantial construction activity since World War II and a boom in construction during the 1960s, which increased the number of housing units to 484,000 in 1970, there was a housing shortage, especially of low-cost residential units, in the early 1970s. The situation was aggravated by the civil war (ending in 1990) and subsequent factional strife in which half of the country's real estate was severely damaged or destroyed. About 750,000 people were displaced. Under the CDR 198391 plan, nearly 30% of total expenditures were allocated to build new dwellings and to restore war-damaged houses. According to the last available information for 1980-88, total housing units numbered 820,000 with 3.3 people per dwelling. Housing needs until the year 2000 have been estimated at 400,000 units.


Free primary education was introduced in 1960, but about two-thirds of all students attend private schools. Primary school covers six years of study, followed by three years of complementary (intermediate) courses. Based on their performance at the basic levels of education, students are assigned to general secondary school (studying economics, life sciences, humanities, and science) or a technical secondary school (with about 55 different field options). The academic year runs from October to June.

In 2001, about 74% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 91% of age-eligible students. In 2001, secondary school enrollment was about 77% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 68% of all students complete their primary education. the student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 17:1 in 2003.

Leading universities include the American University in Beirut; St. Joseph University; the Lebanese (State) University; the University of the Holy Spirit; and the Arab University of Beirut. In 2003, about 44% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2003 was estimated at about 87.4%, with 93.1% for men and 82.2% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.7% of GDP, or 12.3% of total government expenditures.


Lebanon has about a dozen sizable libraries with specialized collections of books, manuscripts, and documents. Most libraries are in Beirut, but there are also collections at Şaydā (Sidon) and Harissa. The National Library of Lebanon, founded in 1921, had more than 100,000 volumes when it was destroyed at the beginning of the war in 1975. By 2002, it had restored that collection to 150,000 volumes. The Arab University Library has 200,000 volumes, but the largest library is that of the American University in Beirut, with 546,000 volumes. St. Joseph University has several specialized libraries, including the Bibliothèque Orientale, with 400,000 volumes. The library of the St. John Monastery in Khonchara, founded in 1696, contains the first known printing press in the Middle East. The Université Saint-Esprit de Koslik in Jounieh has the largest provincial collection with 200,000 volumes. the Municipal Public Library of Beirut has two branches; the Bachoura branch, opened in 2004, maintains a collection that includes 20,000 books in Arabic, French, English, Armenian, Spanish, and German, plus audio books, CD-ROMs, videos, and DVDs. there are at least 25 other public and municipal libraries throughout the country that are organized through the Assabil library network, a nongovernmental organization established in 1997; these branches include National Library of Baakline, Cultural Center for Francophone Activities, Public Library of the Cultural League in Tarābulus (Tripoli), and the Library for the Blind (in Beirut).

The National Museum of Lebanon (1920) in Beirut has a collection of historical documents and many notable antiquities, including the sarcophagus of King Ahiram (13th century bc), with the first known alphabetical inscriptions. The American University Museum also has an extensive collection of ancient artifacts. Beirut also houses the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Lebanese Prehistory of St. Joseph University. the Gibran Museum in Bsharri, celebrating the life and work of the prophet Kahil Gibran, is a popular site. The Planet Discovery Children's Science Museum is located in Beirut.


Before the civil war, Beirut was an international communications center with an earth satellite station and two oceanic cables linking it to Marseille, France, and Alexandria, Egypt. As of 1999, the rebuilding of Lebanon's telecommunications system was well underway. In 2003, there were an estimated 199 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 227 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Government-controlled Radio Lebanon broadcasts in Arabic, and Tele-Liban broadcasts on three channels in Arabic, French, and English. All other radio and television stations are privately owned. In 2001 there were 36 radio stations and 7 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 182 radios and 357 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 29.9 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 80.5 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 117 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 29 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Historically, Lebanon has had the freest press in the Arab world. Even during the civil war some 25 newspapers and magazines were published without restriction. Newspapers freely criticize the government but refrain from criticizing political groups that have the power to retaliate forcibly. As of 2002, the largest Arabic dailies and their circulations included An-Nahar (the Day, 77,600), Al-Anwar (Lights, 58,675), As-Safir (the Ambassador, 50,000), Al-Amal (Hope, 35,000), Al Hayat (Life, 31,030), Al-Sharq (36,000), and Al-Liwa (the Standard, 15,000). Also influential are the French-language papers L'OrientLe Jour (23,000), Le Soir (16,500), and Le Réveil (10,000).

Though the constitution provides for freedom of the press, the government uses several means short of censorship to control freedom of expression. The Surete Generale is authorized to approve all foreign materials, including magazines, plays, books, and films. The law prohibits attacks on the dignity of the head of state or foreign leaders, prosecuting through a special Publications Court.


There are chambers of commerce and industry in Beirut, Tarābulus (Tripoli), Şaydā (Sidon), and Zahlah. The Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon promotes tourism as well as international trade. the International Labour Organization Regional Office for the Arab States is in Beirut. Lebanon has a French Chamber of Commerce, and an Association of Lebanese Industries.

The Amel Association is a major social welfare organization providing emergency relief and social, medical, and educational services. The National Council for Scientific Research offers major support for promoting scientific study and research. A smaller organization, the Nadim Andraos Foundation, also provides financial support for medical and scientific studies.

National youth organizations include the Lebanese Scout Federation, Lebanese Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, the Progressive Youth Organization, the Democratic Youth Union, and YMCA/YWCA. There are several sports associations representing a variety of pastimes, such as squash, aikido, badminton, yachting, tennis, and track and field. There are active branches of the Paralympic Committee and the Special Olympics.

There are Rotary and Lion's Clubs in Beirut. there are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Defence for Children, and Habitat for Humanity.


Before 1975, Lebanon's antiquitiesnotably at Şaydā (Sidon), Tyre, Byblos, and Baalbekcombined with a pleasant climate and scenery to attract many tourists (more than two million in 1974), especially from other Arab countries. During the civil war that began that year, however, fighting and bombing destroyed or heavily damaged major hotels in Beirut and reduced the number of tourists to practically zero. With the rebuilding of the country, the tourism industry has steadily grown. The luxury hotels have attracted tourists along with the famous Pigeon Rocks in Raouche. Many attractions are historical sites in Tyre and Tarābulus (Tripoli). The temple complex in Baalbek, which includes the remains of the temples of Jupiter, Bacchus, and Venus, is one of the largest in the world. Horse racing is also popular in Lebanon, with races held every Sunday.

Visas are required to enter Lebanon, along with passports valid for six months when applying for the visa. In 2003, foreign visitors totaled 1,015,793 in Lebanon, a 6% increase from 2002. Hotels numbered 16,202 with 28,246 beds. Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $1 billion that same year.

According to the US Department of State, in 2004 the estimated daily cost of travel in Lebanon was $193.


Khalil Gibran (Jibran, 18831931), a native of Lebanon, achieved international renown through his paintings and literary works. He is best known for his long poem the Prophet. Charles Habib Malik (190687), for many years Lebanon's leading diplomat, was president of the 13th UN General Assembly in 1958/59. Rafik Hariri (19442005), twice prime minister of Lebanon, was assassinated in February 2005; massive demonstrations held after his death led to the eventual withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in April 2005.


Lebanon has no territories or colonies.


AbuKhalil, As'ad. Historical Dictionary of Lebanon. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 1998.

El-Khazen, Farid. The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon, 19671976. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Hamzeh, Ahmad Nizar. In the Path of Hizbullah. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

Harris, William W. Faces of Lebanon: Sects, Wars, and Global Extensions. Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1997.

Khalaf, Samir. Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Communal Contact. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Khater, Akram Fouad. Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 18701920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Lattouf, Mirna. Women, Education, and Socialization in Modern Lebanon: 19th and 20th Centuries Social History. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2004.

Makdisi, Samir A. The Lessons of Lebanon: The Economics of War and Development. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2004.

Najem, Tom. Lebanon: The Politics of a Penetrated Society. London: Routledge, 2002.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Lebanese Republic
Region: Middle East
Population: 3,578,036
Language(s): Arabic, French, English, Armenian
Literacy Rate: 86.4%
Number of Primary Schools: 2,160
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 2.5%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 18,253
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 382,309
  Secondary: 347,850
  Higher: 81,588
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 111%
  Secondary: 81%
  Higher: 27%
Teachers: Higher: 10,444
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 108%
  Secondary: 84%
  Higher: 27%

History & Background

Al-Jumhuriyah al-Lubnaniyah (the Republic of Lebanon) is a very small Arab country (slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut). It is predominantly a mountainous terrain of great scenic beauty, situated in western Asia on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the east and north, by Israel to the south, and by the Mediterranean Sea to the west. As a country, Lebanon was created by accident rather than by design by virtue of becoming a French zone of influence after World War I. Thus, these borders were established during the French Mandate in 1918.

Culturally, economically, and geographically, Lebanon is considered an important part of the Arab world and the Middle East. It is the birthplace of the alphabet and has always played the role of cultural junction between East and West beginning with the Roman School of Law of Berytus or old Beirut, up to the American and French schools and universities in 1820 and beyond. Lebanon enjoyed a privileged status in the Ottoman Empire and thus managed to import European trends to the Middle East. For instance, the printing press was imported to Lebanon in 1702 and the production of books printed in Arabic started in the beginning of the nineteenth century promoting an Arab identity in the midst of a collapsing Ottoman Empire. Therefore, Lebanon, which represents one one-fortieth of the total area of Arabia, produced 70 percent of Arabic publications.

Arabic is the official language, but Armenian, English, and French are widely spoken and taught in schools. Education is free at government schools and universities, and students pay at private schools; Lebanon is said to have the best private school system in the entire Middle East. French and American styles of education are readily available and competing with each other in the country. Lebanon's strong and diverse educational opportunities assured the nation one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East (75-80 percent). Also prior to the civil war (1975 to 1990), Lebanon had the highest standard of living in the Middle East.

The population of Lebanon is difficult to estimate since no official census has been conducted after Lebanon's independence in 1943, and many people also left the country during the 1975 to 1990 civil war. The 1996 estimate was that there were about 3.6 million Lebanese living in the country, and more than 3.0 million living abroad. Main cities include Beirut (capital city), Tripoli, Sidon, Zahle, and Tyre. The population growth rate is about 3.4 percent. The Lebanese population is very diverse and contains a mosaic of religions and ethnic groups. Seventeen of these groups are recognized by law and are represented in the parliament with proportional power sharing in the government. Christian sects include Maronites, Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Armenian Catholics, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Protestants, Syriacs, Chaldeans, Nestorians, Protestants, and Evangelicals. Moslems include Shiites, Sunnites, Alawites, and Druzes. There is also a small Jewish community.

The territory known today as Lebanon witnessed many occupants and invaders throughout history, starting with the Phoenicians as long as 5,000 years ago, Babylonians, Greeks, Egyptians, Hittites, Assryans, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantinians, Muslim Arabs, European Crusaders, Seljuk Turks, Ottomans, and French. Phoenicians were the most important Semitic migrants from Canaan who founded a maritime civilization that dominated the Mediterranean region with regard to trading in general, especially the transmission of cultural artifacts for about 2,000 years (2700 to 450 B.C.).

Another important point in Lebanon's history concerns the Romans and Byzantinians who converted many people to Christianity and left their marks in great castles around the country. After this, the Islamic invasion of Lebanon took place in the seventh century, while the Crusaders followed in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. It was not until 1516 when Lebanon came under the Ottoman Empire rule, which remained until the end of World War I. At the beginning, the French authority ruled only some districts, and during that initial period, important political, social, educational, and economic reforms took place. For example, the new educational system encouraged the use of the Arabic language as a prime cultural resource. Arabic nationalism was fed by the recent trend of education in Arabic, which had caused the Arabs to demand independence from the Ottoman rule. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was completely destroyed and the control of Lebanon as a whole nation fell into the hands of the French authorities in the form of a mandate approved by the League of Nations. During the French domination period, a very effective health, education, and judiciary system was established.

In 1926, Lebanon was declared a republic, and a Lebanese constitution was written under the supervision of the French and a local Lebanese committee. However, foreign control of the country did not end with this declaration. Thus, Lebanon gained its independence from the French authorities on November 22, 1943, and soon became the commercial and financial center of the Middle East, as well as a major banking and trade center between the Eastern and Western worlds because of its strategic location and west-leaning stand. Many multinational companies established their Middle Eastern headquarters in Beirut and the Lebanese people witnessed their best and most prosperous days until the mid-1970s.

Until the mid-1970s, the power was mainly in the hands of the Christian half of Lebanon. The other half, mainly Muslim citizens, was excluded from real power. The escalating tensions in various parts of the Middle East, dislocated Palestinians, and the Suez crisis caused the national unity in Lebanon to break apart. Since then the power struggle between various religious and political groups (mainly Christians and Muslims) took a new turn, and Syrian as well as Israeli involvement added to the worsening Lebanese situation.

The 1958 civil war or Muslim rebellion started as a result of Lebanon's refusal to join the union that was formed between Syria and Egypt. It took the intervention of U.S. forces to calm all parties in the conflict. Also, the Arab-Israeli war in 1967 added fuel to the overall situation in Lebanon, which did not enter the conflict, and the 1975-1990 civil war tore the nation apart and destroyed the economy. The Lebanese pound, which used to equal about US$3.00 in 1980, collapsed in 1984. In February 2001, US$1.00 equaled 1,507 Lebanese pounds. Human casualties of the latest civil war and the two Israeli invasions were extremely high (more than 100,000 people). In addition, that civil war jeopardized the entire educational system because of massive destruction of school buildings, as well as other facilities, and the closure of schools for long periods of times, sometimes for months.

Because of the Lebanese social structure, which consists of many different ethnic and religious minorities, the Lebanese people conducted their communal affairs in accordance with their own religious, cultural, and legal traditions under the Ottoman Empire. Education was one of those affairs assumed by each minority (especially religious minorities). Towards the end of the eighteenth century, a western missionary activity took place in Lebanon. American, British, Danish, French, German, Italian, and Russian missionaries came to Lebanon and opened schools and universities to further their religious goals. Since the Ottoman rulers did not play a major role in education and provided only some training of state bureaucrats, private schooling flourished and became entrenched in the Lebanese educational system and social structure.

The French Jesuits were the first to establish two schools in 1770, followed by the first national school of Ain Waraqa in 1782. Then in 1830 the American Protestant missionaries opened the American School for Girls and started to compete with the French Jesuits. Al-Makassid Institution was established in 1877 as a charitable association providing for the education of Muslim children. In 1866, the American missionaries established the Syrian Protestant College, which is known today as the American University of Beirut (AUB). This led the French Jesuits to open the Saint Joseph University (SJU) in 1875. By the end of the nineteenth century hundreds of various missionary private schools opened, which laid the foundation of primary and secondary education in the country. Prior to the French mandate, secondary education was provided by private schools only.

After placing Lebanon under the French mandate, the League of Nations along with the mandatory authorities approved a constitution for the nation that provided for the freedom and encouragement of public education. Thus, the Lebanese government adopted a policy designed to lay the foundation for a public system of education that was similar to the French system in many respects. Based on that policy, the Lebanese government took the following specific measures: 1) Primary and higher primary schools were established in big cities and towns. 2) Two training centers were established to prepare primary school teachers. 3) A primary education program, which was similar to the French system, was introduced. The basic difference between the two systems was that, in Lebanon, half of the curriculum was taught in Arabic and the other half in French. 4) All private and public schools were required to teach French as a primary foreign language. 5) French was recognized as another official language besides Arabic. 6) French teachers were appointed in private and public schools to teach and supervise the teaching of the French language. 7) A system of official public examinations similar to the French system was introduced and adopted. The official certificates awarded included the primary certificate, the brevet, and the two-part baccalaureate. 8) A French government commission administered examinations in Lebanon for the French baccalaureate, which was equivalent to the Lebanese baccalaureate.

After Lebanon gained independence in 1943, the Lebanese authorities adopted the French system of education with minor modification. Arabic became the only official language in the country, and the teaching of Arabic became compulsory. In addition, English was placed on a par with French as a primary foreign language, and in 1951 the Lebanese government established two public secondary schools in Beirut and Tripoli, officially marking the start of secondary public education in the nation.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Lebanese constitution, which was written under the French mandate, has not changed with regard to guaranteeing freedom of teaching and education in Lebanon, as long as educational institutions do not transgress upon public order and are not disrespectful of any religion. Therefore, any qualified organization or individual can establish an educational institution, provided that they adhere to the general guidelines concerning education decreed by the government and their curriculum does not incite religious bias. These guidelines are usually promulgated by ministerial decrees without parliamentary approval.

The Ministry of Education for Youth and Sport rulings governing primary and secondary education as well as the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education rulings governing post secondary education (decrees 7001-7004 of October 1946, modified by decrees in January 1968 and November 1971, as well as the 1994 educational reform and the 1995 new framework for education in Lebanon) express the aims of public education in Lebanon as follows:

  1. Primary education in Lebanon aims at providing children with needed basic skills to develop their moral, intellectual, and physical character as well as to assist them in assuming the responsibilities of citizenship.
  2. Intermediate education aims at helping students to discover their interests and potentialities as well as to guide them toward a branch of knowledge or vocation that may be compatible with their interests and potentials.
  3. Secondary education aims at providing training to a select group of students for advanced study at the university level or for subprofessional positions requiring a certain amount of mental development.
  4. The new reforms of the 1990s (projets de restructuration du system educatif ) have aimed at consolidating the links between the pre-university teaching and higher education and at realizing an equilibrium between general education and technical or professional education.

These reforms set by the National Center for Educational Research and Development and approved by the Council of Ministers in August 1994 seem to have modernized the Lebanese educational system in accordance with the world's progressive education and technology. In addition, these reforms established in clear terms the principles and guidelines for new curricula, which draw on known international and local experiences. They also limit the different pillars possible for educational formation, the relationship between general education and technical or professional education, as well as that relationship between all forms and levels of education and the work market or the needs and aspirations of the Lebanese society. For instance, teaching two foreign languages was one of the established principles. The emphasis was on creating a citizen who is proficient in at least one foreign language in order to promote openness to and interaction with other cultures. Thus, teaching the first foreign language starts at the beginning of schooling, and the second starts in the seventh grade. The major guidelines underlying the language curriculum are: language learning is learning to communicate; language varies; learning a new language is becoming familiar with a new culture; language learning is most effective when it takes place through meaningful, interactive tasks; and language skills are interdependent.

However, after three years of implementing the new curricula, the Lebanese Minister of Education for Youth and Sport (Mr. Abdel-Rahim Mourad) appeared on the Lebanese Broadcasting Company International (LBCI) on January 18, 2001, and complained about some of the gaps that resulted from implementing these new curricula. It was very difficult for that ministry to fund the most up-to-date technologies to carry out the new educational responsibilities. Also, there was a lack in human resources, for materials in the new curricula have almost doubled and there are not enough teachers to train them for the new responsibilities.

Educational SystemOverview

The Lebanese educational system is divided in two sectors: private schools and universities, for which there is a charge for admission, and public (government) schools and universities that are practically free of charge. This system is well developed and reaches all levels of the population. Lebanon maintained this advanced educational system structure by well-training its teachers before the conflict. Beirut, the Lebanese capital, served as an educational center for the region; however, this system suffered heavy damage during the civil war, but has still survived.

Education was once almost exclusively the responsibility of religious communities or foreign groups, but because the number of students in public schools has risen to more than two-fifths of the total school enrollment, the government was pressured to open more public schools to meet the demands of the general public. Public and private schools differ concerning the elementary phase of the educational system. While public schools have not paid much attention to the preschool phase and have required students to be five-years-old to be accepted in kindergarten until the 1990s, private schools have always had a preschool phase and have accepted students as young as three-years-old. Hence, students in private schools spend one year at the nursery school, another year at kindergarten one, and a third year at kindergarten two. This may help explain the difference in academic performance, which is usually higher among those attending private schools than among those attending public schools.

The Lebanese educational system has usually relied heavily on private schooling to accommodate the evergrowing demand for learning in the country. Private schools, which are in their overwhelming majority dependent on various religious communities, have a long and strong tradition in Lebanon. This fact has led to a great variety of educational institutions in the country, which may be considered as a reflection of the openness of the government to the international community. Aside from private schools established by western clerics (French, Anglo-Saxons, Germans, and Italians), there are many and diverse local and foreign religious and secular schools. The majority of these schools are funded by private religious groupsmainly Jesuits (Catholics who came in 1625 and, with the Maronites, established the first religious schools in Lebanon); Presbyterian missionaries who came to the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in 1866 and started a rivalry with Catholics by establishing the American University of Beirut and high schools; and Makasids or Muslim schools started in many mosques in big cities and supported by wealthy Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. These religious schools led to and fostered some divisions and barriers among the Lebanese people, which have been very hard to break and, in turn, fueled the civil war for many years in Lebanon.

Even though the Lebanese educational system has depended heavily on private schools, the Lebanese Ministry of Education for Youth and Sport has been able to control the system through its licensing of private schools and its requirements for their graduates to pass the government baccalaureate examination at the end of the secondary cycle. These requirements and regulations have forced private schools not to deviate too far from the government curricula in pre-university education.

The new school curricula was launched in September 1998, and the Educational Center for Research and Development had trained 16,000 teachers in public schools and 6,000 teachers in private schools on the new uses and principles of the new program. The new system took into account economic, social, and national perspectives. The principle characteristics of this new system consist of the following:

  1. The total duration in school remains intact, 12 years.
  2. The primary cycle of general education has been increased by one year, and is divided into two modules of three years each, while the intermediary cycle was reduced to three years instead of four.
  3. The first year of general education's secondary cycle must be considered common for all four different series of instruction, and the second year is common to only two out of four series.
  4. Lebanese students are not allowed to enter formal technical education before age 12, which is the age limit of obligatory education.
  5. The scholastic year was changed to 36 weeks, and 4 supplementary hours per week were added at the intermediary and secondary cycles.

Thus, the organization of instructional cycles reflects positively on career choices in all sectors of production. Also the ties between instruction and the work market have become consolidated, which guarantees professional opportunities for those who desire them. In addition, the reform of the educational system included elaborate scholastic programs that were inspired from the principles of the new constitution emanated from the Taef Accord. It took into account the future of the Lebanese citizens and their sacred values (tolerance, liberty, and democracy).

In short, the new formal educational system of Lebanon, like in many other countries, divides the years of instruction as follows: 6-3-3 (six years for the primary cycle, three years for the intermediate cycle, and three years for the secondary cycle), followed by the higher education cycle. Primary school education is followed either by a six-year intermediary and secondary program, leading to the official Lebanese baccalaureate certificate, which was originally based on the equivalent French school diploma, or by a three- to six-year technical or vocational training program.

Lebanese vocational education started in the late 1940s. It is mostly available in the private sector rather than in the public domain, and it is offered mainly at the secondary level as well as at the Lebanese University or other institutions of higher education. There are 1508 public and private intermediary and secondary schools for the general instruction program in Lebanon, while there are only 262 schools for the technical and professional instruction program divided between the public sector (29 schools) and the private sector (233 schools). So, the number of schools designated to professionally and technically teach students constitutes less than 12 percent, and the number of students oriented toward the formal technical and professional program represents less than 9 percent of the overall total number of students. A definite equilibrium between the two types of instruction is, therefore, needed in the country. In addition, this percentage becomes even weaker when considering the intermediary level alone (1.3 percent). Formal schools have not concerned themselves much with professional instruction at this level, leaving it for the secondary level in general.

Education is compulsory until the end of the intermediate cycle, is available to all Lebanese students, and is attended by nearly 95 percent of school-age children. However, compulsory education has not been fully implemented by Lebanese authorities, especially in urban slums and remote rural areas. Low cost government schools are available to all but are of generally low quality compared to private schools. Therefore, those who can afford to pay the cost of sending their kids to private schools would do so and end up paying for their primary as well as their secondary schooling because of the high quality education they receive. When it is time to enter college, students are usually faced with a required competency entry test before they can be accepted.

The school year starts in early October and ends in late June. The school day consists of six hours starting at 8:00 a.m. with two hour lunch break and ends at 4:00 p.m. The length of class periods ranges from 50 to 55 minutes. Both public and private schools are supposed to observe official holidays, which are decided by the government; however, Christian-administered, religious private schools take Saturday and Sunday off every week, while Moslem-run religious private schools take Friday and Sunday, and Jewish-run private schools take off all of Saturday and Sunday afternoon only.

As to special education concerning handicapped students, there were about 10,000 handicapped people in 1975 (prior to the Lebanese civil war). During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, this number reached 13,000; it is more than 15,000 in 2001. About 2,500 handicapped people were being educated and made ready to enter the work market. In addition, there was a pedagogic plan affirming the necessity of organizing the schooling of gifted students and devoting specific pedagogic programs to them that may address and respond to their fundamental needs. One of these programs is called al-Makfoufine (Blind Program), which consists of mixing blind students with other students in the same classrooms; this has proved to be an effective program.

The number of students going to schools and universities was expanding each year until the beginning of the civil war; it then began to decline because of unstable political and security conditions, substantial damage of school facilities, the mass exodus of people fleeing the war, and the scarcity of qualified teachers. This decline, however, changed after the civil war and took an upswing. For instance, the total student enrollment increased for four consecutive academic years after the civil war ended and people returned to their areas or houses. There was a steady increase from 770,599 students in 1993-1994 to 799,905 students in 1994-1995 to 829,338 students in 1995-1996 and, finally, to 878,102 students in 1996-1997. In addition, females appeared to have a slightly higher percentage than males with regard to attending schools and universities. After age 25 male attendance becomes almost double that of female attendance. Females get married at an earlier age than males in Lebanon and, when married, they mostly assume the traditional role of taking care of housekeeping responsibilities. They, therefore, have little time to go to schools and universities in order to further their education.

According to the CAS Survey, the literacy rate was 88.4 percent in 1997, as compared to 68.2 percent in 1970. The Lebanese Republic traditionally had an advanced educational structure and well-trained technicians and engineers. Prior to the conflict, Beirut served as an educational center for the region. However, a substantial part of its human capital was reduced during the conflict, and the educational system suffered damage and lack of investment. In spite of the turmoil, however, the educational system has survived and still retains high standards.

The Lebanese schools are unevenly distributed among the five mohafazats (provinces). The Greater Beirut area has the highest concentration of all schools and universities. The large population concentration in and around Beirut accounts for its schools' high enrollments. The Lebanese government provides facilities for public schools, but these facilities are poorly equipped in general. Few of them have libraries, laboratories, and playgrounds. Private school facilities are mostly better equipped than public school buildings.

Due to the Lebanese people's negative attitude toward manual work, especially in industry and agriculture, students of lower socioeconomic status enroll mostly in vocational and technical schools. Therefore, there is a big difference between the two major types of instruction, as well as the relative numbers of schools and students enrolled in each of these types. For example, in the academic year 1993-1994, the total number of public and private schools for the general instruction program was 1,508 (878 were public and 630 were private). However, the total number of schools for the technical and professional instruction program was 262 (29 were public and 233 were private). Fields of training in vocational schools include automotive and airplane mechanics, communication, electricity and electronics, printing, watch making, and welding.

Progression from one level to another depends generally upon passing official external examinations administered by the government at the end of each school cycle. The primary certificate (first official examination), which used to take place at the end of the primary school cycle, is now eliminated from the new educational system. The brevet certificate (intermediate studies examination) takes place at the end of the ninth grade, and the baccalaureate exams (part I and II) are given at the end of the second and third years of the secondary cycle. The brevet certificate is only required by public schools, vocational schools, and teacher training institutes. The baccalaureate part I exam has two main tracks: literary and scientific. The baccalaureate part II has four main tracks: literature and humanities, which includes language, literature, history, philosophy, education, arts, and religion; sociology and economy, which includes economic sciences, politics, business and management, law, and sociology; general sciences, which includes mathematics, physics, chemistry, and their applications at the level of engineering; and life sciences, which includes biology and life sciences, chemistry and their applications in the area of medicine, health, agriculture, and other related subjects.

Most institutions of higher education require entrance examinations besides the baccalaureate part II, which is required by law. These exams vary from one institution to another, but they usually cover language competency (native and foreign), science, and mathematics.

The grading system is generally based on scales of 0 to 20 or 0 to 100, with 10 or 60, respectively, as passing grades. This system also differs between French-oriented and English/American-oriented private schools. The French-oriented private schools, as well as the Lebanese public schools, grade on a scale of 0 to 20, with 10 as a passing grade. The English/American-oriented private schools use either a letter grade system, with A, B, C, and D as passing grades, or a scale of 0 to 100, with 60 as a minimum passing grade.

The curriculum in Lebanese schools is somewhat rigid, for all students must pursue the same programs in all three cycles (primary, intermediate, and secondary) except in the second year of the secondary cycle when students begin to branch out to one of the emphasis areas and continue to branch out further in the third year of the secondary cycle, which eventually prepares them to more easily pursue their higher education. The syllabi are usually set by the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport. The textbooks are commercially produced in order to meet certain specifications of the syllabi. Both private and public schools are free to choose their textbooks; however, after the creation of the Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD) in the early 1970s, the government began to adopt (for the public schools only) books that were produced by the research unit of this center. Private schools can choose textbooks that meet their syllabi, except in the civics area where the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport requires them to use the center's textbooks.

Arabic and either French or English are the languages of instruction in the Lebanese schools. The subjects taught in Arabic have been limited to Arabic language and literature, history, geography, and civics. All of the other subjects have been taught in either French or English, depending on the school orientation or affiliation. While Arabic language dominates in public schools as a major language of instruction and French or English are taught as subjects at the primary cycle, in private schools, however, French or English dominates since all the subjects except Arabic language and civics are taught in a foreign language. In addition, the type of language that a person uses to communicate with others is usually related to politics, loyalty, religion, and social status.

The methods of instruction used in Lebanese classrooms are mostly traditional. Teachers spend a great deal of time lecturing, giving homework and reading assignments to students, and correcting exercises completed in the classroom. Students play a generally passive role in the instruction process. They listen quietly to their teacher, rarely question what is presented, and copy material dictated by the teacher, who uses textbooks as major sources of instruction. Later on, oral recitation by students is used for grading purposes. Memorization of facts and events is greatly emphasized in Lebanese schools, especially for the purpose of passing external formal exams. Therefore, it is not unusual to see standard answers given to questions on official examinations because certain teachers require their students to memorize model answers for certain topics. Implementation of new ideas and methods has been hampered by the lack of adequate educational facilities and well-trained professionals in that regard. However, private fee-charging schools practice more progressive and advanced methods of instruction, which are geared toward the increasing involvement of students in the instructional process. These interactive methods made some private fee-charging schools more famous in the Middle East region and attracted many students from other Arab or Near East nations.

Because of their quality education and high tuition fees, these private schools attracted students from the richest families, while poor families, who cannot afford to pay tuition fees for their children's education, have been somewhat satisfied, but not happy, to send them to either public or private tuition-free schools, which are usually subsidized by the government. Private schools are mostly sectarian and controlled by different religious denominations. Other types of private schools are owned by individuals or run by associations or committees, like al-Makassid.

The United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) provides funds supporting a private nonsectarian school system for Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East. This type of private schooling has been very effective in offering education and social services for children of Palestinian Refugees residing in Lebanon. Besides the many primary, intermediary, and secondary schools, the UNRWA runs a two-year secondary teacher education program, which prepares primary and intermediate school teachers who serve their schools. In addition, the agency sponsors a technical training center for students who intend to pursue a vocational or technical career.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preschool or preprimary education did not receive serious attention in Lebanon until the 1940s. Since then, it remained in the private sector till the beginning of the 1970s. Actually, in 1968 the Ministry of Education had defined in decree number 9099 the four stages of preuniversity education: le jardin d'enfants (kindergarten), le primaire (primary), le moyen (intermediary), and le secondaire (secondary), without mentioning the la prematernelle (pre-maternal). In addition, the decree 9099 was not put into effect till the end of 1971. Thus, the age of acceptance at this phase of this cycle remained uncertain, changing between three and four years of age, making this phase of the cycle two years in the public schools and three years in the private schools (decree 295 of August 1974 and decree 720 of September 1993).

The new educational system recognizes the fact that preschool education starts at conception and continues until the age of four, so the preschool phase is divided into two stages, before and after birth. First, before birth, parents are prepared to form a sane family through the help of different administrations of the ministries of Education, Health, and Social Affairs, and other municipalities as well as special international agencies. Second, after birth and until the age of four, the prior-mentioned administrations continue to help and advise the parents so the infants grow in an atmosphere conducive to their physical, cognitive, psychological, and social development.

At the age of four, children are admitted into a pre-school education program wherein they spend four hours daily for a minimum of five days a week. The preschool curriculum consists of four types of activities. First, children are greeted, their health situation is put under control, and they are given the opportunity to express themselves (free individual activities) and, thus, be prepared to participate in their other daily activities. Second, children get engaged in collective activities in class or outside of class on the playground, such as playing, singing, drawing, and other activities aiming at providing an appropriate educational climate, which can help the progressive development of the children's physical, intellectual, psychological, social, and emotional abilities so as to enable a smooth transition for them from the home environment to the school one without any major difficulties. Third, there are guided activities, which aim at giving children coherent and complementary experiences to the previous activities. Finally, the fourth type of activity consists of free plays in the presence of kindergarten teachers and under the control of a psycho-sociologist. This last type of activity is usually interrupted by certain breaks reserved for nutrition and rest. The role of teachers consists of helping children adjust and like school through playing with them, telling them stories, and teaching them to recognize differences between colors, between shapes of objects, or between letters and how to pronounce them.

The primary cycle of education lasts for six years instead of five as it was in the old system. It starts at the age of 6 and expands till the age of 12. It is obligatory for all citizens and can be considered as the primary phase of compulsory education, which progressively becomes an investment until the age of 15. This cycle is divided into two modules of three years each. The first module comprises the first, second, and third grades, and the second module comprises the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. Students are admitted in the first grade when they are six years old by December 31 of the year of registration in school.

The number of periods in each year of this cycle is 30 per week and 6 per day. The duration of each period is a minimum of 45 minutes in the first module and can be augmented in the second module. This cycle is considered as the preparatory one for the other following cycles. The major objectives of it are to master the language and communication with others; to comprehend the basics of sciences and mathematics; to scientifically understand the social environment; to get attached to the national identity, country, and moral values; to practice sports, artistic, and manual activities; and to stimulate confidence in themselves, autonomy, and cooperative work in school as well as outside of school.

The curriculum in the primary cycle consists of teaching Arabic language (six to seven hours per week, depending on whether students are in the first or second module), French or English language (six to seven hours per week, depending on whether students are in the first or second module), and mathematics (five hours per week in each of the two modules). The remaining of the 30 hours per week are reserved to teach civics, history, and geography (one hour each per week); sciences (two to five hours per week depending on the module and year); arts (three to four hours per week depending on the module and year); physical education (two hours per week); and other activities. Certain schools reserve at least one hour a week for teaching religion, even though religion is not an obligatory subject in the curriculum. The new educational system allows Lebanese students to progress from the primary cycle to the intermediate cycle without having to take any external official examinations as was the case in the past.

According to the new educational system, the intermediate cycle consists of three years and is designed for students aged 12 to 15. However, since independence it was approached in two different directions. On one hand, it has been considered an integral part of secondary education aimed at training or educating the national elite who are gifted, as decree number 7001 of October 1946 defines it. On the other hand, it is considered as an extension of the primary cycle that aims at preparing students to either enter into the technical schools or the active life of work, as delineated by decree number 6999 of the same year (1946).

At the end of this cycle, students take an intermediate certificate examination (brevet certificate ), which is administered by the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport. Public schools require students to pass this exam before they can be admitted to public secondary schools or to the teacher training schools. Private school students can take this exam, but they are required to pass their private school exams or entrance exams before they can be allowed to enroll at the secondary level.

The intermediate cycle curriculum includes teaching Arabic language and literature (six hours per week), foreign language (six hours per week), a second foreign language (two hours per week), sciences (six hours per week), and mathematics (five hours per week). The remaining of an overall 34-hour total is divided among civics, history, and geography (one hour each per week); information technology (two hours per week); arts (two hours per week); and sports or physical education (two hours per week). The number of weekly periods for all the classes in this cycle are 34 total, with a minimum of 50 minutes per period. These periods are divided over five days a week.

Major objectives of this cycle are introducing students to information technology; instructing them a second foreign language; increasing the time allotted for sciences; increasing diverse artistic, manual, and sport activities; familiarizing students with professional activities as well as the new technology and its multiple uses; helping students become civilized citizens; permitting them to discover their individual capacities to pursue their academic careers or integrate into an active life; developing their fundamental competencies to communicate and express themselves in a creative manner; establishing a positive attitude in them toward manual professions; and developing their confidence in themselves as free, cooperative, and responsible individuals.

The intermediate cycle, along with the primary cycle, constitute what may be called a fundamental education. The weekly periods for all the classes of this cycle are 34, with a minimum of 50 minutes for each period.

Secondary Education

The secondary cycle of education is divided into two major fields of study: general education and technical education. The general field consists of three years and is known as the general baccalaureate. Students have to pass a comprehensive official examination in order to be offered that certificate. The first year is considered as common year, offering the majority of the necessary disciplines that help students choose what may suit them in the following classes. In the second year, there are two options (humanities and sciences) available to students. In addition to these two options, there are four other choices starting in the third year (literature and humanities, sociology and economy, general sciences, and life sciences).

The number of weekly periods are 35 for all 3 secondary years and options, with 7 periods a day and a minimum of 50 minutes each. However, in the second and third years where students branch off into different options, the studied materials differ in emphasis according to the option students choose to study. The periods of instruction are divided into three modules for all three secondary years. There is a great emphasis on teaching languages (2 to 6 hours a week depending on three important elements: the module, the school year, and students' option). Also the same is true for all other topics of study such as, mathematics, all types of sciences, sociology, economy, management, civilization, civics, history, geography, physical education, arts, and information technology.

The technical field of education comprises the initial formation and continues to the technical and professional years. It is known by two diplomas: first, the technical baccalaureate, which permits students to practice the profession they studied; second, the professional certificate of a master permitting students to attain the work market. The secondary technical cycle consists of three years, and the brevet certificate is a necessary condition to attain this cycle. There are three domains in this cycle: the services, such as finance, commerce, management, tourism, information, hotels, health; agriculture; and industry.

The first year is common to all choices in the services sector, and diversification starts in the second year. With regard to agriculture and industry, diversification takes place in the first year. The total scholastic periods for the services sector varies between 2,800 and 3,000 periods, which constitute an average of 950 periods per year. Also, the total periods concerning the agriculture or industry varies between 3,000 and 3,300 periods, which is the equivalent of 1,050 periods per year. The periods are distributed throughout 30 effective weeks per year (without counting the holidays). There are 35 periods per week, with a minimum of 50 minutes each.

The periods of instruction in all specialties are divided into four modules. The first module consists of teaching general materials, such as Arabic language, first and second foreign languages, mathematics, sciences, and sociology (40 to 50 percent in the first year and 35 to 40 percent in the second and third years). The second module is a specialty domain and consists of teaching specialty materials as well as sciences that are associated with one's specialty (45 to 50 percent in the first year and 55 to 60 percent in the second and third years). The third module concerns sports and various other activities (10 percent in the first year and only 5 percent in the second and third years). The fourth module is reserved for field studies and practice/hands on experiences (35 to 40 percent in the first year and 40 to 45 percent in the second and third years).

Students who succeed in three modules of this technical cycle are permitted to take the official examinations for the technical or professional baccalaureate certificate. The structures of this new model, especially concerning the superior professional formation, constitute an effective operational approach for continuing the initial development of students. They also consolidate the links between learning and practice in accordance with the needs and characteristics of the work market in Lebanon. The aims of the new curriculum are to prepare students for effective social interaction, academic achievement, and cultural enrichment. The best way to achieve these aims is through the adoption of a thematic, integrated, content-based approach to teaching and learning. The same concepts and skills are taught at various times across the grades but with increasing levels of complexity and sophistication as children get older. Unlike the old curriculum, the new one highlights the role of group work and stresses the need for the creation of an interactive classroom environment.

Many of the objectives and performance tasks included in the new curriculum call for pair and group work in line with the cooperative learning model of classroom interaction. In addition, the new curriculum emphasizes the development of the proper study skills, which helps students to develop into independent learners. In short, the new curriculum moves from a system of education based on rote learning and cramming of information to a system that promotes autonomous learning, thinking skills, and communicative competence.

Higher Education

According to Carla Semaan at the Lebanese Embassy in Washington, DC, there are 13 universities in Lebanon. These universities had a total of 79,141 students during the academic year 1994-1995. Nearly 23 percent were foreign students, compared with approximately 75 percent in 1974-1975 prior to the start of the civil war in the country. Lebanon's universities also had a total of 84,446 students during the academic year 1995-1996 and a total of 87,957 students during the academic year 1996-1997. The principle universities in Lebanon consist of the Lebanese University, with five branches (approximately 40,000 enrollments). It is the only one operated by the government; the others are owned and run by private entities. It had the highest enrollment in the academic year 1996-1997 (40,000 students); followed by Beirut Arab University (BAU), which is sponsored by the Egyptian University of Alexandria (14,000 students); Saint Joseph University, which is founded and run by French Jesuits (6,145 students); American University of Beirut (5,500 students); Lebanese American University (4,432 students); and Kaslik University (3,100 students). The other universities have less than 3,000 students enrolled. The Lebanese University (LBU), University Saint Joseph (USJ), and American University of Beirut (AUB) have medical schools.

The Lebanese University is a public (governmentrun) institution, with five campuses around the country (East and West Beirut campuses, Tripoli campus, Sidon campus, and Zahle campus). It was founded in 1951 with a major aim to train teachers for secondary schools. Since that time, its program has been expanded to include training for other professions as well. Instruction is relatively free, for students pay only nominal fees for registration, and those enrolled for teacher training purposes receive stipends. It was the first university to introduce an education major to Lebanon. It began with 68 students and, in 1959, it was given the license by the Lebanese government to teach all of its schools of study. Due to the civil war in the country, in 1976 the Lebanese University opened branches in Mount Lebanon (East Beirut), South Lebanon, North Lebanon, and the Bekaa, which was located in West Beirut. This was done to assure that students' educations would not be postponed. The Lebanese University has a nondiscriminatory policy due to religion, race, sex, nationality, or physical handicaps.

The Lebanese University offers academic programs in agriculture, communication (advertising and journalism), business administration, education, engineering, fine arts, law, literature and humanities, medicine, management, political science, and social sciences. Graduates can be awarded bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees.

The university follows the French model of higher education in most of its colleges and institutes and the U.S. credit system in a few of them. The grading system is based on a 0-20 or 0-100 scale, with 10 or 60, respectively, being recognized as the passing grade. To be admitted to the Lebanese University, Lebanese students are required to have the baccalaureate degree and pass an entrance exam in many programs, but foreign students are required to have an equivalent official secondary certificate.

The Beirut Arab University (BAU) is a private institution of higher education that was established in 1960. It is financially supported by Alexandria University of Egypt and operates under the auspices of the Moslem Philanthropic and Benevolent Society of Beirut. Accordingly, Alexandria University provides many of BAU's faculty members, controls its academics, and awards degrees to its graduates upon the recommendation of the BAU Council. BAU is a founding member of the Union of Arab Universities established in 1964 and a member of the International Union of Universities. It does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, sex, nationality, or physical handicaps.

BAU's academic programs include architecture, arts, business administration, engineering, law, and life and health sciences. This university grants bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in certain specialties. Arabic is the language of instruction, but English is used in programs like architecture, engineering, and sciences. Admission requirements and the grading system are mostly similar to those of the Lebanese University.

St. Joseph's University (USJ) was founded in 1875 by a group of monks. The Jesuit order administers it and has strong ties with the University of Lyons in France. Seventeen institutions joined together to form St. Joseph's University. Its main branch is in Beirut, with other branches in Tripoli, Saida, and Zahle. Courses of study are given in French and other languages as well. USJ's goal is to train students to enter all work fields, be it locally or abroad, with the power and knowledge for guaranteed success. Its programs include business administration, economics, engineering, humanities, law, medicine, pharmacy, political sciences, and theology. This university grants two-year diplomas, bachelor's, master's, higher diplomas, and doctoral degrees. Its requirements are similar to those of the Lebanese University, with emphasis on the entrance examination and proficiency in French. Its grading system is based on a scale of 0-20. USJ is directed and financed by the Jesuits. The deans and chairs are Jesuit priests. The French government and private French institutions offer grants and subsidize this university. It is a very influential institution in Lebanon.

The American University of Beirut (AUB) was founded by the Evangelical Mission to Syria in 1866 in Beirut, Lebanon. It was named the Syrian Protestant College then, and its present name was adopted in 1920. The purpose of the AUB, as an institution of higher learning, is to share in the education of the youth of the Middle East, in the service of its peoples, and in the advancement of knowledge. It is a residential institution, and its pattern of organization, administration, and standards are similar to the best educational institutions of the United States. The AUB is a secular university, financed by an endowment fund that can be supplemented by grants from the U.S. government as well as from private national and international institutions or individuals. Because of its high tuition rates, only well-to-do families can send their children to pursue their higher learning in it.

This university emphasizes scholarships, which enable students to think for themselves. It stresses high academic standards and high principles of character. In its service to students, the university strives to realize the ideals of its motto: "That they [students] may have life and have it more abundantly." The AUB admits students regardless of race, color, religion, gender, disability, or national origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. To be admitted to this university, students must be competent in English (have received a minimum score of 500 on the entrance exam or a minimum score of 575 on the test of English as a foreign language, known as the TOEFL). The grading system is based on a scale of 0-100, with 60 as a passing grade.

Its academic programs include colleges of arts and sciences, agriculture and food sciences, architecture and engineering, as well as medicine and health sciences. It grants bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. English is the language of instruction, but Arabic is used in several fields of studies also. The academic year starts in September and is divided into three semesters following the time divisions of the U.S. universities (fall, spring, and summer). The AUB is considered one of the most influential institutions of higher education not just in Lebanon, but also in the entire Middle East region.

The Lebanese American University (LAU), once known as Beirut University College, is a multi-campus, career-oriented institution that prepares students for responsible living, fully aware of the rich heritage and multiple needs of their respective communities. LAU, which was founded by the U.S. Presbyterian Church, is an institution that shares the spiritual concerns of its founders. It is an internationally stimulating community responsive to the dynamics of its environment. It aims at serving the educational needs of Lebanon and the Middle East with its three campuses in Beirut, Byblos, and Saida. LAU is at the crossroads of many interacting educational systems. Lebanon's academic freedom is essential to a climate of intellectual growth and the integrating cultures at LAU and other institutions of higher learning. The country's rich, multi-faceted heritage enhances the student body's international character, representing more than 50 nationalities on its campuses. LAU is very similar to the AUB in its grading system, requirements, and programs of studies, with the exception of medicine and engineering colleges. Thus, its major emphasis lies in the arts and humanities.

There are other institutions and universities of higher education in Lebanon such as Notre Dame University, Balamand University, Haigazian University, Antonine University, Beirut Islamic University, Holy Spirit University, Louaizeh St. Mary University, Sagesse UniversityCollege of Law, and the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Lebanon's emphasis on education is evidenced by the existence of three active ministries relating to educational matters. They are the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport; the Ministry of Vocational Education; and the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education. However, the educational system and its administration are still highly centralized in the country despite continuous efforts to give more control to regional and provincial departments. Instead of only one ministry of education controlling everything, now the government has three ministries that control all important aspects with regard to the educational system in the country and the way it is financed. The three ministers are always members of the Council of Ministers and belong to political parties. The General Director of each ministry is directly responsible to the respective minister concerning everything in the ministry. In addition to these general directors, the Lebanese University and the National Conservatory of Music are controlled by the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education; the Center for Educational Research and Development is controlled by the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport.

The Central Administration, which is located in the capital (Beirut), includes the following departments: Primary, Intermediate, Secondary Education, and Examination. In addition to these, there are the following central offices or sub-departments: Private Education, Teacher Preparation, Educational Research, Cultural Affairs and Fine Arts, and the National Library. Besides these departments in the Central Administration, there are regional sub-administrations composed of the following departments: National Education for North Lebanon, National Education for Mount Lebanon, National Education for South Lebanon, and National Education for the Bekaa. Vocational Education is controlled by the Ministry of Vocational Education and contains the following departments: Administration and Execution, Supervision and Examinations, and Technical Affairs. In each ministry, there is a directorate for administrative affairs who coordinates administrative services among the different sections of each ministry through the offices of Auditing, Personnel, Equipments and Common Affairs, and Legal Studies and Statistical Information.

The Central Inspection Administration, which was established and maintained as a separate entity in 1959, inspects and supervises the Lebanese educational system through inspecting all public offices and agencies according to rules and regulations set out by the ministries of education. This administration is directly and closely supervised by the Council of Ministers. Each of the three ministries regulates its institutions' curricula and administers the official external exams after completion of certain educational levels. Because of these functions, some uniformity in academic programs and levels has been accomplished. Each ministry appoints teachers on a competitive basis, except graduates from the teacher training institutes who are automatically hired and assigned to certain positions or locations as needed. Teachers are considered government employees and, thus, get paid salaries by the government through their respective ministries.

Financially, public schools mostly depend on the central government's budget. A very few local groups or international agencies may provide some support in the form of donations for public schools. An average of 16 percent of the government budget is normally devoted for educational purposes.

The bulk of educational research is conducted by the Center for Educational Research and Development. However, the various colleges at the Lebanese University and teacher training institutions constitute major contributors to educational research. Most of the research is in the applied or experimental areas, which has resulted in improving the quality of textbooks and producing an abundance of theses and dissertations.

Nonformal Education

The new educational system, with regard to nonformal education, established a field of professional studies following the warrants of the job market, notably for the students who finished their first educational cycle and wish to acquire an immediate profession. In the centers of professional modular formation, the student receives a professional formation at three stages and in a way that the initial formation is conducted inside of the modules of autonomous learning, which give the student possibilities to pass vertically (that is, from one determined module of learning to a higher one) or horizontally to another profession at the same level inside of the same series of professions.

After passing every module of learning, trainees receive an official work certificate permitting them to practice the profession for which they were trained so that they may have the possibility to pursue their formation further according to the specific module of learning following the Lebanese ladder of adopted qualifications. In every module of formation, trainees receive between 600 to 900 hours of formation (25 percent theoretical and 75 percent practical work). That ladder of information is an echelon of qualifications starting with a novice worker, who knows about 10 percent but knows how to do things about 90 percent, and who can be granted a degree of formation attestation. Second, there is a qualified worker, who knows about 25 percent but knows how to do things about 75 percent, and who can be granted a formation attestation degree like the novice worker. Third, there is a specialist worker, who knows about 40 percent but knows how to do things about 60 percent, and who can be granted a C.P.A. degree. Fourth, there is a technician, who knows 50 percent and also knows how to do things 50 percent, who can be granted a technical or professional baccalaureate degree. Fifth, there is a superior technician, who knows 60 percent and knows how to do things about 40 percent, and who can be granted a technical or professional qualification degree. Sixth, there is the specialist or expert, who knows 70 percent and knows how to do things about 30 percent, and who can be granted a technical license degree.

In terms of the third module of learning, trainees may obtain the C.P.A., which permits them to work at establishments of production, construction, and in the service sector under the title of special workers. They can, if they wish, pursue their formation at the superior formal or nonformal technical level following the proper procedures of the establishment where they have been working and in coordination with the official direction of those who are concerned.

Students who abandon the basic education field or any other field of study can follow available courses in this area of modular learning. These courses are equally open to adults who wish to profit from these programs in order to move to another profession or for promotion purposes in the same professional domain. These programs open very diverse horizons in front of every individual and prepare for the practice of professions needed in the work market. Programs offered by vocational institutions are diverse and vary from one institution to another in terms of courses and training, depending on whether the institution is public or private. These programs include: home economics, secretarial training, needlework, pottery, masonry, and farming.

As to the conditions of admissions into the diverse modules of learning, they are linked to the demands of every specialty and they become precisely regulated when necessary by the Ministry of Technical and Professional Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and through the National Agency for Employment. The General Directorate of Technical and Professional Education is responsible for the concepts and organization of the stages related to all the modules of learning.

Teaching Profession

While there are a small number of private institutions licensed to train teachers for the first two levels of education such as al-Makasid, the British Lebanese Training College, the French École des Lettres, and the French École Libanaise d'Éducatrice, the majority of teacher training institutions are in the public sector where teacher education is conducted at the secondary and university levels. Eligibility to teach at primary and intermediate schools requires training in secondary level institutions, whereas university training is required to teach at secondary schools. Therefore, to teach at primary public schools, teachers should graduate from one of the primary teacher training institutions with a baccalaureate degree in teaching (baccalauréat d'énseignement ).

These teacher training institutions offer three years of academic and professional training for students who enter them and have already the brevet certificate or its equivalent. Student admission to the program requires passing a competency examination in Arabic, English, or French; social studies; math; and sciences, as well as submitting evidence of Lebanese citizenship and good moral character. In addition, students who passed the two first years of the Lebanese baccalaureate are eligible to apply and train for one year at these institutions before they can be allowed to teach in primary schools. The curricula at these institutions have both academic and professional courses. They include natural and social sciences, pedagogy, school administration, and practical teaching. Specialties may include training in fine arts, foreign languages, general academics, physical education, and preschool instruction.

To teach at the intermediate level, teachers must graduate from one of the intermediate teacher training institutions or colleges. Admission of students in these institutions requires passing the three years of secondary school with the Lebanese baccalaureate in hand, passing a competency entrance exam, submitting evidence of Lebanese citizenship as well as good moral character. Subject matter specialties are usually offered in clusters.

Teacher education training for secondary schools can take place at any of the public or private universities in Lebanon. The program of study lasts for four years in any university and leads to a bachelor's degree in education or to a bachelor's degree in a subject area with a teaching diploma.

Lebanese private school teachers have a union with optional membership. Its basic function is to lobby for salary increases and social security benefits. Also, private school owners and directors have an association that represents their interests. Even though the Lebanese government has reconstructed its educational system and started to train teachers to adopt new methods of instruction, still teachers play a mostly traditional and authoritative role in the classroom.

Tuition at public teacher training institutions is free. Trainees receive scholarships that cover their living expenses. After graduation, trainees must teach five years in the public sector or reimburse all the expenses of their education. Research and innovation are emphasized in the process of training all teachers.


Despite the lack of enough public-funded high schools and more than 15 years of civil war in Lebanon, the literacy rate remains one of the highest in the Middle East region. In a country that has been shattered and almost destroyed by a prolonged civil war, extended family solidarity has become crucial in supporting individual family members and providing funds for the education of the young. Whether working in the country or traveling abroad for better work conditions and income, those extended family members kept sending money to help those who stayed behind. Strong family ties still exist in Lebanon and they are very important to many. Dealing with the peace of the 1990s has been as tough and draining for many Lebanese as had been surviving the fighting of the 1970s and 1980s. Restoring order to thousands of Lebanon's institutions, especially its schools, has been an uphill battle. Because of a high inflation rate, the devaluation of the Lebanese pound, an electric power shortage, a decreased water supply and increased pollution, the destruction of regular phone lines and increasing reliance on cellular phones, divisions between the rich and poor have widened and health as well as educational standards have become mainly restricted to those who can afford them.

The new Lebanese educational system is promising. It integrates, in the new structure, the diversity and equilibrium among the fields of study so that every student can see the multiple horizons open in the domains of general or professional education, as well as at the nonformal level. This fact assures the same chances of learning for all (independent of their age and sociocultural status) the passage from one profession to another without any major problems, the development of a permanent recycling system in the heart of a same profession, and the increase of possibilities for promotion.

It is complementary and balanced because it consolidates the relations among the diverse cycles and domains of learning from the maternal level all the way to the threshold of the university level. It also coordinates with the needs of the Lebanese and Arab labor markets in all of the domains (economic, development, and public services). In addition, it collaborates financially and materially among the establishments of production and scholastic institutions. Furthermore, it assures more diversification starting at the secondary cycle of instruction, which would contribute to the creation of an equilibrium between general and higher education as well as with the labor market.

The new system is flexible, which gives the students a possibility to change their field of study at a minimum cost. It also takes into account the problems of failure, getting behind, and dropping out of school along with reducing their demoralizing effect on the students as well as on their parents. In addition, this new system provides harmony with the majority of the educational systems, which are applied in the developed nations. Furthermore, it introduces progressive methods leading to pedagogical and educational innovation that can be found in a world of perpetual transformation. It also promotes obligatory education till the age of 15, which does not contradict the code of labor for employing children.

This system has become increasingly less centralized because of the large number of the private schools, which have more freedom to teach what they want as long as they do not contradict the laws of the land and can meet the minimum requirements set by the three ministries of education. These private schools have mostly foreign connections and, thus, have exposed the Lebanese to foreign languages and various foreign studies and cultures.

In addition, the Lebanese educational system, even before its reconstruction, has produced one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East (75 to 88 percent). Enrollment rates at various levels have been considered the highest in the region (with the exception of the civil war period).

As in many other countries, the new Lebanese educational system has its own problems, which could sometimes lead to negative outcomes on the students and the Lebanese community as well. The Lebanese educational system is modeled after the English-American and French systems and, hence, does not adequately prepare students to face the various intellectual, psychological, and societal challenges of the Lebanese society, which is at a crossroads of cultures. Foreign schools affiliated with different cultures have participated in dividing the loyalties of the Lebanese youth and helped to fuel the civil war in the country.

There is an emphasis on religion and languages. Religion runs very deep in Lebanon, as is the case in most of the Middle East nations. This emphasis has led to animosities instead of understanding and appreciating religious diversity. By the same token, emphasis on foreign languages led Lebanese to mix their Arabic with French or English while speaking. This has created major gaps between the rich and poor (the more educated and less educated) as well as between people who are pro-eastern cultures and those who are prowestern cultures.

The classroom remains mostly teacher-oriented, with little attention devoted to individual students to learn at their own pace and according to their own needs. However, there is a great hope that the implementation of the new system is going to slowly change the methods of instruction toward a more cooperative style of learning through in-class problem solving and structured learning activities.

Official public examinations are difficult and cause much stress to students and their families. These exams rely heavily on memorization rather than comprehension of concepts and can lead to a high rate of failure or dropouts. This fact has led many school teachers to waste much time explaining and teaching the content of previous examinations so students may learn how to answer them correctly.

The poorly equipped public schools, along with lack of adequate facilities for many of them coupled with high tuition fees in private schools have been problematic throughout the years. Therefore, public schools are crowded, have high teacher-student ratios, and admission to private schools has become virtually impossible for many students (especially not so well-to-do families). The end result is that wealthy students have a better chance of passing official examinations and pursuing their education than poor students.

The Lebanese economy has been suffering for a long period of time because of the civil war and the currency devaluation. Thus, it cannot absorb a large number of graduates who face unemployment and seek it outside the country. There are few vocational and technical schools in Lebanon, especially in the public sector, and most of these are concentrated in the capital and a very small number of big cities. This has made it difficult for poor students to continue their education beyond the mandatory period.

Although education is mandatory until ages 12 through 15, it is not implemented in all areas of the country because the government lacks adequate facilities and the proper equipment for them in some of those areas. Also, considerable effort, money, and time have been invested after the civil war to modernize education in Lebanon. The new educational system, which is currently implemented, has been the fruit of reconstructing the old educational system and making it comparable to the most modern systems around the world.

In addition to the new educational system, the Lebanese government may take some initial steps to help the less fortunate people by implementing compulsory education in rural regions and by using new technology to providing distance learning to remote areas in the nation, which would alleviate the burden of living in big cities or leaving the rural areas for the sake of studying. Furthermore, Lebanon needs to build more adequate facilities and equip them with the most up-to-date technology for purposes of teaching. The government needs to also build and open more public vocational and technical schools so that the country could admit more students who do not want to pursue their higher education.

Moreover, Lebanese curricula should be unified, become less theoretical and more practical so as to address the needs of the students. More importantly, evaluation of students' work should not be based solely on external official examinations at the end of each level, but on intermittent internal evaluations throughout each year so as to lessen the stress on teachers, students, and their parents and to minimize the number of failures and dropouts.

Finally, students should be the center of attention rather than teachers in the classroom. Therefore, more emphasis should be placed on cooperative and distance learning as well as other new methods of instruction rather than lecturing and memorizing contents for the purpose of passing official tests.


Aljarida Alrasmiya of the Republic of Lebanon. Laws and Decrees Concerning the Pre-University Educational System. Beirut: Sader Publications, 1997.

Embassy of Lebanon. Profile of Lebanon: Statistical Data, 2001.

Fatfat, Mounzer. R. Understanding the Migration of Professionals from Lebanon to the U.S. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1999.

Habib, Camille H. "Social Pluralism, Political Confessionalism, and Cultural Development in the Second Republic." Middle East Quarterly, 2 (7), 1995.

Hashem, M. E. Identifying the Most important Factors Influencing the Phenomenon of At-Risk Student in the Lebanese Culture: A Comparative Study. Paper presented at the National Communication Association (NCA) Annual Convention. Seattle, Washington, 2000.

. "The Power of Wastah in Lebanese Speech." In Our Voices: Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication, 3rd ed. Alberto Gonzalez et al., eds. 2000: 150-154.

Massialas, Byron. G., and Samir Jarrar A. Education in the Arab World. New York: Praeger, 1983.

Mesce, Deborah. "American Campuses in Beirut Strive to Restore Quality 8 Years After the End of Civil War, Some U.S. Academics Return." Chronicle of Higher Education, 29 January 1999.

Pipes, Daniel, and Ziad Abdelnour. "Ending Syria's Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role: Report of the Lebanon Study Group." The Middle East Forum, May 2000.

République Libanaise, Ministere de l'Éducation Nationale de la Jeunesse et des Sports, & Centre National de Recherche et de Developpement Pedagogique. La Restructuration du Systeme Educatif Libanais (dossier II). Washington, DC: Embassy of Lebanon, 1995.

U.S. Department of State. Lebanon Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 1998.

Mahboub E. Hashem

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Republic of Lebanon

Al-Jumhuriyah al-Lubnaniyah



Situated in the Middle East, Lebanon is a small country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon has a narrow coastal plain along the Mediterranean Sea, which is 225 kilometers (139.8 miles) long and is bordered by Syria on the north and east and by Israel on the south. A small country, Lebanon's total area is only 10,400 square kilometers (4,014 square miles), roughly two-thirds the size of the state of Connecticut in the United States. Beirut, the capital, is located in the center and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. Other major cities include Tripoli in the north and Sidon in the south.


The population of Lebanon is estimated at 3,578,037, according to July 2000 estimates, an increase of 578,037 from 1980. In 2000, Lebanon's birth rate stood at 20.26 per 1,000, while the death rate was reported at 6.42 per 1,000. With a projected growth rate of 1.2 percent between 2000 and 2015, the population is expected to reach 6 million by the year 2029.

Lebanon's population is highly divided along both religious and confessional lines (the presence of groups of different faiths within the same religion). Muslims in 2001 were believed to have accounted for 60 percent of the population. Christians form the second largest group in the country. Lebanon is also home to some 200,000 Palestinian refugees, mostly Sunni Muslims, many of whom have lived in refugee camps since arriving in the country in 1948. For political reasons, no official census has been conducted since 1932. Muslim and Christian factions in Lebanon were engaged in a devastating civil war that began in 1975 and ended in 1990, when stability was restored to the country.

As in many developing countries, a majority of Lebanese (around 90 percent) live in urban areas. The population is unevenly distributed, with the vast majority of the population concentrated in the coastal cities of Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre, while other parts of the country, namely the Bekáa Valley, remain sparsely populated. The uneven population distribution has given rise to regional disparities. The coastal cities continue to receive much government attention, while the rest of the country has remained largely neglected. The population of urban areas has grown significantly since the 1960s, mostly because the cities have received more government funding and attention. In 2000, the capital Beirut and its suburbs was home to 1.3 million people. The northern city of Tripoli is the second largest in the country, with an estimated population of 450,000.

Lebanon's population is generally young, with 50.7 percent below the age 24, and is one of the most highly educated in the region. The adult literacy rate in Lebanon is estimated at 90 percent. Primary education in Lebanon is mandatory, and private education is prevalent. Lebanon's university system is also highly developed. The health-care system is one of the most developed in the region. As a result, Lebanon also has one of the highest average life expectancies in the region, at 68.5 years. Infant mortality in Lebanon is also low by regional standards.


Lebanon's relatively small economy is based mainly on services, which have traditionally accounted for approximately 68 percent of the GDP. The sector is mainly comprised of a thriving regional banking market, tourism, and trade. Most economic activity is concentrated in the coastal cities. Other economic activity includes quarrying for the cement industry and small-scale farming, largely concentrated in the coastal plain and the Bekáa Valley in the south. Agriculture has traditionally accounted for only 13 percent of the GDP, which explains why the country is heavily dependent on the import of foodstuffs. The industrial sector is also relatively small, mostly because of the small domestic market. Jewelry, cement, processed food, and beverages are among the country's chief exports.

Lebanon entered the 20th century as a French protectorate heavily dependent on trade, especially along the coastal cities of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Tripoli. Most of Lebanon's present-day problems can be traced to 1920, when the French incorporated Beirut and other coastal towns, the Bekáa Valley, and certain other districts in Mount Lebanon to form Greater Lebanon. The establishment of Greater Lebanon meant that the Maronites, concentrated largely in the Mount Lebanon area, were no longer the majority, and the population became equally divided between Muslims and Christians. In 1926, the French drew up a constitution that provided a formula for power-sharing among the various religious groups, making it mandatory for the president of the republic to be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the chamber a Shi'ite Muslim. This formula ensured that the pro-France Maronites exercised more control than any other religious group, allowing France to continue to control Lebanon through its close relations with the Maronites long after its full withdrawal from Lebanon in 1946.

The 1926 constitution, coupled with an unwritten power-sharing agreement known as the National Pact drawn up between Christians and Muslims in 1943, allowed Lebanon to maintain parliamentary democracy until the mid-1970s. However, rising tensions between Christians and Muslims, who by the mid-1970s became a majority and began demanding more political power, led to the outbreak of the civil war in 1975. In the immediate years before the outbreak of the war, Maronite Christians, feeling threatened by Muslim demands, resorted to violence to crush Lebanese Muslim opposition. They also wanted to oust the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which had a strong presence in Lebanon in the 1970s and was seen as an ally of the Muslims. The civil war intensified and broadened during the 1980s, with Palestinian refugees and their allies launching attacks into Israel from Lebanon, and the taking of Western hostages in Beirut by various Arab guerilla groups (guerilla groups practice non-conventional warfare in an effort to wear down the resistance of their adversaries). Syria was also involved, stepping in to fill the vacuum left by the weak Lebanese government and army. In an effort to stop the attacks and destroy the PLO, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in 1982, and it required major efforts by the United States and other powers to stop the fightingat least temporarilyand escort the PLO out of the country. But Lebanon's war dragged on and did not end until 1990, with the adoption of the U.S./Arab-brokered Ta'if accords, which essentially recognized Syria's continued involvement in Lebanon's affairs and slightly adjusted the power-sharing formula among the various religious groups designed by the French in 1926.

Until 1975, Lebanon's economy was characterized by minimal state intervention in private enterprise. In those years, the country managed to transform itself into a major banking center by avoiding restrictions on foreign exchange or capital movement and enforcing strict bank secrecy regulations. Lebanon's economic infrastructure , however, was severely damaged by the 1975-90 civil war. International organizations estimated the cost of physical destruction to be between US$25 billion and US$30 billion. Since the end of the civil war, the country has been engaged in an economic reconstruction process and has made significant progress toward the restoration of democracy. As a result, inflation fell from more than 100 percent to 5 percent between 1992 and 1998, and foreign exchange reserves jumped to more than US$6 billion from US$1.4 billion in the same period. The Lebanese pound has been relatively stable. Much of the physical and financial infrastructure damaged during the war has been rebuilt.

Lebanon's economic policy after the war has been largely shaped by Rafik al-Hariri, who served as prime minister between 1991 and 1998 and returned to power in August 2000. Hariri's economic policies have focused on reconstructing the country's war-damaged economy through the infusion of huge capital into the construction sector. Much of this capital has come from Lebanese expatriates and Arab investors from the Persian Gulf region. As a result, the period between 1991 and mid-1996 witnessed high levels of growth. This growth, however, slowed in 1996, mainly as investor confidence began to weaken in the wake of Israel's 2-week bombardment of the country in April 1996. The resulting economic slowdown has affected the country since, and attempts by the government to curb inflation by raising interest rates has caused the economy to slow even further. The Lebanese economy has been in recession since 1999, and the country's real GDP has experienced a decline of 0.5 percent, mainly the result of the drop in private demand, consumption, and investment. The government's huge spending bill has fueled a large budget deficit , which was equivalent to 53.5 percent of expenditure in the first 7 months of the year 2000.

Lebanon in 2001 continues to be primarily a free-market economy and is by far the most liberal among Arab economies. Since the end of the civil war in 1991, the country has had a fairly stable multiparty system and is strongly supported by the United States and the European Union. The main challenge facing the economy is the large budget deficit, which is fueled by a substantial government debt, mostly spent on reconstruction and a large government bureaucracy. A hike in public spending has thus far failed to stimulate economic growth. Further, the government's privatization program, launched in the first half of 2000, has thus far not been successful; in May 2000, the Lebanese parliament adopted a new law that sets the general framework for privatization. However, privatizing state-owned companies is going very slowly and hinders true economic reform.

Corruption is widespread in Lebanon. Officially, several anti-corruption regulations are in place, but they are rarely enforced. According to the U.S. State Department, corruption is more pervasive in the public sector than in private businesses, and is especially evident in procurement and public works contracts. A 1998 study by the World Bank estimated that at least US$45 million is spent annually in bribes to brokers and government officials. Between 1998 and mid-2000, the cabinet of Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss made it a priority to fight corruption, which it mostly blamed on Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri's economic reconstruction drive while he was in office. The government's initial efforts to enforce anti-corruption measures led to the dismissal of hundreds of public servants, but the general verdict has been that corruption continues to be pervasive in the country.


The country's political system in 2001 is derived from the 1989 Ta'if Accords, which put an end to the 16-year civil war. Lebanon is now a parliamentary republic with a president and a unicameral (single chamber) National Assembly. The president of the republic is elected by the parliament for a 6-year term. The speaker of parliament is elected by parliament every 4 years, which is also the length of time between parliamentary elections. The president appoints the prime minister, who forms the Cabinet of Ministers. Under the new constitution drafted after the conclusion of the Ta'if Accords, Muslims now have an overall numerical advantage in the National Assembly, since representation is based along sectarian lines. Further, the power of the president has been somewhat diminished, although by custom, the president of the republic must still be Maronite Christian, while the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the parliament a Shi'ite Muslim.

The major political parties are arranged, although not explicitly, along religious lines. The Hizballah and Nabih Berri's Amal movement represents the Shi'ite Muslim community, while the Sunni Muslims are divided between pro-government parties and marginal leftist parties. The Druze, a community concentrated around Mount Lebanon, are represented by Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party. The Christian-Maronite community controlled the country before the war. The Ta'if Accords attempted to correct this bias but left the Christian community feeling relatively powerless. This impression was especially intensified when the accords resulted in the expulsion of a generation of Maronite leaders, including former president Amin Gemayyel and former Christian warlords Michel Aoun and Samir Jaja.

Parliamentary elections were held in August 1992 for the first time in 20 years. Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri's coalition won the majority of seats in those elections and in subsequent parliamentary elections in 1996 and 1998. Turnout by Christians was very low, and there were charges of irregularities. Municipal elections were held for the first time in 35 years in May and June 1998.

As of 2001, at least 35,000 Syrian troops still remain in northern, central, and eastern Lebanon, where they have been stationed since October 1990. Syria's deployment into Lebanon was legitimized by the Arab League a few years after the civil war started and then reaffirmed in the Ta'if Accords. Only with Syrian military power could Maronite-Christian leader Gen. Michel Aoun, who rejected the Ta'if Accords and maintained that he was the legitimate head of the government, be expelled from the country in 1991 and Lebanon reunited under one government. While Syria remains the dominant player in Lebanon, it began to withdraw its troops from central Beirut in 2000 and abandoned many checkpoints. It is gradually ceding more control to Lebanese security forces, which now control most strategic points in Beirut as well as the main highway to the airport, but Syria still exercises de facto control over Lebanese politics. Syria continues to cast a shadow on Lebanese politics because of the Syrian-Israeli conflict in the area, which makes Lebanon strategically important to Syria.

Since the end of the civil war, Lebanon has been engaged in a massive reconstruction process to repair the damage inflicted during the war. In 1993, Hariri launched "Horizon 2000," an US$18 billion program to rebuild Lebanon and transform the country into a regional center of finance and services. Under this national reconstruction plan, a huge investment has been made in various sectors focused on rebuilding the country. Large infrastructure projects, including a coastal highway, a new airport, and a highway to the Syrian border are being built as part of "Horizon 2000." The program also seeks to rehabilitate Beirut's city center and the telecommunications network. The financing for the project has come from a growing budget deficit and foreign investors, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The expansion was coupled with a fiscal policy that aimed to raise interest rates in order to curb inflation. Hariri's reconstruction program was hampered by increased government spending in the 1990s, mainly as a result of the government's hiring policies, which sought to expand the civil service by hiring employees of various religious backgrounds as a means to ease friction between the various religious groups. As a result, the Lebanese govern-ment's debt, considered one of the highest in the region, soared to 140 percent of the GDP by the end of 2000.

The budget deficit has also proven difficult to tackle for the administration of Salim al-Hoss, which came to power following Hariri's resignation in 1998. The Hoss government focused on restructuring the public-sector debt and other fiscal reforms. For instance, the government improved tax collection methods, increased income and corporate taxes, and increased customs duties . Customs duties and property transaction fees are the two most important sources of revenue for the government. Custom duties account for 40 percent of the government's revenue, mostly from Beirut port. The government's efforts were seen as half-hearted and ineffective, primarily due to its weakness in the face of opposition from the legislature and its inability to institute a value-added tax (VAT). Perceptions that the Hoss government had not followed through in its efforts to reform the economy led to the resignation of the prime minister in August 2000.

With the return of Prime Minister Hariri to office in August 2000, the government once more focused on resuming reconstruction efforts by securing foreign aid, mainly from European and Arab countries. In October 2000, the Kuwaiti government agreed to deposit US$100 million at the Lebanese Central Bank to help stabilize the Lebanese pound. Hariri is also expected to proceed with economic reforms, especially the privatization of state-owned enterprises. In mid-January 2001, the government announced plans to introduce a sales tax on consumer products rather than the VAT, previously planned by the government of Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss. The government, however, has no plans to slash the budget deficit and has argued that it can be maintained for years without affecting economic growth.


Lebanon enjoys an extensive, though aging, infrastructure that was severely damaged during the civil war. The country is served by a network of over 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) of primary and secondary roads, 6,200 kilometers (3,853 miles) of which are paved. Since 1991, the government has given much attention to rebuilding the infrastructure. The road system, however, especially within Beirut and in remote areas, remains in poor condition. With growing numbers of licensed automobiles in the 1990s, the road system, especially in Beirut, has become congested. The country's railway system is mostly unusable, due largely to damage sustained during the civil war.

Lebanon has 9 airports, 2 of which have unpaved runways. Beirut International Airport, the country's major

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Lebanon 107 906 352 1.4 157 N/A 39.2 7.02 200
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Egypt 40 324 122 N/A 1 0.5 9.1 0.28 200
Israel 290 520 318 184.0 359 24.9 217.2 187.41 800
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

airport, handles 2 million passengers a year. In fact, 35 airlines service Beirut and bring in most of the country's tourists. Lebanon has 12 ports, the most notable of which are Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, and Tripoli. The ports of Beirut and Tripoli are currently being rehabilitated and modernized.

Electrical power is supplied to Lebanon by the state-owned Electricite du Liban (EDL), which has the capacity to produce 1,500 megawatts (mw) of power. Plans are underway to expand power production to 2,700 mw by 2006. Total annual electricity production came to 9.7 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 1998, with the majority produced from fossil fuels. Power production falls short of actual demand, however, and the 220-volt power system is subject to repeated shortages and blackouts. Furthermore, several Israeli raids on Lebanon's power stations since 1996 have led to severe power cuts.

Telecommunications services, damaged during the civil war, have been largely restored. The government has been expanding the public telephone network to reach some 698,000 customers. Cellular telephone service is widely available with some 750,000 subscribers. In 1999, the country had 19 Internet service providers.


Lebanon's economic sectors reflect the small size of the economy, which places limits on the availability of natural resources, population, and domestic markets. Before the civil war, the services sector was by far the largest contributor to the economy and employed the largest proportion of the labor force . The industrial sector was the second largest contributor to the economy, while agriculture accounted for a smaller proportion of national income.

As of 2001, Lebanon's economy continues to rely heavily on the services sector. Servicesmainly banking, tourism and tradeaccount for 68 percent of the GDP. Lebanon's agricultural and manufacturing base continue to be small and has yet to regain its pre-war competitiveness. Economic slowdowns in Lebanon began in 1996, with a drop in construction activity, and the economy was in recession during the 2000-01 period. The greatest obstacles to growth in all of Lebanon's economic sectors are their vulnerability to regional instability and international trade opportunity.

Recognizing these obstacles, Lebanon has moved to form a series of trade alliances, including a customs union concluded with Syria in 2000, an Arab free trade agreement, and a Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement with the European Union. Lebanon is also planning to join the World Trade Organization. Lebanon's domestic political environment has improved since the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000. Although some elements of instability still remain (mainly the occasional exchanges of gunfire between guerrillas belonging to the Shi'ite Hizballah group and Israeli soldiers), the Israeli withdrawal is expected to enhance international confidence in Lebanon's investment potential. The tourism sector stands to benefit most. Since 1997, the government has attempted to tackle seriously the budget deficit, raising custom duties by 2 percent in 1998 and introducing an entertainment tax on restaurant, bar, and hotel bills. However, spending continues to be high, and the budget deficit in 2000 was equivalent to 53.5 percent of expenditures.


Lebanon's agricultural sector is underdeveloped and has yet to realize its potential. The sector's development is hindered by the large number of small un-irrigated land holdings and the lack of modern equipment and efficient production techniques. The sector also suffers from a lack of funding and inaccessibility to loans. In 1999, the government allocated only US$11 million, or 0.4 percent of the state budget, to agriculture.

There are 207,060 hectares of arable land in Lebanon, 60,047 hectares of which are irrigated. Most agricultural activity is concentrated in the High Bekáa Valley and the coastal plains, which combined account for more than two-thirds of the cultivated land. Bekáa Valley crops mostly consist of vegetables and some cereals. Fruits, such as bananas, melons, and apples, are cultivated in the coastal plains. The production of certain crops, such as tobacco, is subsidized by the government. During the civil war, Lebanon was a major producer and exporter of heroin and hashish. In 1992pressured by the United States, Interpol, and the United Nationsthe Lebanese government officially banned poppy and cannabis cultivation, a ban effectively enforced by the Syrian and Lebanese armies.

Agricultural production is a moderate contributor to Lebanon's economy, traditionally accounting for 13 percent of the GDP and employing approximately 13 percent of the labor force. Most of Lebanon's agricultural products are consumed locally and a small percentage is exported to the Gulf region, primarily to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.



The manufacturing sector is an important contributor to the economy, accounting for 17 percent of the GDP in 1998 and employing 15 percent of the labor force. In 1999, the sector accounted for 40 percent of exports. Total employment in the manufacturing sector in 1998 stood at 180,000 people.

Historically, and unlike neighboring Arab countries, Lebanon has never gone through a state-led industrial growth phase, and the governments have generally adopted an open policy that has encouraged free competition in the sector without government interference. Lebanon's industrial base is by all means modest, mostly comprised of family-based small firms. Most finished and semi-finished goods are imported. Much of Lebanon's local manufacturing consists of producing goods for local consumptionmainly food, furniture, and clothing manufacturing. The most important industrial activity is focused on food, beverages, and chemical products, which receive the highest level of investment. Manufacturing activity is concentrated in the population centers of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, where an estimated 60 percent of the firms are located. Some 19 percent of manufacturing firms are located in the north.

Since the end of the civil war in 1991, the manufacturing sector has had to struggle to regain its pre-war competitiveness and invest heavily in new equipment. During the war, several factories were forced to close as a result of the armed hostilities, declining consumer spending, and lack of funding. Major barriers facing the sector in 2001 are rising customs duties and political instability, 2 difficulties which have prevented many multinational companies from establishing subsidiaries in Lebanon. The U.S. State Department stated that "the sector's outlook remains bleak, as high operating costs, low productivity, obsolete equipment and limited access to medium and long term credit impede the performance of the sector."


With no commercially exploitable mineral deposits, Lebanon has no significant mining base. Quarrying for marble, sand, and limestone for cement production, however, has accelerated in recent years. The output is mostly consumed locally for construction, and only a tiny fraction is now being exported.



Tourism was once a very important contributor to Lebanon's economy, accounting for almost 20 percent of the GDP in the 2 decades before the start of the civil war. Since the end of the war, the sector has managed to revive somewhat, but tourism has yet to return to its pre-war levels. Tourism in 1999 accounted for 9 percent of the GDP. In 2001, the tourism sector was one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, with the number of tourists visiting Lebanon between 1996 and 2000 growing at the rate of 14 percent annually. Lebanon's rich archeological and cultural heritage, coupled with a mild climate and diverse terrain, has been a major attraction to tourists.

Successive governments have invested heavily in the sector, and there has been substantial investment in building luxury hotels and upscale restaurants, in response to the return of tourists (mainly Gulf Arabs) to Lebanon, especially in summer. It is estimated that there are 12,000 hotel beds, with 90 percent located in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Some 860 additional hotel rooms will be built in 2001 and another 1,200 will be added in 2002. Despite continued political instability, growth in the tourism sector is expected to pick up in the coming years, especially after the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000.


The most important sector of Lebanon's service industry is the financial services industry. The sector lost most of its importance during the civil war with the flight of the majority of foreign firms, but there has been a concerted effort to renew the sector since 1991. As a result, the sector grew rapidly in the 1990s, mostly the result of investment in government debt and reconstruction and reported double-digit growth throughout the 1990s.

Financial services continue to undergo expansion and consolidation, especially of small family-owned banks. Several international banks now have offices in Beirut. In an effort to present Lebanon as an international financial center, the government announced in 1995 a series of financial laws aimed at preventing money laundering . In particular, one of the passed laws gives international investigators access to the accounts of Lebanese banks.

Banking, by far the most profitable sector, employs some 15,000 people. Before the civil war, Lebanon was the banking center of the Middle East, owing to its liberal banking regime, one of the most liberal in the Arab world. Several Arab and foreign banks pulled out of Lebanon during the war, but by 2001 several of these banks had returned. However, most of them have only small branches in Beirut, and the pre-war interest in Lebanon's banking sector is yet to return.

There are some 67 active commercial banks in the country, in addition to small family-owned enterprises. Most of these banks are up to international standards, largely due to concerted government efforts to tighten regulations and increase capital adequacy requirements.

The Beirut Stock Exchange, closed in 1975 with the outbreak of the civil war, re-opened in 1995. Trading, which began in January 1996, has been thin, and the number of listed companies has been relatively small. There is a total of 12 listed companies, including 4 financial institutions, 1 car retailer, and a supermarket chain. Weekly trading in 2000 rarely exceeded US$2 million.


The construction sector grew at a very fast pace between 1991 and 1996, contributing to an average of 6.5 percent growth in the GDP. The sector's growth was in response to the influx of huge sums of private investments, mostly from Lebanese expatriates and Gulf Arabs who were devoted to the reconstruction of residential and commercial buildings destroyed during the war. These investments were coupled with large-scale government projects to rebuild the country's infrastructure, including the US$400 million project to rebuild Beirut International Airport and the complete renovation of downtown Beirut by the quasi-government company, Solidere.

Since 1996, the sector's contribution to GDP has dropped, as private investments and government spending began to dwindle. The slowdown was partly brought about by the oversupply in some areas of the construction market, especially in housing. International and domestic confidence in Lebanon's stability also dropped significantly in the aftermath of Israel's military operations in Lebanon in the summer of 1996.


Lacking many large commercial centers other than Beirut and its suburbs, Lebanon has a poorly-developed retail sector. While Beirut is home to a variety of retail stores, including fast food franchises such as McDonald's, Burger King, and Starbuck's, the majority of towns in the interior of the country have small family-owned shops, farmers' markets, and temporary roadside stands.


Lebanon has a booming advertising industry that ranks second in the region in terms of size and profitability after Dubai. Some 150 national and international advertising agencies are based in Lebanon, employing some 8,000 people. In the absence of reliable statistics, the sector's revenue is believed to be in the range of US$150 million annually. The largely unregulated sector is dominated by the country's 4 television stations and the print media, which account for 55 percent and 34 percent of the sector's revenue, respectively.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Lebanon
Exports Imports
1975 1.233 2.048
1980 .955 3.650
1985 .530 2.203
1990 .494 2.525
1995 .825 7.278
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.


With few natural resources, over the past several decades, Lebanon has relied heavily on imports. The value of imports in 1999 was US$5.7 billion, while exports totaled just US$866 million. Lebanon imports the majority of its goods from Europemostly Italy (12 percent), France (10 percent), and Germany (9 percent)followed by the United States (9 percent). On the other hand, the majority of Lebanon's exports are sent to neighboring Arab Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia (12 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (10 percent), which are Lebanon's largest trade partners. Major exports are food, vegetables and fruits, followed by chemical products and jewelry.

Imports of foreign goods have usually amounted to 40-65 percent of the GDP. Lebanon's imports consist of fuel, electrical goods, and vehicles. Expenditures on imports rose dramatically in the post-civil war period, largely due to the need to import capital goods and high consumer spending on food, cars, and luxury items. The trend has reversed since 1999 due to the economic slowdown but is expected to rise again as the economy recovers.

Although the value of exports increased from US$544 million in 1994 to US$866 million in 1999, the substantial trade imbalance that Lebanon has endured over the years has meant that the country will continue to run a trade deficit which forces it to borrow heavily to pay for its consumption.


The value of the Lebanese pound has slowly improved on the world market since 1992, thanks to a wise monitory policy that has sought to restore its value. As a result, the value of the pound to the dollar has improved from 1,800 Lebanese pounds for every U.S. dollar at the end of 1992 to 1,508 pounds to 1 U.S. dollar at the end of 1999, and has remained at roughly this value in the years since. The U.S. dollar was widely used throughout the civil war, and although its use has decreased since

Exchange rates: Lebanon
Lebanese pounds per US$1
Jan 2001 1,507.5
2000 1,507.5
1999 1,507.8
1998 1,516.1
1997 1,539.5
1996 1,571.4
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

1991, more than 60 percent of transactions in 2001 are still conducted using the U.S. dollar, which is available at many Lebanese banks. The nation's central bank, the Central Bank of Lebanon, is highly respected by the international banking community and has done a good job of maintaining the value of the currency and keeping low inflation.


Wealth and income are unevenly distributed in Lebanon. Despite the absence of reliable statistics, income disparity in Lebanon is believed to have increased in the last 10 years since the end of the civil war. According to a recent study, the income of the upper and middle classes has risen since 1991, but most Lebanese have not seen a significant appreciation in their income. A minority of Lebanese have in fact seen their incomes drop below the poverty line. Farmers in the Bekáa Valley, for example, have been affected by the ban on the cultivation of hashish, which during the civil war constituted a major source of income for the region.

Income disparity also is manifested along regional lines. According to the UN Economic and Social Council for Western Asia (ESCWA), the average GDP per capita in 1999 reached US$5,148 (the CIA World Fact-book places the figure at US$4500). However, average GDP per capita in areas such as the Bekáa Valley is only US$620 per year. Almost one-third of the population live

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Lebanon N/A N/A N/A 1,721 2,999
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Israel 10,620 11,412 12,093 13,566 15,978
Egypt 516 731 890 971 1,146
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Lebanon 31 13 10 7 9 7 22
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Egypt 44 9 7 3 17 3 17
Israel 23 6 11 2 6 8 44
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

below the poverty line, with one-quarter of families subsisting on less than US$620 per year. Unemployment in 1997 was estimated to have reached 18 percent.

As a result of declining economic conditions, public-sector strikes have become commonplace. To prevent mass protest against its economic and social policies and to preclude opposition forces from exploiting discontent, the government uses the army to guard public security. As a result, the army has been privileged and strengthened, becoming assertive in its demands for salaries and promotions.

The government has generally adopted a hands off policy toward social inequality and has not attempted to redress differences between the poor and the rich. Lebanon's dependence on imports, especially food and fuel, has made it increasingly more difficult for the poor to spend a high amount of their relatively small incomes on the necessities of life. As a result, many Lebanese have opted to seek job opportunities in neighboring Arab countries, especially in the Gulf region.


Reliable official data about Lebanon's labor force are unavailable, but it is estimated that the country's labor force in 1999 was 1.3 million. A 1996 Ministry of Social Affairs survey estimated that there were some 944,282 foreign workers in the country as well. Foreign workers are mostly unskilled laborers from Syria, Asia, India, and Africa, and they are employed mostly in construction, agriculture, industry, and households. Unemployment in the country is high, with official estimates in 1999 set at 10 percent and unofficial estimates reaching as high as 25 percent; the CIA World Factbook reported 1999 unemployment of 18 percent.

Trade unions are allowed in Lebanon and are supported by the government with membership restricted to Lebanese workers. Trade unions operate under the umbrella of the Federation of Labor Unions, which negotiates cost of living adjustments and other social benefits on behalf of the workers. The 48-hour work week is the standard.

Although labor laws protecting the right of workers have been in place since 1964, regulations are rarely enforced, and working conditions in Lebanon are far from ideal. Labor actions, strikes, slow downs, and protests frequently disturb work life, and wages remain relatively low. The largest proportion of the labor force, some 15,000 people, is employed by the financial sector, working in banks and other financial institutions, followed by the manufacturing industry, which employs 15 percent of the labor force.


1516. Lebanon becomes part of the Ottoman Empire.

1920. French General Gouraud establishes Greater Lebanon with its present boundaries and with Beirut as its capital.

1926. First Lebanese constitution is promulgated.

1932. The first and only complete census is taken in Lebanon. Charles Dabbas, a Greek Orthodox, is elected the first president of Lebanon.

1936. Emile Iddi elected president.

1941. Lebanon gains independence from the French.

1943. General elections take place; Bishara al Khuri is elected president.

1945. Lebanon becomes a member of the Arab League and the United Nations (UN). French troops completely withdraw from the country, with the signing of the Franco-Lebanese Treaty.

1975. Civil war breaks out.

1978. The Riyadh Conference formally ends the Lebanese Civil War; Syria intervenes militarily in Lebanon.

1981. Fighting resumes.

1982. Israel invades Lebanon.

1989. Ta'if Accords officially ends civil war and sets power-sharing formula between Lebanon's religious groups.

1992. Prime Minister Hariri launches "Horizon 2000" reconstruction program.

1997. Entertainment tax is introduced. Custom duties are raised.

1998. Prime Minister Hariri resigns. Salim al-Hoss takes office.

2000. Israel withdraws its troops from South Lebanon. Prime Minister Hariri returns to office.


After nearly 2 decades of civil conflict, Lebanon entered the 21tst century on a positive note. Most of the country's infrastructure has been restored, and despite occasional violence, Lebanon's political system has been fairly stable. The 1989 Ta'if Accords, which brought an end to the civil war and set the terms for power-sharing among the various religious groups, has thus far been successful in creating a functional government in Beirut that is increasingly spreading its control over the rest of the country. Parliamentary elections have been held periodically since 1992. After almost 2 decades of occupation, Israel withdrew its military forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000.

Despite these positive developments, the government is faced with serious challenges, mainly lowering the budget deficit by focusing on tax reform and modernization, expenditure rationalizing, and reducing of the burden of servicing its debt. The government is also under pressure from the IMF to proceed with plans to adopt a privatization program of state-owned enterprises. Having lost its status as a regional banking and trade center and lacking a solid agricultural and industrial base, Lebanon must develop alternative plans to define its new role in the Middle East region. So far, beyond rhetorical official statements, no steps have been taken in that direction.


Lebanon has no territories or colonies.


Banque du Liban: Central Bank of Lebanon. <http://www.bdl>. Accessed July 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Lebanon. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Khalaf, Samir. Lebanon's Predicament. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.

"Lebanon: Economy" and "Lebanon: History." CNN Countrywatch. <>. Accessed June 2001.

Republic of Lebanon, Ministry of Economy and Trade. <>. Accessed July 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Lebanon. <>. Accessed February 2001.

Reem Nuseibeh




Lebanese pound. One Lebanese pound (known locally as the lira) equals 100 piasters. There are notes of 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 10,000 and 50,000 liras. There are no coins.


Foodstuffs, tobacco, textiles, chemicals, metal and metal products, electrical equipment and products, jewelry, paper and paper products.


Machinery and transport equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, consumer goods, textiles, metals, fuels, agricultural products.


US$16.2 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$866 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$5.7 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Lebanese Republic
Region (Map name): Middle East
Population: 3,627,774
Language(s): Arabic, French, English, Armenian
Literacy rate: 86.4%
Area: 10,400 sq km
GDP: 16,488 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 13
Total Circulation: 220,000
Circulation per 1,000: 96
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 2
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 60.2 (US$ millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 24.80
Number of Television Stations: 15
Number of Television Sets: 1,180,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 325.3
Number of Cable Subscribers: 25,370
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 5.9
Number of Radio Stations: 46
Number of Radio Receivers: 2,850,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 785.6
Number of Individuals with Computers: 175,000
Computers per 1,000: 48.2
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 300,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 82.7

Background & General Characteristics

Lebanon (Lubnan ) or the Lebanese Republic (Al Jumhuriyah al Lubnaniyah ) can be thought of as, "a land in-between." This definition well describes its geographical positioning, political situation, religious compilation, and communication and press orientation. Noting increasing connections with international bodies and an increasing respect for international norms, it is expected that these factors will increase the stability of the country's politics and infrastructure, facilitating development through all levels of society and engendering a better place to live for its citizens.

Country Geography

Geographically, Lebanon can be found bordering the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also bordered by Israel (south) and Syria (north and west). Lebanon has felt intense political pressures from these two neighbors throughout its history. The outside political pressure has been intensified because many Lebanese identify themselves far more readily by their local, tribal/ethnic, and religious affiliations than by their national association.

Lebanon (population between 3.6 and 4.3 million) is normally divided into four roughly parallel topographical zones that run the length of the country. One region is the Mediterranean coastal plain located primarily in the north, which is home to the major cities of Lebanon including Tripoli, Jubail (Byblos), Beirut, Saida (Sidon), and Sur (Tyre). The mountain ranges of Lebanon receive significant snowfall during the year and provide a beautiful panorama for surrounding areas. The presence of snow seems to have been deemed important enough to have played an integral role in the very naming of the country; Lebanon means white (laban ) in Aramaic. And as well as having the rarity of snow, Lebanon has one other rarity in the Middle Eastno desert.

Country History

Lebanon has been active as an entity since the ancient world; however, for much of its history, it has been a war zone for would be conquerors, usurpers, and overlords. It was the homeland for the Phoenicians/Canaanites (c.2700-450 B.C.) and also served as host to the Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans, and others. Yet, despite the desires of its nemeses, Lebanon remained free of total subjugation from would-be conquerors and provided perennial refuge to persecuted racial and religious minorities from all over the region due to its mountainous, rugged terrain. Thus, early on in its history from the influx of both conquerors and persecuted Lebanon gained a type of cosmopolitanism, becoming composed of multiple ethnic backgrounds and religious orientations.

In the ninth and tenth centuries, besides settled Sunni populations along the coasts, Mitwali (Shi'a) began to establish communities in the mountain area just off Lebanon's coast. Then in the eleventh century, the Druze also established enclaves as well. The years 1291 through 1516 saw the Mamluka warrior caste made up of Turks, Mongols, and Circassiansperiod of rule. While the Mamluk's ruled over Egypt, Syria, and other Arabian holy areas, the Lebanese, through persistent political maneuvering, continued to maintain autonomous functioning. The Maronites of the province fared especially well during this period due to their contacts with Italy and the Roman Curia. The Druze and Mitwali, who had not established the same contacts, were not privy to the same favoritism. This created discontent against the Maronites. So, in the thirteenth century, taking advantage of Mamluk preoccupation with the Mongol threat from Persia, the Druze and Shi'a revolted against the Maronites creating havoc in central Lebanon.

The year 1516 began the rule of the Ottomans. It was in this year that they conquered Syria from the Mamluks and incorporated Lebanon into their empire. Yet, even with the Ottomans, Lebanon was allowed to function relatively autonomously. During a weak point in Ottoman rule, Fakir ad-Din II (1586-1635) of the Druze House of Ma'an attempted complete independence from the Ottomans and succeeded for a number of years, but it did not last and he was eventually executed in 1635 in Constantinople. After this, the House of Ma'an was succeeded by the House of Shihab. This dynasty enjoyed a two-hundred-year rule, ending with the exile of Bashir II in 1840.

The Ottomans then set up a system of Kaimakams one Druze and one Maroniteto rule under the Turkish pashas of Beirut and Sidon. This began the reemergence of Maronites to power, which led to years of sectarian violence, which the Ottomans did little to curtail. The Ottomans lack of interest in Lebanon turned out to be the Europeans gain.

The European powers, sensing an opportunity, began to move beyond the traditional trading activities that they had engaged in for centuries with Lebanon and began to establish political/military alliances with particular ethnic factions. The French formed with the Maronite Christians, the Russians with the Orthodox Christians, and the British with the Druze and the Sunnis. Thus, after 1860, the Europeans were able to externally control some of the Lebanese.

European influence proved strong enough to set up an international committee consisting of Austria, France, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, and the Ottomans to facilitate the restoration of order inside Mount Lebanon. Violence was curtailed through the policies arising from this conference, and the period of 1860-1914 became known as a renaissance for Lebanese culture. Roads and railroads were built, Arab literature and learning blossomed, and overall the culture simply flourished. Beirut transformed from a Sunni town into a coastal cosmopolitan commercial center. Increasing prosperity was experienced by many and, very importantly, this period led to exceptionally strong feelings of Lebanese identity and Lebanese leadership for the Arab nationalist movement among the people of Mount Lebanon.

After World War I the League of Nations mandated the five provinces of the Ottoman Empire to Francethis mandated area today makes up modern Lebanon. This newly formed area, bequeathed to France in 1920, was called "Grand Liban." At its outset the territory was evenly divided between Christian and Muslim populations. However, due to French ties with Maronite Christians, the tables of favoritism flipped once again and the Maronites became the new ruling power of the area. The Druze and Shi'ites detested this turn-of-events. To combat opposition and consolidate their authority, the Maronites established associations with the Sunnis and other factions of reasonably placid orientation. Though there were periodic outbursts of violence over French rule and Maronite governing up to the beginning of World War II, these proved inconsequential due to the large showingof French military that remained stationed in the area. Yet once again, despite overarching rule by an outside power, Lebanon remained an autonomously governed area, only subject to veto on its ruling decisions.

On May 26, 1926, French Lebanon became the Republic of Lebanon (Al Jumhuriyah al Lubnaniyah ). The initial constitution of the Republic proved an unsuccessful document by which to govern, but through all of its numerous revisions, up to current times, it has remained the principle document organizing the Lebanese government. Importantly, in November 1941, France formally declared Lebanon a sovereign independent state, although France continued to maintain a strong military presence in the state. Then, in 1943 due to constitutional reform measures being taken in Lebanon, the French arrested the President of Lebanon. This nefarious act united the various factions of Lebanese politicians, as well as British and Americans who took the side of the Lebanese. France was forced to acquiesce to Lebanese demands for complete independence and all of its troops completely withdrew on December 31, 1946 (Evacuation Day).

Lebanon has continued to see hard times since its independence. However, up until 1975 a modicum of solid national consistency was maintained in the country. Its position on the Mediterranean coast with a number of seaports has made it an important economic player in the area, which has also helped to increase outside interest in its stability and helped to attract foreign aid for development.

Lebanon's long and devastating civil war (1975-1991) consisted of numerous factions vying for often weakly defined and definitely elusive goals. The factions included: The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Shi'ites (Amal and Hezbollah/Hizbullah), Maronite, Phalangist, Lebanese National Movement (LNM), and Lebanese Forces (LF). In addition to Lebanon's internal fighting, concurrent Israeli and Syrian incursions in the country further exacerbated the destructive and chaotic nature of the time. Its people and infrastructure bore heavy losses. Lebanon is recovering from these losses, but it is doing so slowly. The future is open and looks promising but could hold either promise or peril for this country.

State of the Press

With all of its historical difficulties, Lebanon has managed to produce a highly literate, educated, and critical populace. As reported by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 2002 using a 1997 estimate, an average of 86.4 percent of the Lebanese population is considered literate (males, 90.8 percent; females, 82.2 percent). A significant factor driving this educational process is the presence of relatively diverse and sophisticated press and media systems that facilitate continuing education of the Lebanese populace above and beyond traditional schooling. As well, Lebanon has had a positive relationship with the press due to its ethnically diverse population baseeach segment requiring papers focused to its particular interests. This niche marketing of papers has allowed for a vibrant dialogue to occur in the Lebanese political and social scene, enough so that one historian has designated Lebanon as the "true cradle of Arab journalism." With multiple opinions available to them, the Lebanese have typically become savvy enough readers/listeners/viewers to gravitate back and forth between papers/channels depending upon which political or social slant they want to read/hear/view. Often, they can tune into a random station generating a broadcast with news content and, within a small portion of time, can suggest the political orientation of the message, some of the history driving the issue being discussed, and some of the key figures related to the topic.

Lebanese traditions with the press and the media date back more than 150 years. The first newspaper, Hadikat Al-Akhbar (The Garden of News ), was published in Lebanon in 1858 through the direction of Khalil El-Khouri and was followed two years later in 1960 by three other papers: Nafeer Souria (The Call of Syria ) published by Butrus Al-Bustani in Lebanon, Aj-Jawa'ib (The Traveling News) published in Istanbul, and Barid Paris (Paris Mail) published in France. The time of the Ottoman Empire was an era of significant persecution for journalists in Lebanon. Some of the journalists ended up fleeing to Egypt and founding some of the country's major papers like Al-Ahram and Al-Musawar. After the Ottomans, the French enacted even harsher press laws. Yet, the Lebanese press was resilient and, by 1929, there were 271 papers with a majority calling for national independence from external oppressive regimes.

At the end of World War II, Lebanon finally gained full independence but, fascinatingly, the first indigenous ruling regime enacted even harsher press laws than the French. However, again the press refused to bow to pressure and, by 1952, a popular revolt was fomented against the government that led to relaxed press laws. In 1962 laws were enacted that guaranteed freedom of the press in Lebanon. Civil war was the next trial that the Lebanese press had to endure during the period 1975-1991. Yet, emerging from the bloody chaos of the war in 1991, the Lebanese press had 105 licensed political publications comprised of 53 dailies, 48 weeklies, and 4 monthly magazines. As well, more than 300 non-political publications were being published. The Lebanese press is tenacious and stalwart, and it continually grows.

In the 2000s, An-Naha r or Al-Nahar and Al-Diyar are arguably the most influential daily papers in terms of raw circulation numbers. Al-Nahar is more of a prestigious publication, and Al-Diyar is more populist in orientation. Al-Safir and Al-Anwar are second runner-ups. For all of these papers, the readership ratio is roughly two to one favoring men over women; this is, however, reversed for one paper, L'Orient le Jour, where more women than men compose its reader base.


Almost every publication from Lebanon is published in the capital city of Beirut. Lebanese news is published in four languages: Arabic, French, Armenian, and English. The leading Arabic dailies include: An-Nahar (The Day ), Al-Safir (The AmbassadorAl-Diyar or Ad-Diyar(The Homeland ), Al-AmalThe HopeLisan ul-Hal (The Organ ), Sada LubnanEcho of LebanonAl-Hayat (The Life ), and Al-AnwarThe Lights ).

An-Nahar has a circulation of 45,000. It was founded in 1933 as an independent, moderate right-of-center paper, attempting to speak on behalf of the Greek Orthodox community and appeal to a broader audience as well. It has been noted as being a watchdog for public rights and an excellent source for reporting diverse and divergent views in a professional manner. Al-Safir, founded in 1974, has a circulation of 50,000. As a political paper, it represents Muslim interests with strong news coverage and background articles, strongly promotes Arab nationalism, and is pro-Syrian. Al-Diyar or Ad-Diyar is unlike most of the competition because it comes out on Sundays. The paper is strong in classified advertising and is widely read, but its sensationalist style has often lacked professional ethics. Al-Amal, founded in 1939, and with a circulation of 35,000, is the voice of the Phalangist party. Lisan ul-Hal has a circulation of 33,000 and was founded in 1877; Sada Lubnan has a circulation of 25,000 and was founded in 1951; and Al-Hayat has a circulation of 31,034 and was founded in 1946 as an independent. Al-Anwar, founded in 1959, has a circulation of 25,000. It is published by the famous publishing house of Dar al-Sayyad owned by the Freiha family; the paper typically attempts to appeal to wide readership and is noted for stressing production quality and professional journalism.

Other Arabic papers include: Al-Harar, Al-Bairaq (The Banner), Bairut (Beirut), Ach-Chaab (The People), Ach-Charq or Al-Sharq (The East), Ach-Chams (The Sun), Ad-Dunya (The World), Al-Hakika (The Truth), Al-Jarida (The [News] Paper), Al-Jumhuriya (The Republic), Journal Al-Haddis, Al-Khatib (The Speaker), Al-Kifah al-Arabi (The Arab Struggle), Al-Liwa (The Standard), Al-Mustuqbal, An-Nass (The People), An-Nida (The Appeal), Nida' al-Watan (The Call of the Home-land), An-Nidal (The Struggle), Raqib al-Ahwal (The Observer), Rayah (Banner), Ar-Ruwwad, Sawt al-Uruba (The Voice of Europe), Telegraf-Bairut, Al-Yaum (Today), and Az-Zamane or Al-Zaman.

With Lebanese Arabs making up 95 percent of the population and with a Muslim religious orientation of various persuasions (including Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusaryi) making up roughly 70 percent of the faith perspective, it should be apparent why there is a plethora of Arabic newspapers compared to a small minority of other dailies. The other dailies include three Armenian, two French, and one English. The Armenian papers are: Ararat, Aztag, and Zartonk. The French papers are L'Orient-Le Jour (from the publishers of Al-Nahar and noted for well-researched background information, intelligent feature stories, and thoughtful editorials) and Le Soir. Since a significant number of the country's elite speak French, the French-language newspapers have a higher degree of influence than one might expect. The English paper is the Daily Star.

Weeklies and other Periodicals

Along with a rich and robust plate of dailies, there is also a burgeoning repertoire of Lebanese weeklies. The weeklies include: Al-Alam al-Lubnani (The Lebanese World ), AchabakaThe Net ), Al-Ahad (SundayAl-AkhbarThe NewsAl-Anwar Supplement , DabbourAd-DyarAl-Hadaf (The Target), Al-Hawadess (EventsAl-HiwarDialogue ), Al-Hurriya (Freedom ), Al-MoharrirThe LiberatorAl-Ousbou' al-Arabi (Arab Week ), Sabih al-KhairGood Morning ), and Samar.

Al-Alam al-Lubnani, founded in 1964, has a circulation of 45,000; it is published in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish, and contains matters of politics, literature, and social economy. Achabaka, founded in 1956, has a circulation of 108,000, while Al-Ahad, a political paper, has a circulation of 32,000. Al-Akhbar, the voice of the Lebanese Communist Party, has a circulation of 21,000. The Al-Anwar Supplement, a cultural-social paper, has a circulation of 90,000, while the Ad-Dyar, a political paper, has a circulation of 46,000. Al-Hadaf, founded in 1969, is the voice for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Al-Hawadess has a circulation of 120,000; Al-Hurriya has a circulation of 30,000 and is the voice of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine). Al-Ousbou'al-Arabi, a political and social paper, has a circulation of 87,000 throughout the Arab world, while Samar is published for the teenage audience.

Some selected examples of periodicals other than weeklies include: Alam at-Tijarat (Business World ),Arab Construction World, Arab Defense JournalArab Economist , Al-Intilak (Outbreak ), Fairuz LebanonAl Computer, Communications, and Electronics , Fann at-Tasswir, Al-Mukhtar (Reader's Digest ), Rijal al-Amal (The Businessman ), Tabibok (Your Doctor ), and At-Tarik (The Road ).

Economic Framework

As noted above, at least 86.4 percent of the Lebanese population older than fifteen years of age is estimated as literate; thus, illiteracy is not an impediment to newspaper readership. Due to a large proportion of urbanization (83.7 percent), distribution is also not a typical impediment. However, price and time can be significant obstacles. The most respected newspapers can cost up to US$1.32. In a country where the average GDP is US$5,000 and unemployment is at 18 percent, costs can tend to add up quickly. Placed comparatively next to the monthly costs of television subscription, the expense of newsprint becomes more obvious. On a monthly basis, purchasing a newspaper 6 days a week costs about US$29 a month while linking up to satellite television costs between US$10-12. And then even beyond the concern of cost is the concern of time. Those who have been able to find employment are more concerned with getting there and getting home than with picking up a paper. Jamil Mroue of the Daily Star has suggested that to combat this dilemma of cost and time, home delivery of papers should be increased, upping readership (which currently hovers at only 50 percent of the population according to the British Broadcasting Service) and at the same time lowering cost by increasing distribution.

Of course, a significant aspect creating the economic woes facing Lebanon was the civil war that raged from the 1970s until the early 1990s, which devastated much of the infrastructure of Beirut and also took its toll through civilian death. The war also caused what has come to be known as "brain-drain" or the mass migration of educated intelligentsia to other countries offering better rates of pay and social benefits. Specifically with the press/media, numbers of journalists were killed during the fighting and numerous offices/studios/printing plants were bombed, looted, and/or otherwise sabotaged.

During the beginning years of the war, when fighting was extremely intense, many publications were forced to shut down. However, even in the darkest hours about 24 newspapers and other periodicals were still being regularly published. Also, as soon as the fighting lessened, some of the other publications almost immediately resumed schedule. Papers were able to so easily resume because so many of them were privately owned by either individual proprietors or by publishing houses. All of the typical bureaucracy of government was avoided in getting everything back up and running. Still due to lack of external investment in the country, internal unemployment, and the need to cope with immigrant worker populations, physical and economic reconstruction has been slow overall.

While it has been a positive experience for Lebanese press to be privatized, due to the niche marketing of much of the industry to specific ethnic-religious enclaves there has also been a narrow margin of profit. As it has been said, while the Lebanese press may be healthy, they certainly are not wealthy. This would normally be something that could be dealt with, but there are extenuating circumstances in the case of Lebanon. There is a legal requirement that any aspiring publisher must be licensed by purchasing an existing title. The government is refusing to issue any new licenses. Thus, there has become a huge market in newspaper publishing licenses, exorbitantly driving up the price to amounts that make it virtually impossible for anyone but a publishing house to undertake starting a new publicationespecially since the profit margin is small. For instance, it could easily cost in the realm of US$300,000-400,000 to acquire the license for a weekly. (The price to acquire a daily could easily double that amount.) This creates an economic hurdle brought about by a government decision that is inhibiting press freedom in Lebanon.

As well, due to the small margin of realized profit available to newspapers, many of them are open to bribery or "subsidies with strings attached" from foreign sources. It comes down to being willing to slant the news in someone's favor in order to stay in business. And it is not only corporations or "rogue" nations that have been implicated in this practiceRussian and American sources have been named as well. The same can be said for advertising. Again, because of small margins of profit, newspapers actively seek out advertising dollars. However, it is typically not local merchants buying ad space. The advertising dollars seem to come from outside foreign corporations who often have more than simply a product to sell.

As it currently stands, there are about 23 publishing houses operating in Lebanon producing a significant amount of the print that is sold in the country. One of the larger and more well-known houses is Dar Assayad Group (SAL and International). Dar Assayad, owned by the Freiha family, publishes Al-Anwar; Assayad; Achabaka; Arab Defense Journal; Fairuz Lebanon; Al-Idair; Al Computer, Communications, and Electronics; and Al-Fares. There are also numerous private owners of publications who have held the licenses to such publications for many years, but it has become far less plausible for such private procurement of publishing licenses to continue occurring as the situation stands.

Press Laws

The major laws concerning press and media are the 1962 Press Law and the Audiovisual Media Law (Law 382/94) passed by the parliament in October 1994 and finally applied on September 18, 1996. The 1962 Press Law, which has significant similarities with many other Arab states' press laws, states that nothing my be published that endangers national security, national unity, or state frontiers, or that insults high-ranking Lebanese officials or a foreign head of state. More positive portions of the law, such as Article Nine, state that journalism is "the free profession of publishing news publications." It defines a journalist as anyone whose main profession and income are from journalistic aspects. The 1962 law also set the standard for Lebanese journalists as being at least 21 years of age, having a baccalaureate degree, and having apprenticed for at least four years in journalism. The 1962 Press Law also organized journalists into two syndicates: the Lebanese Press Syndicate (owners) and the Lebanese Press Writers (reporters) Syndicate. As well, a Higher Press Council was created, along with other committees, to consider other issues pertinent to journalists including devising a retirement plan.

Before and during the civil war of 1975-1991, the 1962 Press Law was rarely enforced, and this was taken advantage of by the press. Upon emerging from the conflict, the government has attempted to become more stringent. In 1994 the government attempted to enforce penalties of detention and fines upon various press establishments but met with significant opposition and gave way under pressure. However, fines and other forms of sanctions remain a significant and ever present threat to press freedom.

Press freedom and media freedom issues often run closely parallel courses. Early in January 1992, the government proposed that any television station wishing to continue its broadcasting not include any "information" programming as that was the purview of the government. The media immediately assailed the government, and the proposal was withdrawn a few days later. Then the government proposed the Audiovisual Media Law of 1994, which did get enacted. It divided television and radio stations into categories related to whether or not they were licensed for broadcasting news and/or political coverage or only entertainment or general concern content. Fascinatingly, this law abolished Lebanon's state broadcasting monopoly. Thus, Lebanon became the first Arab State to authorize private radio and television stations to operate within its borders. However, even though this seems to be a monumental achievement, the downside to this equation is that many of the small operators of illegal stations were closed and influential politicians and corporate conglomerates were the ones who received the bulk of the private licenses. The initial idea with the Audiovisual Media Law was to offer a one-year provisional permit to license applicants and then, if all requirements were met, to bestow a 16-year license. In actuality, licenses were typically immediately granted or denied.

No individual or family is allowed to own more than 10 percent in a television company. Television stations themselves are required to broadcast to the entire country for at least 4,000 hours per year with at least 40 percent of the programming being locally produced. Nothing is allowed that is in the least bit favorable to the establishment of relations with "the Zionist entity." The Audiovisual Media Law is supposedly based upon a premise of seeking to promote balanced news coverage; thus, in any given program there is supposed to be an equal airing of political perspectives ideally providing a balanced orientation. The reality of the situation is of course far from the ideal. In order to monitor and assess whether or not the law is being followed the National Council for Audio-visual Media has been created (CNA). A portion of the controversial aspect of the council's task comes from a portion of the mandate that they have been given. In Arabic a part of their task has been specified as riqaba, which can be translated as either censorship or monitoring/supervision. It has been suggested that since prohibitions related to content are dealt with in the Lebanese Penal Code, the CAN's task is more closely related to the second understanding of riqaba.


The Ministry of Information always maintains the "right" or at least the ability to control and censor press and media materials. Even though the press got foreign publication censorship abolished in 1967 and persuaded the Ministry of Information to withdraw censors from television stations in 1970, many changes and even the establishment of laws are seemingly no guarantee that they will be followed. The establishment of the CNA is a case in pointsuch an organization can one day be a promoter of accuracy in media and another day become its very antithesis.

In fact, on August 8, 2001, the CNA issued a document to the Council of Ministers relating to coverage of events. On August 9, Minister of Information Ghazi Aridi suggested an ominous warning to media saying that he would utilize the law to end "mistakes by media outlets, which threaten state security." Correspondingly, the An Nahar was charged with defaming the army, and lawsuits were brought against the author of the article, Raphi Madoyan, as well Joseph Nasr, the Editor-in-Chief of An Nahar. On August 16, journalist Antione Bassil, and on August 19, journalist Habib Younis, were arrested without warrants and interrogated without lawyers present. On April 8, 2002, journalist Saada Allao had to face the press court of Lebanon for writing articles in November 2001 that were critical of the judicial handling of a case concerning the disappearance of a little girl. Allao had quoted the little girl's mother relating how nothing had been done since she filed a complaint years earlier and had been told by the courts that the documents had been lost. For this article, Allao was on trial and facing three years of imprisonment or a fine of 20 million Lebanese pounds or about 13,500 euros. These are but a small example of how censorship continues to be utilized in Lebanon. As well, it can easily be imagined how self-censorship is practiced by journalists due to concerns for their own and their family's physical and psychological safety.

The problem remains that a country with a ruling on the books that deems it illegal to legitimately criticize the state or emissaries of the state, whether or not such criticism can lead to national instability or interstate instability, essentially retains the "right" for itself to arbitrarily prosecute journalists. In instances such as these, it is the state that defines what constitutes criticism and what the punishment should be given, which is antithetical to freedom of the press.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Foreign media are typically welcome in Lebanon, but there are continuing instances of censorship and intimidation being propagated by the government. Other than case examples already presented, on August 9, 2001, Yehia Houjairi, cameraman of the Kuwaiti state television channel was arrested outside the courts of law for filming a demonstration against a recent raid on anti-Syrian circles called the CPL (Free Patriotic Movement). The chairman of the photographers union intervened on his behalf, and he was subsequently released. On the same day, Hussein el Moulla was assaulted by a plain-clothes intelligence officer in front of the law courts while photographing the same demonstrations and then was also arrested. On November 3, 2001, Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brik was not allowed to board a plane to fly to an anti-globalization summit he had been invited to attend in Beirut. The employee told him, "Your security cannot be guaranteed."

The foreign press is welcome in Lebanon. However, it remains a significant concern that, even if somewhat limited, seemingly random acts of not only censorship, but violent censorship continue to occur.

News Agencies

The Lebanese domestic news agency is the National News Agency (NNA). It can be accessed on the Internet at It remains state-owned. There is also a single press association, the Lebanese Press Syndicate or Lebanese Press Order. It was founded in 1911 and has 18 members. It is available on the Internet at

Currently, there are around 16 foreign bureaus in Lebanon, all of them essentially in Beirut. The bureaus include: Agence France-Presse (AFP), Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA [Italy]), Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst (ADN [Germany]), Associated Press (AP [USA]), Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Kyodo Tsushin (Japan), Middle East News Agency (MENA [Egypt]), Reuters (United Kingdom), Rossiiskoye Informatsionnoye Agentstvo Novosti (RIA Novosti [Russia]), United Press International (UPI [USA]), Xinhua (New China) News Agency (People's Republic of China), BTA (Bulgaria), Iraqi News Agency (INA [Iraq]), Jamahiriya News Agency (JANA [Libya]), Prensa Latina (Cuba), and Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Broadcast Media


Before the licensing requirement brought about by the Audiovisual Media Law in 1994, a multitude of stations dotted the electronic landscape. This has been curtailed. There are now seven television stations that can legally broadcast news informationthe seventh just gained licensing in 2001. Télé-Liban began in 1959 but really came into its own in late 1977 as a merger between La Compagnie Libanaise de Télévision (CLT) and Télé-Orient and their subsidiaries of Advision and Télé-Management; in 2002 it faces significant financial hurdles and has suffered neglect in the hands of the government. The Lebanese Broadcasting Company International (LBCI), founded in 1985 by Christian businessmen, is the most universally watched in all regions. National Broadcasting Network (NBN) had a license initially granted before the station even existed; the major single stockholder is speaker of the Lebanese House, Nabih Berri. Murr TV (MTV), founded in 1992, and Future Television or Future TV (FTV), Al-Manar (Light-house) Television, and NTV are the remaining stations.

Another television station in operation that is not licensed to broadcast news is Télé-Lumiere, an educationally-based station owned by the Catholic Church.

Satellite television is accessible from Arabsat, Eutelsat, Intelsat, Polsat, as well as others. LBC-Sat, Future TV, Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC), Syrian TV, CNN, BBC, French TV5, French Arte, and French La Cinquieme are popular channels. Showtime and Orbit packages are available. Euronews and Al-Jazeera are available on Arabsat C-band.

Television broadcasting is said to be able to reach more than 97 percent of the Lebanese adult audience. All told, there are around 15 total stations (with five repeaters) broadcasting to 1.18 million sets.


Following the example of television, only a small number of radio stations have been allowed to broadcast news: Voice of Lebanon, Voice of the People, Radio Lebanese Liberty, Radio Lebanon (government owned), Voice of Tomorrow, and Voice of Light.

As well, local broadcasting is disallowed, and licenses are only provided for stations that can cover the entire country with their programming. The reasoning for this is to attempt to cause people to look beyond their local confines to the greater national area in order to engender feelings of national unity. A few small stations are avoiding closure, including a station broadcasting the Holy Quran, Sawt al-Mahabba, and Voice of the South.

Radio broadcasting reaches 85 percent of the Lebanese adult audience. However, while relatively ubiquitous in nature, it is a medium that is still trying to shake off images of wartime use for sending flash bulletins. If radio is utilized, it tends to be less for news than for music. Of those broadcasting news, the favorites seem to be Voice of Lebanon (Sawt Libnan ) and Radio One (105.5 FM), which relays news neutrally interspersed with music.

Currently there are around 20 AM, 22 FM, and 4 shortwave stations in Lebanon broadcasting to around 2.85 million radios.


Lebanon's government has established its own site on the Internet. As well, there are a numerous other sites that are available originating from Lebanon. The country code and as of 2000, there were 22 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country and 227,500 Internet users according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Education & TRAINING

Journalists can gain their necessary baccalaureate education and further graduate education in the country from the Lebanese University, the American University of Beirut, or another acceptable institution.


The strength and weakness of Lebanon lies in its diversity. The people of Lebanon's commitment to locality has kept them from ever being entirely subjugated, but it has also kept them from ever being completely united. Hopefully, the Lebanese have had their fill of war. Connections are being established and reestablished. Buildings and lives are being built and rebuilt. The fact that Lebanon has always been relatively open to media and opinions, and the fact that media and opinions are more readily available today than ever before, is suggestive of great potential for the people and the country of Lebanon. They only have to take advantage of the opportunities.


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Clint B. Thomas Baldwin

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Republic of Lebanon

Major City:

Other Cities:
Tripoli, Tyre, Sidon


The Republic of LEBANON is a country that is struggling to revive following years of warfare. From 1975-1990, the country was nearly torn apart by fighting between Christian and Muslim militias. Also, intervention and occupation by Syrian and Israeli troops in Lebanon exacerbates political tensions within the country. Lebanon faces many years of reconstruction and political unrest. There is hope that eventually all foreign troops will be withdrawn and LebaneseChristian and Muslim alikewill learn to peacefully coexist.



Beirut, with a population of 1,878,000 (2002 est.), is Lebanon's capital city. Throughout its history, Beirut's position along the Mediterranean Sea has made it an important port and the largest population center. The city experiences short, rainy winters and hot, humid summers.

Traditionally, Beirut has been a vibrant, lively city. The city served for many years as one of the most important commercial and financial cities in the Middle East. Many international businesses established their Middle Eastern headquarters in Beirut. Several flourishing industries, among them food processing and textiles, were concentrated in the city. Beirut's nightlife and beautiful beaches earned the city the nickname "Paris of the Middle East." Tourists from the West and Middle East flocked to the city. All of this changed with the onset of civil war in 1975. Beirut was divided into two sections. Christians occupied East Beirut while West Beirut was predominantly Muslim. Severe fighting between Christian and Muslim militias, terrorist bombings by both parties, and heavy shelling during the 1980s reduced much of the city to rubble.

With an end to the civil war in October 1990, Beirut has begun the long process of recovery. In December 1990, Beirut was reunited after 15 years of division. Also, by May 1992, many Christian and Muslim militias in Beirut had disarmed and were disbanded. Many Lebanese who fled when war broke out are slowly returning to Beirut. The removal of rubble and the demolition of destroyed buildings continues throughout the city. The reconstruction of Beirut began in 1992.

Prior to the outbreak of civil war, Beirut was the educational center of Lebanon. The city is home to Lebanon's major universities, including American University in Beirut and Beirut Arab University. Both schools were able to remain open despite the civil war.

Beirut is one of Lebanon's transportation centers. International flights enter Lebanon through Beirut International Airport. The airport was closed intermittently during the 1980s, but has since reopened. Highways connect Beirut with the northern city of Tripoli, the southern cities of Sidon and Tyre, and with the Syrian border. Before 1975, Lebanon's port was an important transit point for goods bound for Damascus, Syria and Amman, Jordan. Lebanon's port was a major battleground during the civil war and suffered tremendous damage. Some repairs have been made, although the port is not operating at full capacity.


Located 40 miles (65 kilometers) north-northeast of Beirut, TRIPOLI is Lebanon's second largest city and a major port. The city was founded around 700 B.C. by the Phoenicians and was occupied at various periods in history by the Seleucids, Romans, Muslims, Ottoman Turks, Egyptians, British, and French. Tripoli was controlled by Syrian troops during the 1980s and was the site of severe fighting in 1983 between Palestinian and Syrian forces. The Palestinians, who had established their headquarters in Tripoli in 1982, were forced to flee. The city is home to industries which produce textiles and soap. Several remnants of Tripoli's ancient past are still visible today, including the Tower of the Lions, the Teynal Mosque, and the Great Mosque. Tripoli has a population of approximately 209,000. The majority of Tripoli's residents are Sunni Muslim, although there is a substantial Christian population.

The city of TYRE is located on the coast of southern Lebanon. Tyre was founded by the Phoenicians around 2,000 B.C. and quickly became an important maritime port and trading center. Throughout the 8th and 7th centuries B.C., Tyre repelled attacks by the Assyrians and Babylonians. In 332 B.C., the city was captured by Alexander the Great after a seven-month siege. Many residents of Tyre were killed by Alexander's troops or sold into slavery. The city was eventually controlled by the Seleucids in 200 B.C. and by the Romans in 68 B.C. Tyre, during the years of Roman occupation, became known for a purple dye made from snails and for beautiful silk garments. In 638 A.D., Tyre came under the control of the Muslims. In the early 12th century, the city became a major battleground during the Crusades, which were a series of military campaigns by Christians of western Europe to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. Tyre was captured by Christian forces in 1124. Under the Christians, Tyre became a major city in the Crusader/Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1291, Muslim armies captured and destroyed Tyre. Today, Tyre remains one of Lebanon's major ports. The city has been heavily damaged by the civil war and by Israeli invasions in 1978 and 1982. Although the majority of its inhabitants are Shia Muslim, Tyre's population includes many Christians of various sects. The current population is approximately 114,000.

SIDON , on Lebanon's southern Mediterranean coast, is one of the country's largest ports. The city is one of the oldest in the Middle East, dating back to the third century B.C. Sidon was founded by the Phoenicians and ruled at various times by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Seleucids, Egyptians, Romans, and Ottoman Turks. In February 1975, the city became one of the flash-points for the Lebanese Civil War when the Lebanese Communist Party and other leftists organized violent demonstrations on behalf of fishermen who were threatened economically by a state-monopoly fishing company. The Lebanese Army was called in to restore order and armed clashes erupted. Many persons were killed. Residents of Sidon, which has a Sunni Muslim majority and a large Christian community, differed strongly as to who was responsible for the violence. Most Muslims blamed the army, while the majority of Christians felt that the demonstrators were at fault. Today, Sidon is a market, trade, and fishing center. The city is approximately 25 miles south of Beirut and is linked to the capital via highway and railroad. Sidon's population is predominantly Sunni Muslim, although there is a large Christian minority. In 2002, the city had approximately 146,00 residents.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Lebanon occupies a 135 mile strip of land along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It comprises an area of 4,015 square miles, slightly smaller than Connecticut. Lebanon is bordered on the north and east by Syria, on the south by Israel and the west by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean coast of Lebanon is narrow and sloping. Lebanon is a mountainous country, with two parallel mountain ranges. The Lebanon Mountains extend north and south along the western coast of Lebanon. The Anti-Lebanon Mountains hug the eastern border with Syria. Between these two mountain ranges lies the fertile soil of the Biqa' Valley.

Although Lebanon has abundant rivers and streams, none of them are navigable. Her main river, the Litani River, is unique because it is the only river in the Middle East that does not cross a national boundary.

Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate characterized by a long, hot, and dry summer and cool, rainy winter. Fall is a transitional season with a gradual lowering of temperature and little rain; spring occurs when the winter rains cause the vegetation to revive. Topographical variation creates local modifications of the basic climatic pattern. Along the coast, summers are hot and humid, with little or no rain. Heavy dews form, which are beneficial to agriculture. The daily range of temperature is not wide, although temperatures may reach above 100°F (38°C) in the daytime and below 61°F (16°C) at night. A west wind provides relief during the afternoon and evening; at night the wind direction is reversed, blowing from the land out to sea.

Winter is the rainy season, with major precipitation falling after December. Rainfall is generous but is concentrated during only a few days of the rainy season, falling in heavy cloud bursts. The amount of rainfall varies greatly from one year to another. Occasionally, there are frosts during the winter, and about once every fifteen years a light powdering of snow falls as far south as Beirut. A hot wind blowing from the Egyptian desert called the khamsin may provide a warming trend during the fall but more often occurs during the spring. Bitterly cold winds may come from Europe. Along the coast the proximity to the sea provides a moderating influence on the climate, making the range of temperatures narrower than it is inland, but the temperatures are cooler in the northern parts of the coast, where there is also more rain.

Although the country is well watered and there are many rivers and streams, there are no navigable rivers, nor is any one river the sole source of irrigation water. Drainage patterns are determined by geological features and climate. Most rivers in Lebanon have their origins in springs, which are often quite large. The rivers are fast moving, straight, and generally cascade down narrow mountain canyons to the sea. Lebanon's main river, the Litan River, is unique because it is the only river in the Middle East that does not cross a national boundary.


The estimated population of Lebanon in 2001 was 3,628,000. No official census was taken between 1932 and 1995, when the official population figure was put at 3,111,828 (excluding Palestinians). Many Lebanese fled the country during the civil war. Of those that remain, approximately 95 percent are Arabs. Small minorities of Armenians and Palestinians reside in Lebanon. The official languages are Arabic and French. English is widely used by Lebanese government officials and in commercial circles.

It is estimated that 70 percent of Lebanon's population are Muslim while 30 percent are Christian. Both the Sunni and Shiite Muslim sects are represented, although Shiite Muslims are predominant (there are five legally recognized Islamic groups). The Druze sect, a group deriving from Shiite Islam but differing greatly from it, constitute a significant minority. Maronite Christians comprise the largest Christian sect. Other Christian sects include Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Protestant.

In 2001, estimated life expectancy was 69 years for males and 74 years for females.


Lebanon's history dates back to the pre-Christian era. The Phoenicians settled in the country from approximately 2700-450 B.C. In later centuries, Lebanon's mountain ranges served as a safe haven for Christians fleeing persecution and the Crusaders established several strongholds there. For several centuries, Lebanon was controlled by the Turks and incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire disintegrated. The modern state of Lebanon was created from the remnants of five Ottoman Empire districts. The country was administered by the French from 1920-43. Lebanon was granted full independence in 1943 and by 1946, all French troops had been withdrawn.

Since achieving independence, Lebanon's history has been marked with political turmoil and bloodshed. In July 1958, the Syrians inspired a revolt against the government. At the request of Lebanon's president, Camille Chamoun, U.S. Marines were sent to Lebanon to help restore order. The political situation stabilized and all American forces were withdrawn in October 1958.

In the 1960's, Lebanon was used by Palestinians as a guerilla base to launch attacks against Israel. As the activities of the guerrillas increased, Lebanon became a target for Israeli grievances against the Palestinians. In May 1968, Lebanese and Israeli troops engaged in several border skirmishes. Lebanon's own efforts to control Palestinian commandoes caused armed clashes in 1969. Between 1970 and 1975, Palestinians increased their attacks on Israel. Israel retaliated by heavily bombing Palestinian camps and bases inside Lebanon.

In addition to the Palestinian problem, tensions between Lebanese Christians and Muslims reached a boiling point. Under the 1943 National Covenant, all public positions were divided between the two religious groups. Because the Christians were in the majority, they received a dominant share of political power and social benefits. However, by the 1970's, Muslims were in the majority. They demanded that political power be redistributed more equitably between Christians and Muslims. In April 1975, a bus load of Palestinians were ambushed and killed in the Christian sector of Lebanon's capital, Beirut. In retaliation, Palestinians and leftist Muslim groups joined forces against Christian Phalange and Maronite militias. By 1976, a vicious civil war had erupted and engulfed most of Lebanon.

Arab delegates met in Cairo in an attempt to end the conflict. At the invitation of the Lebanese government, various Arab countries agreed to send peacekeeping troops to Lebanon as part of an Arab Deterrent Force (ADF). The ADF, with a majority of Syrian troops, were dispatched to Lebanon. By late 1976, the ADF had quelled most of the violence and instituted a ceasefire.

In March 1978, Israeli troops invaded southern Lebanon in pursuit of Palestinian guerrillas. Israeli troops were eventually withdrawn in June 1978, but deployed pro-Israeli Lebanese militia groups along Lebanon's border with Israel. Fighting broke out between Syrian peacekeeping troops and various Christian militias in April 1981, effectively shattering the 1976 cease-fire. By late April 1982, violence had broken out not only between Syrians and Christians, but also between two Muslim factions. In June 1982, after an assassination attempt against the Israeli ambassador in London, Israel invaded Lebanon. Israeli forces quickly streamed north, eventually encircling West Beirut and laying siege to Palestinian guerrillas and Syrian troops trapped in the city. After two and one-half months of heavy bombardment, Palestinians and Syrian troops were allowed to leave Beirut under an American-brokered evacuation agreement. Troops from France, Italy and the United States were airlifted to Beirut to supervise the evacuation. Foreign troops soon became targets for terrorist activities. On October 23, 1983, 241 U.S. servicemen and 58 French troops were killed in their barracks in separate suicide bombing attacks. U.S. and other foreign troops were eventually withdrawn in 1984. Although Israel withdrew the bulk of her troops from Lebanon by 1985, she established a "security zone" in southern Lebanon. This "security zone" is manned by an Israeli-backed Christian militia.

In September 1988, President Amin Gemayel's term in office ended. He named General Michel Aoun, a Christian, as prime minister until another president could be elected. The Syrians and their Muslim allies refused to recognize Aoun's authority. Aoun launched a "war of liberation" in 1989 to oust the Syrians and their allies from Beirut. Vicious fighting between Syrian and Christian forces nearly destroyed the city. In February 1990, skirmishes broke out between troops loyal to Aoun and various Christian militias. Syrian forces eventually drove Aoun from power in October 1990. Aoun asked for and was granted refuge in the French embassy. He was eventually exiled from the country.

In late 1990, the government, backed by the Lebanese Army, began to reassert control over Beirut. With the help of Syrian troops, the Lebanese Army dismantled barricades in the city and disarmed Christian and Muslim militias. On December 24, 1990, a new Government of National Reconciliation took office. In February 1991, Lebanese troops moved into southern Lebanon in an effort to disarm Palestinian militias.

To date, Israel refuses to relinquish control of its "security zone" in southern Lebanon. Also, Syrian troops occupy most of northern and eastern Lebanon. Negotiations are continuing for the removal of all foreign troops and a return of Lebanese sovereignty.


Despite the political upheaval during the civil warfare, Lebanon's governmental system continued to function. Lebanon is an independent republic. The Lebanese constitution was created with the help of the French in 1926 and has undergone several amendments. The constitution provides for creation of an executive branch, a National Assembly, and an independent judiciary body. The Lebanese constitution is also heavily influenced by the National Covenant of 1943. This covenant stipulates that a representative from each of Lebanon's dominant religious groups must fill one of the country's three top governmental positions. Therefore, the president is to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the National Assembly is a Shiite Muslim.

The president, currently Imil Jamil Lahhud, wields substantial power. He has the authority to enact laws passed by the National Assembly, negotiate and ratify treaties, and propose new laws to the Assembly. The president is elected for a six-year term and is not eligible for immediate re-election. The president is assisted by a self-appointed prime minister and a Council of Ministers. Together, these men constitute the executive branch of government. The prime minister, currently Rafiq al-Hariri, and the Council of Ministers are accountable to the National Assembly.

The National Assembly is a governmental body elected by the Lebanese people. The National Assembly now has 128 members and is responsible for levying taxes, passing a national budget, and evaluating the prime minister and council of ministers through a formal questioning on governmental policy issues. Because of the political turmoil in Lebanon, the National Assembly had only met periodically since 1975. In 1992, Lebanon held its first elections for the National Assembly since 1972. The validity of the elections was marred because many Christians refused to vote. Christians boycotted the election to protest the continued presence of 40,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon. A continued Syrian presence in Lebanon, according to Christians, would lead to an erosion of Christian rights and political domination by Muslims. Results of the 1992 elections indicated that pro-Syrian deputies gained a wide majority.

The judiciary system of Lebanon is based on a mixture of the Napoleonic Code, canon law, Ottoman law, and civil law. There are three levels within the Lebanese court system. They are the Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation. No juries are used during criminal trials.

The flag of Lebanon consists of three horizontal bands. The top and bottom bands are red with a broader white band in between. In the middle of the white band is the Lebanese national emblem, a green and brown cedar tree.

Arts, Science, Education

The Lebanese, along with the Palestinians, had one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. The rate was estimated at nearly 86 percent in 1997, but like most other spheres of Lebanese life, communal and regional disparities existed. In general, Christians had a literacy rate higher than that of Muslims. Druzes followed with a literacy rate just above that of Sunnis. Shias had the lowest literacy rate among the religious communities.

The war adversely affected educational standards. Many private and public school buildings were occupied by displaced families, and the state was unable to conduct official examinations on several occasions because of intense fighting. Furthermore, the departure of most foreign teachers and professors, especially after 1984, contributed to the decline in the standards of academic institutions. Admissions of unqualified students became a standard practice as a result of pressures brought by various militias on academic institutions.

Primary schools are administered by the government and provide education free of charge. Primary education usually begins at age six and is compulsory for five years. Four years of intermediate school and three years of secondary school usually follow primary education. The National School of Arts and Crafts provides four-year vocational courses in mechanics, architecture, electronics and industrial drawing.

Commerce and Industry

Lebanese industry expanded rapidly in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This growth was characterized by a proliferation of small industries and was fueled by easy credit, a strong local currency, abundant and cheap supplies of skilled and unskilled labor, subsidized electric power, and trade protection at home and expanding markets abroad, particularly in the Persian Gulf countries. Years of strife changed all this. Civil war and disorder continually hampered production, and the financial climate was rarely conducive to investment. Many of Lebanon's primary commercial and industrial capacities were heavily damaged or destroyed. There is some light industry, mostly for the productions of textiles, cement, and consumer goods.

Lebanon has been able to produce agricultural products even though only 30 percent of the land is arable. Crops such as wheat, corn, citrus fruits, barley, vegetables, potatoes, olives and tobacco are grown. These serve as some of Lebanon's primary exports to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Kuwait. Gold and precious metals, textiles, iron and steel goods and motor vehicles are Lebanon's main imports. In 1998, Lebanon's imports mainly came from Germany, Russia, Finland and Sweden.

Before the civil war, Lebanon was considered the financial and commercial center of the Middle East. Despite the violence, Lebanon's banking system has been surprisingly resilient. This is due in large part to the financial subsidies supplied by Lebanese who have fled the country.

Lebanon's unit of currency is the pound.


Lebanon's transportation network has been severely damaged by years of civil war. Most of Lebanon's railways are either destroyed or in desperate need of repair. There were approximately 4,500 miles (7,300 kilometers) of road in 1999, 85 percent of which were paved. Most of Lebanon's roads, however, are in poor condition.

Lebanon used to have a patchwork railroad system. In 1991, Lebanon's 253-mile (407-kilometer) railway system was not operating, and prospects for the rail system's recovery were poor.

Air travel to Lebanon is extremely difficult. Beirut International Airport is serviced by few international carriers and has been frequently shut down for indefinite periods of time. Lebanon has two international airlines, Trans-Mediterranean Airways and Middle East Airlines/Air Liban.

Lebanon's main ports are Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon. However, northern ports are in control of Syrian forces while southern ports are controlled by the Israelis.


In 1997, there were approximately 2.85 million radios and 1.18 million television sets in use. Lebanon's main radio station is government-controlled Radio Lebanon. Transmissions throughout Lebanon are in Arabic. Foreign broadcasts can be heard on shortwave frequencies in Armenian, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, French and English. Tele-Liban broadcasts television programs in Arabic, French and English on three channels.

Most of Lebanon's daily newspapers are published in Arabic. However, there are some in French. The last English-language daily, the Daily Star, ceased publication in August 1985. Weekly periodicals are in Arabic and French.

The country's telecommunications system suffered severely from the violence that occurred after 1975. There were an estimated 700,000 telephones in Lebanon in 1999. Local telephone service is highly unreliable. International telephone communications are possible between Beirut and the United States.


Before 1975, Lebanon boasted advanced health services and medical institutions that made Beirut a health care center for the entire Middle East region. The civil war, however, caused enormous problems. Emergency medicine and the treatment of traumatic injuries overwhelmed the health care sector during the civil war. The problems in health care continued into the 1980s.

Control over the quality of hospital and medical services was minimal, and many public and private hospital beds were unoccupied. Doctors, nurses and middle-level technical personnel were scarce. Health personnel were concentrated in Beirut, with minimum care available in many out-lying areas. Nowhere in Lebanon was there a health center that delivered a full range of primary health care services.

Because of the lack of adequate data, only cautious inferences, based on partial data and observations and interviews by the World Health Organization (WHO) mission in Lebanon, can be made concerning the incidence of disease. Respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases headed the list of causes of death, and infectious diseases were endemic. Malnutrition was reported to be restricted to groups living in particularly difficult situations, such as the Palestinians.


The Department of State continues to believe that the situation in Lebanon is so dangerous for Americans that no U.S. citizen can be considered safe from terrorist attacks. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut is not fully staffed and personnel remain there under exceptionally tight security. Due to the limited staff and heightened security, the Embassy cannot perform normal consular functions.

Anti-American demonstrations throughout the Middle East have increased the risks associated with travel to Lebanon. Militants have become increasingly active along the country's southern border and active landmines are still found throughout the south and other areas where civil war fighting was intense. Extreme caution should be exercised by all travelers.

The Department of State has learned that several international carriers are now making intermediate stops in Beirut. U.S. citizens are advised not to board such flights because of the danger of traveling to Lebanon. Such stops are not always announced. Travelers should therefore inquire, before making travel arrangements in the region, whether a flight will make a stop in Beirut. Travelers are reminded that U.S. passports are not valid for travel to, in, or through Lebanon, which includes landing at the Beirut airport.

The mailing address for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut is Antelias, P.O. Box 70-840, PSC 815, Box 2.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr.Good Friday**


May 1Lebanese Labor Day

Aug. 15Assumption Day

Nov. 22Lebanese Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas


Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adha*

Al Hejra Mawlid al-Nabi*

*variable, based on the Islamic calendar

**variable Christian holidays


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Avi-Ran, Reuven. The Syrian Involvement in Lebanon Since 1975. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

Department of Geography Staff, ed. Lebanon in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1988.

Fisk, Robert. Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon. New York: Simon & Schuster Trade, 1991.

Korbani, Agnes G. U.S. Intervention in Lebanon, 1958 and 1982: Presidential Decision Making. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Mackey, Sandra. Lebanon: Death of a Nation. New York: Anchor Books, 1991.

Makdisi, Jean S. Beirut Fragments: A War Memoir. New York: Persea Books, 1990.

Murr, George G. The Lebanese Village: An Old Culture in a New Era. Troy, MI: International Book Center, 1987.

Newman, Barbara P. The Covenant: Love and Death in Beirut. New York: Crown Publishers, 1989.

Oz, Amos. The Slopes of Lebanon. New York: Random House, 1992.

Picard, Elizabeth. Lebanon: A Divided Land. Translated by Philip Franklin. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1993.

Salibi, Kamal S. Modern History of Lebanon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Stewart, Gail B. Lebanon. New York: Macmillan Children's Book Group, 1990.

Tames, Richard. Take a Trip to Lebanon. New York: Franklin Watts, 1989.

Tanter, Raymond. Who's at the Helm? Lessons of Lebanon. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

Thubron, Colin. Hills of Adonis: A Journey in Lebanon. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990.

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Lebanon (country, Asia)

Lebanon (lĕb´ənən, –nŏn´), officially Lebanese Republic, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,826,000), 4,015 sq mi (10,400 sq km), SW Asia. The country is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, on the north and east by Syria and on the south by Israel. The capital is Beirut.

Land and People

Much of the terrain is mountainous; the Lebanon Mts., which run parallel to the coast, reach their highest point at Qurnet as-Sawda (10,131 ft/3,088 m); on the eastern border is the Anti-Lebanon range. Between the two mountain ranges lies the fertile valley of Al Biqa (avg. elev. 3,280 ft/1,000 m). The Orontes in the north and the Litani in the south are the main rivers. In addition to Beirut there are three ports, Tripoli in the north and Sidon (Saida) and Tyre (Sur) in the south.

About 95% of Lebanese are Arabs; Armenians are the principal minority. About 60% of the population is Muslim and about 40% is Christian, and each is divided into a number of subgroups, including Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Druze, and Maronites. Arabic is the official language; French, English, and Armenian are also spoken.


Until the economy was almost completely destroyed by the civil strife that rent the country from 1975 to 1990, Lebanon was long the distribution center for the Middle East, and commerce was its major industry. Beirut, a free port, was the region's financial and commercial hub. Throughout the 1980s the commercial and industrial life of Lebanon was in severe disarray, but by the 1990s the economy had at least partially revived, although the Israel invasion and air attacks of 2006 were a severe setback. Banking, insurance, food processing, and the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, jewelry, and wood and furniture products are now important. Oil refining and metal fabricating are also important industries. Other significant sources of income have been a revived tourism industry, remittances from Lebanese working abroad, and international aid. The illicit narcotics trade (opium, hashish, heroin) also has a considerable impact on the economy.

Farm products contribute only a small portion of the GDP. The main crops are citrus fruits, vegetables, olives, tobacco, and grapes. Sheep and goats are raised. Lebanon has few minerals. Not many of the famed cedars remain, although oak and pine are exploited.

The annual cost of Lebanon's imports is much greater than its earnings from exports. The country exports jewelry, chemicals, consumer goods, fruit, tobacco, construction materials, electric equipment, textile fibers, and paper, largely to other Arab countries. Imports include petroleum products, cars, medicine, clothing, meat and live animals, consumer goods, paper, textile fabrics, and tobacco. The main trading partners are Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.


Lebanon's ethnic and religions diversity has had an enormous impact on its governmental system. Traditionally the president of the country is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim. The country is governed under the constitution of 1926 as amended. Under the constitution, the president, who is the head of state and wields real power, is elected by the legislature for a six-year term and cannot serve consecutive terms. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The unicameral legislature consists of the 128-seat National Assembly, whose members are elected by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation for four-year terms. There are independent secular courts based on the French system and religious courts for such issues as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The Ta'if accord of 1989, which aimed at national reconciliation, gave Muslims a share in governmental power equal to that of Christians, and calls for all main religious groups to be represented in the cabinet. Administratively, Lebanon is divided into eight governorates.


Early History to Independence

In ancient times the area of Lebanon and Syria was occupied by the Canaanites, who founded the great Phoenician cities and later established a commercial maritime empire (see Phoenicia). Lebanon's cities as well as its forests and iron and copper mines (since exhausted) attracted the successive dominant powers in the Middle East. The Phoenician cities occupied a favored position in the Persian Empire and were conquered by Alexander the Great. The region came under Roman dominion starting in 64 BC (there are notable Roman ruins at Baalbek) and was Christianized before the Arab conquest in the 7th cent. By then the Maronites had established themselves—a cardinal fact in the history of Lebanon, which long remained predominantly Christian while Syria became Muslim. Later (11th cent.) the Druze settled in S Lebanon and in adjacent regions of Syria, and trouble between them and the Christians was to become a constant theme in regional history.

The Crusaders (see Crusades) were active in Lebanon (late 11th cent.) and were aided by the Lebanese Christians. After the Crusaders, Lebanon was loosely ruled by the Mamluks (c.1300). Invasions by Mongols and others contributed to the decline of trade until the reunification of the Middle East under the Ottoman Turks (early 16th cent.). Under Ottoman control, Lebanon had considerable autonomy, and powerful families ruled the country.

Many Western religious missions and businesses were established in the area in the 19th cent. Conflict among the religious communities, culminating in massacres of the Maronites by the Druze in 1860, led to intervention by France (1861), and the Ottoman sultan was forced to appoint a Christian governor for Lebanon. The French were given the mandate of Syria after World War I by the League of Nations; Lebanon was a part of that mandate.

The French, being Catholic, separated Lebanon (home of most of the Maronite Catholics) from Syria, thus creating a new state. There was much discontent and, among the Muslims, a desire for independence within a wider Arab state. In 1926 the mandate was given a republican constitution. A treaty with France in 1936 provided for independence after a three-year transition period, but it was not ratified by France. In World War II the French Vichy government controlled Lebanon until a British–Free French force conquered (June–July, 1941) the Lebanese coast. The Free French proclaimed Lebanon an independent republic. Elections were held in 1943, and, after considerable controversy, Lebanon became independent on Jan. 1, 1944.

New Nation, New Leadership

In 1945, Lebanon became a member of the United Nations, and all British and French troops were evacuated by the end of 1946. As a member of the Arab League, Lebanon declared war on Israel in 1948 but took little part in the conflict. In 1952, after the election of Camille Chamoun as president, Lebanon formed closer ties with the West. In the spring of 1958, opposition to Chamoun's pro-Western policies and his acceptance of U.S. aid under the Eisenhower Doctrine erupted in rioting in Tripoli, Beirut, and elsewhere. The rioting grew into full-scale rebellion, and Chamoun called in U.S. forces (July, 1958). Gen. Fouad Chehab, a nonpolitical personality who had kept the army out of the civil strife, was elected to succeed Chamoun, and the rebellion ebbed. By autumn U.S. forces had left the country.

Lebanon subsequently steered a course closer to that of the other Arab nations. The secession of Syria (1961) from the United Arab Republic revived once again the rift between pro-Western and pan-Arab elements in Lebanon. In 1962 a military coup was attempted in Beirut but was crushed. Chehab was succeeded in 1964 by Charles Hélou; Suleiman Franjieh was elected president in 1970.

Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestinians

During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Lebanon gave verbal support to the Arab effort against Israel but did not become involved in any military action. After that, however, Lebanon's position became increasingly difficult because of the activities against Israel of Palestinian terrorists based in Lebanon. Israel repeatedly accused Lebanon of not doing enough to control the terrorists, and in 1968 Israeli forces began a series of reprisals against Palestinian strongholds in Lebanon. In 1969 fighting broke out between the Lebanese army and the Palestinian commandos after the government had threatened to limit the latter's activity.

After the bloody suppression in 1970–71 of the guerrillas in Jordan, large numbers of Palestinians fled into S Lebanon and Beirut. Again in 1972 heavy fighting took place between the Lebanese army and the Palestinians. Anti-Israeli terrorist attacks continued into the 1970s, and Israel continued its attacks on Palestinian guerrilla bases in S Lebanon. Lebanon did not enter the Oct., 1973, Arab-Israeli War, nor did the Lebanese army interfere with Palestinian guerrillas operating in S Lebanon.

Civil War

Lebanon became embroiled in civil war among the Christians, Muslims, and Palestinians from early 1975 to late 1976. At the request of Lebanon's president, Syrian forces entered Lebanon (Apr., 1976), halting Muslim and Palestinian advances. An estimated 50,000 Lebanese were killed and twice that number wounded. The country became devastated, the economy crippled, and tourism plummeted to a standstill. A cease-fire in Oct., 1976, proved unstable, and hostilities resumed full scale in 1977. In response to guerrilla attacks by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel occupied S Lebanon in Mar., 1978, but withdrew in June. This came with the installation of a UN peacekeeping force of 6,000, which was unable to effectively maintain control of Lebanese militia activity.

In 1981 fighting continued between Christian and Syrian forces, and Beirut was subjected to Israeli air raids in reprisal for PLO attacks. In June, 1982, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon, primarily to eliminate Palestinian guerrilla bases. Nearly 7,000 Palestinians were forced to leave Lebanon, which was accomplished under the supervision of a Multinational Force (MNF) comprised of U.S. and European-allied troops, who left immediately afterward. On Aug. 23, Bashir Gemayel (see under Gemayel, family) was elected president of Lebanon, but he was killed three weeks later by a bomb. In the wake of his death, Christian Phalangist forces entered the Palestinian refugee camps in Israeli-controlled areas and massacred some 1,000 civilians, provoking an international outcry.

Bashir Gemayel's brother, Amin, was elected president a few days later on Sept. 20. Another multinational force, of U.S. Marines and British, French, and Italian soldiers, returned to Lebanon to monitor the Lebanese militias. A U.S.-aided peace treaty, concluded with Amin Gemayel and Israel in May, 1983, called for the removal of foreign troops. Syria rejected the peace agreement, refusing to evacuate its holdings. As Israeli troops slowly left the Beirut and southern area, Lebanese militias fought among themselves in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal. In Apr., 1983, a terrorist bombing partially destroyed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 50 people. On Oct. 23, 260 U.S. Marines and 60 French soldiers were killed by a truck bomb.

The multinational force left Lebanon in 1984. Israel completed its withdrawal in mid-1985 but left soldiers to work in conjunction with the Christian South Lebanese Army (SLA) to maintain a security ( "buffer" ) zone. Palestinian action gradually resumed as PLO members and units returned to S Lebanon. Beirut remained a major battle area, and in Feb., 1987, Syrian troops moved into the city to suppress the warring factions. By this time, Iranian-supported Lebanese Shiite groups had become notorious for their holding of Western hostages. When Gemayel's term ended in 1988, it proved impossible to hold national elections and find a successor. A transitional military government was led by Gen. Michel Aoun, whose aim of ousting Syrian forces from Lebanon sparked new rounds of battles and bloodshed.

A tentative peace accord was reached between Christian and Muslim representatives, but Aoun complained that the peace accord failed to pressure the Syrians to withdraw. On Nov. 22, 1989, the newly elected Syrian-backed president, René Moawad, was assassinated; he was succeeded by Elias Hrawi. Revolts by Aoun in late 1989 and 1990 were put down with the help of Syrian forces, and Aoun was ousted from the country. In Nov., 1990, major rival Shiite Muslim groups signed an agreement to end their fighting.

Post–Civil War Lebanon

In early 1991, Lebanese troops organized to regain control of the south from PLO guerrillas and Israelis who controlled a 6-mi (10-km) deep security zone. There were repeated and largely successful attempts to disband rival militias. A treaty (1991) of friendship and cooperation with Syria, which continued to have significant forces in Lebanon, essentially guaranteed Syrian domination of Lebanon's foreign relations. Meanwhile, beginning in the same year, Lebanon participated in peace talks with Israel, Syria, and a joint Palestinian–Jordanian delegation. International pressures on Lebanon eased with the release of the last U.S. and Western hostages in 1992.

By the mid-1990s, neither the Israeli nor the Syrian forces had quit the country, and clashes between Palestinian units and Israeli troops, as well as among the existing Lebanese militias, continued. Intense fighting erupted between Shiite Hezbollah (Party of God) guerrillas and Israel in S Lebanon in early 1996, as the guerrillas fired rockets into Israel and Israel retaliated with shelling and bombing. A tentative cease-fire was reached in late April; the episode generated a heavy flow of refugees from areas of S Lebanon. The many years of heavy fighting in Lebanon crippled the nation's infrastructure and economy, and devastated tourism, but a major rebuilding effort was undertaken in the 1990s.

In 1995, President Hrawi's term in office was extended by three years by a constitutional amendment. Gen. Emile Lahoud was elected president in 1998. Fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas erupted again in June, 1999, following an announcement by Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Barak, that he would withdraw Israeli troops stationed in S Lebanon within a year. In May, 2000, Israeli troops engaged in a gradual withdrawal from S Lebanon, turning over its position to its Lebanese Christian ally, the South Lebanon Army (SLA), but the SLA collapsed, leading Israel to accelerate its withdrawal, which was completed by late May.

The 2000 parliamentary elections brought the opposition back into power, and Rafik Hariri became prime minister; he had previously held the office from 1992 to 1998. President Lahoud's term was extended for three years by constitutional amendment in 2004 at the behest of Syria, which still had some 18,000 troops in Lebanon. The blatant meddling in Lebanese affairs caused a governmental crisis in Lebanon, eventually resulting in the resignation of Hariri's government and the appointment of Omar Karami as prime minister; Karami had served as prime minister from 1990 to 1992. The UN Security Council denounced foreign interference in Lebanese politics and demanded that all foreign forces leave Lebanon. Some Syrian forces were withdrawn or redeployed in the following months.

In Feb., 2005, Hariri was assassinated in a Beirut car bombing, provoking a rash of anti-Syrian demonstrations and leading to increased international pressure on Syria to withdraw, although Hezbollah rallied its supporters in defense of Syria. Syria subsequently agreed to withdraw all its troops, and did so by the end of April. The crisis also led Karami's government to resign (February), but the president subsequently asked Karami to form a new government, which he proved unable to do. In April, however, Najib Mikati, a pro-Syrian politician who was also responsive to some opposition demands, became prime minister and formed a new government.

Parliamentary elections in May–June resulted in a majority for the anti-Syrian coalition; Fouad Siniora, a former finance minister and an ally of Hariri, became prime minister. The new government moved, albeit cautiously, to reduce Syrian influence in the Lebanese security forces, and arrested several high-ranking security officials associated with the president as suspects in the assassination of Hariri. A UN investigation into the killing meanwhile implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian officials. By the end of 2005, however, a cabinet vote in favor of an international trial of the suspects in Hariri's murder provoked a split in the government, with Shiite ministers refusing to attend cabinet sessions; the boycott lasted until Feb., 2006.

The disarming of the Shiite Hezbollah militia, as demanded by the United Nations, slowed the resolution of the boycott, and the prime minister ultimately acknowledged the group as a "national resistance movement," but many in the government continued to support disarming Hezbollah. In July, 2006, Hezbollah forces captured two Israeli soldiers in fighting along the Israeli border, leading Israel to launch air attacks against targets in Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, and many other locales, place a blockade on Lebanon, and send troops into S Lebanon. Hezbollah respond largely by mounting rocket attacks against N Israel, including Haifa and Tiberias, but the its forces also offered resistance to Israeli troops, slowing their advance.

A UN-mediated cease-fire took effect in mid-August, and by the beginning of October Israel had essentially withdrawn from Lebanon and ended its blockade. As much as a fifth of the Lebanese population was displaced by the conflict, and Israeli attacks destroyed much of the country's infrastructure, a setback for the rebuilding that had occurred since the end of the civil war. Tourism and agriculture were among the sectors of the Lebanese economy most severely hurt by the fighting. Amnesty International accused both sides of war crimes in the fighting, mainly because of their attacks on civilians.

The Israeli pullout left Hezbollah in position to proclaim its resistance and survival a victory, and emboldened it to insist on a re-formation of the Lebanese government that would give it and its allies a much stronger political position. Hezbollah also continued to resist disarming, as called for by the UN Security Council, and neither were the captured Israeli soldiers released. At the same time, however, the Lebanese army was deployed, albeit not forcefully, throughout S Lebanon for the first time since the civil war; UN peacekeepers were also deployed there. Israel, for its part, continued its military overflights of Lebanon, also despite the UN Security Council.

The political stalemate over the role of Hezbollah and its allies in the government led it and Amal, the other Shiite party in the cabinet, to leave the government, giving the government an interim standing under the Ta'if accord (because Shiites were no longer represented in the cabinet). The move also stalled the government's approval of an international tribunal to prosecute Hariri's suspected killers. Hezbollah subsequently mounted demonstrations and strikes calling for the government's resignation, and their clashes between government and antigovernment partisans at times.

The situation continued unsettled and unresolved into 2007, despite talks in March. Assassinations of members of parliament, mainly those opposed to Syria, also continued, and in Dec., 2007, an army general was killed. In May–Sept., 2007, there was fierce fighting in a refugee camp near Tripoli between the Lebanese army and Palestinian guerrillas aligned with Syria; a bank robbery by the group provoked the clash. More than 200 people died in the fighting before the government took control of the camp. Also in May the United Nations approved an international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri assassination; the tribunal first convened in Mar., 2009, but in April the four Lebanese officers who had been held since 2005 in connection with the case were released for lack of evidence. In Aug., 2010, Hezbollah asserted that it had evidence implicating Israel in the assassination; the accusation was apparently prompted by information that the tribunal had found indications that some Hezbollah members had been involved.

The political stalemate delayed the election of a successor to President Lahoud, who left office in Nov., 2007. Although the parties agreed on army chief Michel Suleiman as a presidential candidate by early 2008, disputes over the makeup of the government postponed his election by parliament until May, 2008. The May agreement that led to a new president and cabinet was negotiated in Doha, Qatar, and was finalized only after the government's attempt to ban Hezbollah's private telephone network led Hezbollah to attack its Lebanese opponents in Beirut and elsewhere. After a week of bloody fighting, the government rescinded its ban.

A new government, with Siniora as prime minister, was finally established in July, 2008; Hezbollah and its allies received enough cabinet seats to give them veto power over government decisions. In September, an agreement was signed to end sectarian fighting in Tripoli, which had sporadically continued there between Sunnis and Alawites since May. The following month, Syria formally established diplomatic relations with Lebanon for the first time; Syria's previous failure to do so had been seen as a rejection of Lebanese independence. Parliamentarly elections held in June, 2009, resulted in a victory for the pro-Western Sunni, Druze, and Maronite coalition, led by Hariri's son, Saad. Attempts to form a coalition government proved difficult. In September Saad Hariri stepped down as prime minister designate, but he was renamed to the post, and a national unity government that included Hezbollah and its allies was formed in November.

Syria's influence in the country was again evident in 2010, as Hariri traveled several times to Damascus and, in September, said that he had been wrong to blame Syria for his father's assassination. In Jan., 2011, as an indictment from the Hariri assassination tribunal prosecutors neared, Hezbollah called on Prime Minister Hariri to repudiate the tribunal, which was expected to accuse members of Hezbollah of involvement in the crime. When the prime minister refused, Hezbollah and its allies withdrew from the government, forcing negotiations to establish a new government; they supported former prime minister Mikati, who as prime minister designate sought to establish a unity government, but Hariri's coalition announced it would not join the government, which was finally formed in July. Later than month, the Hariri tribunal delivered confidential arrest warrants to the Lebanese state prosecutor; its indictment of four Hezbollah members was made public the following month, and that of a fifth member was revealed in Mar., 2012.

Lebanon was increasingly affected by the civil war in Syria as 2012 progressed. The conflict sparked sporadic violence between Lebanese Sunnis on the one hand and Alawites and Shiites on the other. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees also fled to Lebanon, with some 340,000 there by Mar., 2013. In Oct., 2012, a senior intelligence official who had led the investigation into Hariri's assassination was himself killed by a car bomb; his death provoked antigovernment protests and violence between Sunnis and Shiites. In Mar., 2013, Mikati resigned as prime minister as a result of disagreements within the coalition over a number issues. In April, Tammam Salam was asked by the president to form a new government, but Mikati's caretaker government remained in office for almost a year as Salam was not able to form a national unity cabinet until Feb., 2014.

In May, 2013, the June parliamentary elections were postponed until late 2014 due to deadlock over electoral law changes and to the effects of the Syrian civil war. By mid-2013 Hezbollah was playing an open military role in Syria in support of its government; the spillover from the Syrian civil war led to increasing sectarian violence in Lebanon. In Aug., 2014, the Lebanese army fought with Islamist militants for control of a town on the Syrian border. Lebanon also experienced an enormous influx of Syrian refugees, whose numbers exceeded 1 million by Oct., 2014, when the country began restricting entry from neighboring nations. President Suleiman's term in office ended in May, 2014, without agreement among the political parties on a successor, a situation that continued into 2015, and in Nov., 2014, the parliament voted to extend its members' terms until 2017.


See P. Hitti, Lebanon in History (3d ed. 1967); M. Suleiman, Political Parties in Lebanon (1967); S. H. Longrigg, Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate (1958, repr. 1972); E. P. Haley and L. W. Snider, ed., Lebanon in Crisis (1979); J. C. Randal, Going All the Way: Christian Warlords, Israeli Adventurers, & the War in Lebanon (1983); W. Goria, Sovereignty & Leadership in Lebanon (1985); Y. Evron, War and Intervention in Lebanon (1987); T. Petran, The Struggle Over Lebanon (1987); R. Fisk, Pity the Nation (1990).

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Lebanese Rice Pudding................................................ 28
Pita Bread.................................................................... 28
Cucumber with Yogurt................................................ 29
Tabbouleh................................................................... 30
Baked Kibbeh.............................................................. 31
Easy Lebanese Baklava................................................. 32
Ahweh (Arabic Coffee) ................................................ 34
Sugared Almonds........................................................ 34
Ka'ak Cookies.............................................................. 34
Lebanese Fresh Fruit Salad........................................... 35
Limoonada (Lemonade) .............................................. 35
Hummus be Tahini...................................................... 36


Situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon has an area of 4,015 square miles (10,400 square kilometers), about three-fourths the size of the state of Connecticut. The Lebanon Mountains are rugged. East of the Lebanon Mountains is the Bekaa Valley, an extremely fertile flatland. At the eastern flank of the Bekaa stands Mount Hermon, straddling the border with Syria. Lebanon contains few rivers, and its harbors are mostly shallow and small, with polluted coastal waters. Lebanon has an extraordinarily varied climate: within a 45-minutes drive in winter, spring, and fall, both skiing and swimming are possible. Less than 30% of Lebanon's total area can support crop production. Expansion of cultivated areas is limited by the arid and rugged nature of the land.


A unique cultural history has helped to make Lebanese food the most popular of all Middle Eastern cuisines. For most of its past, Lebanon has been ruled by foreign powers that have influenced the types of food the Lebanese ate. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, including olive oil, fresh bread, baklava (a sweet pastry dessert), laban (homemade yogurt), stuffed vegetables, and a variety of nuts. The Ottomans also increased the popularity of lamb.

After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (19141918), France took control of Lebanon until 1946, when the country won its independence. During this time, the French introduced some of their most widely eaten foods, particularly treats such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 1500s, and buttery croissants.

The Lebanese themselves have also helped to bring foods of other cultures into their diet. Ancient tribes journeyed throughout the Middle East, carrying with them food that would not spoil easily, such as rice and dates. These foods slowly became part of the Lebanese diet. As the tribes wandered, they discovered new seasonings, fruits, and vegetables that they could add to their everyday meals. Exotic ingredients from the Far East (east and southeast Asia) and other areas of the world were often discovered by these early tribes.

Lebanese Rice Pudding


  • 1 quart whole milk
  • ¾ cup rice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons vanilla
  • Spoonful of orange marmalade (optional)


  1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
  2. When rice is cooked, add the sugar and milk and mix well.
  3. Continue cooking over medium heat for 3 to 4 more minutes.
  4. Remove the pot from the stove. Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of vanilla and mix well.
  5. Serve topped with a spoonful of orange marmalade.

Serves 4 to 6.

Pita Bread


  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water.
  2. Sift together the flour and salt.
  3. Combine the yeast and water with the flour and salt and mix well.
  4. Work the mixture into a dough and knead for several minutes.
  5. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 3 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  7. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and roll into balls.
  8. Using a hand or a rolling pin, pat and press each ball of dough into a 5-inch circle about ½-inch thick.
  9. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the pita are light golden brown.

Serves 8.

Cucumber with Yogurt


  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 or more cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs fresh mint, for garnish


  1. Put the cucumber in a serving bowl.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the yogurt and garlic together and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  3. Stir in the mint.
  4. Pour the mixture over the cucumber.
  5. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint and serve with pita bread.

Serves 6 to 8.


The Lebanese diet focuses on herbs, spices, and fresh ingredients (the Lebanese rarely eat leftovers), relying less on heavy sauces. Mint, parsley, oregano, garlic, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon are the most common seasonings.

Bread, a staple food in Lebanon, is served with almost every meal, most often as a flat bread, or pita. It is so crucial to the Lebanese diet that some Arabic dialects refer to it as esh, meaning "life."

Fruit, vegetables, rice, and bread out-weigh the amount of meat eaten in the average Lebanese meal. However, the most commonly eaten meats, poultry and lamb, make up some of the country's most popular dishes. The national dish, kibbeh (or kibbe ), consists of a ground lamb and cracked wheat paste, similar to paté. Kibbeh was originally made by harshly pounding the lamb and kneading in the spices and wheat. Those who were unfamiliar with this practice often found it quite unpleasant, including the English food writer George Lassalle, who described it as "frightening." Some rural villages continue to prepare it this way.

Mezze, a variety of flavorful hot and cold dishes, is another important part of the Lebanese diet. As many as forty small dishes are presented at once as either appetizers or as a meal itself. Hummus (chickpea, sesame seed, and garlic paste), rice and meat wrapped in grape leaves, mashed beans, hot and cold salads, grilled seafood and meats (including kebabs, cooked cubes of lamb, peppers, and onions), and pickled vegetables are most popular. Lebanese meals are rarely served in courses, but presented all at once. Tabbouleh (a salad made with cracked wheat) and mujaddara (a lentil and rice dish) are also widely consumed.

Lebanon's variety of fresh fruits makes them popular after-dinner desserts. Melon, apples, oranges, tangerines, persimmons, grapes, and figs are great treats. Baklava, a sweet, flaky pastry, is usually associated with Greek cuisine. However, the Lebanese have embraced the dessert and normally prepare it with pistachio nuts, drizzled with rose-water syrup (the Greeks use walnuts and honey). Ahweh (strong, thick Arabic-style coffee) and the country's national drink, arak (a colorless alcoholic beverage made with anise, also called "Lion's Milk" because it is white), are most commonly served with dessert.



  • ¾ cup cracked wheat, finely ground
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons dried mint
  • 1 or 2 bunches of parsley, cut fine
  • ¾ cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a bowl, cover cracked wheat with warm water and let stand about 15 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
  2. Mix tomatoes, mint, parsley, onions, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the drained wheat and mix well.
  4. Add more lemon juice and olive oil, if needed. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  5. Serve in a bowl, or on a bed of lettuce leaves, with pita bread cut into triangles.

Serves 6 to 8.

Baked Kibbeh


  • 2 cups cracked wheat (bulgur)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place cracked wheat in a large mixing bowl and cover with the cold water.
  3. Let stand 5 minutes, and then drain. Press on grains to remove water.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  5. Process in batches in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade or a blender.
  6. Butter a 9x12-inch baking pan.
  7. Spread the mixture into the pan, smoothing the top with wet hands.
  8. Cut into 2-inch squares. It is traditional to cut the kibbeh into a diamond pattern.
  9. Pour melted butter over the top. Bake for 50 minutes.
  10. Serve with pita bread.

Serves 6 to 8.


It seems as though the Lebanese are always participating in holiday celebrations, especially religious holy days. This is because Lebanon is home to two main religions: Islam and Christianity. Despite bitter disagreements between them, the people of both religions continue to enjoy their own traditional festive celebrations, which often include large feasts among family and friends.

Muslims (believers of Islam) celebrate several holidays throughout the year, though probably none are as important as the holiday of Ramadan. During the entire ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims avoid all food and drink between sunrise and sunset. In some villages, a man beats a drum through the streets, attempting to wake people before the sun rises so that they may enjoy an early breakfast. A typical pre-dawn breakfast might include grapefruit, pita bread with olive oil, a boiled egg, a cup of laban (yogurt), and tea. After the sun sets, Muslims gather with friends and family to share in a delicious feast.

Eid al-Fitr, meaning "festival that breaks the fast," marks the end of Ramadan and food is generously shared with loved ones. The Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, is also celebrated with food and festivities. During this time, a sheep is killed and eaten after returning from the hadj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). Many families donate a portion of their sheep to the poor.

The most widely celebrated Christian holidays are Christmas and Easter. Visiting friends and family at Christmas has become tradition. Prior to a large chicken or turkey lunch, most guests are offered sugarcoated almonds to snack on. Dessert is commonly bûche de noël, a French Christmas cake shaped like a yule log. Homes are decorated with tinsel, and Christmas trees are often adorned with orange peels cut into various shapes. Easter is probably the most important holiday for Christians. Children may celebrate by playing a Lebanese Easter egg game called Biis-Biis, in which they compete to see who has the strongest, unbreakable hard-boiled egg. After a long day of excitement, families sit down to enjoy a lamb dinner, often followed by ma'moul (date-filled teacakes) or ka'ak (cookies).

Labor Day (May 1) and Independence Day (November 22) are popularly celebrated national holidays. Both attract people of all ages to partake in food and festivities.

Easy Lebanese Baklava


  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 3 to 4 cups pistachio nuts (or pecans), chopped
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 Tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Unroll one can of dough into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking pan.
  3. Press over bottom and ½-inch up sides to form crust, pressing perforations to seal.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from the oven.
  5. In a large bowl, combine nuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture over baked crust.
  6. Unroll the second crescent roll dough and spread over top.
  7. With a sharp knife tip, score top dough to form a diamond pattern.
  8. In a small saucepan, combine honey, butter or margarine, and lemon juice, and bring to a boil.
  9. Remove from heat and pour half of the honey mixture evenly over top of dough.
  10. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. Drizzle remaining honey mixture over top of the hot baklava. Cool completely and cut into diamond-shaped pieces.

Makes 18 to 24 pastries.

Ahweh (Arabic Coffee)


  • 1¼ cups cold water
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Arabic or Turkish coffee, ground
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • A few drops of orange blossom water (optional)
  • Pinch of cardamom, ground (optional)


  1. Using a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the coffee (with ground cardamom if desired) and stir well. Bring to a boil.
  3. When the foam rises to the top, remove the saucepan from the heat to let the foam subside for about 1 minute.
  4. Return the pot to the heat and bring to a boil again.
  5. Traditionally, the coffee is brought to a boil at least three times.
  6. Serve with a few drops of orange blossom water, if desired.

Sugared Almonds


  • 1 pound almonds
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Separate the egg yolk from the egg white, and discard the yolk.
  3. Beat the egg white and water in a bowl.
  4. Add the nuts and mix well.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and salt and mix well.
  6. Add the sugar mixture to the nut mixture.
  7. Spread on foil-covered pan.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Stir and bake another 15 minutes.

Ka'ak Cookies


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil (or butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups flour, or enough to make dough firm
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon mahlab, pounded until fine (or substitute with ground cinnamon)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder


  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Roll out the dough until it is about ¼-inch thick.
  4. Cut into circles and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Lebanese Fresh Fruit Salad


  • 1 ripe melon
  • ½ fresh pineapple
  • 1 to 2 oranges
  • Apples, pears, or strawberries (depending on season)
  • 2 ripe bananas


  1. Remove melon from rind and dice.
  2. Cut pineapple into chunks.
  3. Peel and section the oranges, removing all the white membrane.
  4. Cut the orange slices into chunks.
  5. Toss together in a bowl.
  6. Dice the apple, pear, and strawberries.
  7. Add them to the tossed fruit mixture.
  8. Just before serving, peel, slice, and add banana. Mix well.

Makes 6 servings.


Arabs have a reputation for hospitality towards guests that come to visit, even if the visit was not planned (which most are not). Food is almost guaranteed to be delicious and filling.

A rural family will often pick fruit and vegetables from their own gardens. If they do not have what they need, a souk (street market shop) can provide them with any food from eggplant to mint leaves. Because bread is essential with almost every meal, rural women travel to the village bakery, called the foorn, to bake their breads and pastries for the day, as well as to catch up on gossip.

Lunch, the largest of the three meals eaten each day, is usually served around 2:00 p.m. Mezze, several appetizer-like dishes, are served first. Warm bread, hummus (chickpea paste), and olives, cheese, and pistachio nuts are commonly served. Kibbeh, the national dish, is frequently the main meal. Kebabs (cubes of cooked meat on a skewer) and kefta (ground meat mixed with herbs and spices) are popular too. Baklava or a fresh bowl of melon will likely make for a sweet dessert. Most children nap after such a plentiful afternoon meal.

Unlike in the United States, milk is rarely drunk with meals. Adults will often enjoy beer, wine, or arak (licorice-flavored liquor). Children enjoy limoonada (lemonade), fresh fruit juices, or jellab (a soft drink made from raisins and served with pine nuts). International restaurants are widespread throughout the country. French, Italian, German, Austrian, Scandinavian, Greek, Chinese, American, and Indian food are readily available. In addition, U.S. fast food chains are often bustling with people.

Limoonada (Lemonade)


  • 2 lemons
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 2 teaspoons orange flower water (optional)
  • 4 slices lemon, for garnish


  1. Wash lemons. If the lemons are thick skinned, cut off and discard the pointy end pieces.
  2. Cut each lemon into 4 to 6 pieces and place in a blender along with any juice that escaped during cutting.
  3. Place the lid on the blender and blend on maximum speed for 3 to 5 seconds.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again on high speed for 30 seconds.
  5. Pour through a sieve into a serving pitcher.
  6. Serve lemonade in tall glasses with extra ice and lemon slices.

Serves 4.

Hummus be Tahini


  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 Tablespoons tahini (a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds; found in specialty stores)
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cold water


  1. Heat the cooked chickpeas over medium low heat. Remove from heat and mash by hand or in a food processor, reserving a few whole ones for garnishing.
  2. Add tahini, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt, and water. Blend the mixture until it is creamy.
  3. Pour the thick dip into a deep bowl. Garnish with whole chickpeas and chopped parsley. Sprinkle with olive oil and serve with pita bread.


The World Bank reports only about 2 percent of the Lebanese population is classified as undernourished, which means they do not receive sufficient nutrition in their diets. About 63 percent has adequate access to sanitation, and 100 percent to safe drinking water. Ninety-five percent of the population has access to health care services. Of children under the age of five, about 3 percent are underweight, and 12 percent are stunted (short for their age).

War and violence during the 1980s and 1990s has had a significant impact on the development of many Lebanese children. Between 1982 and 1990, there were over 144,000 deaths due to an Israeli invasion. As a result, many children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders. According to law, children over the age of eight are allowed to work a maximum of seven hours a day, which also contributes to childrens' stress.



Amari, Suad. Cooking the Lebanese Way. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1986.

Foster, Leila Merrell. Enchantment of the World: Lebanon. Chicago: Children's Press, 1992.

Karaoglan, Aida. Food for the Vegetarian: Traditional Lebanese Recipes. Northampton, MA: Interlink Publishing Group, 1998.

Levi, Zion and Hani Agabria. The Yemenite Cookbook. New York: Seaver Books, 1988.

Salloum, Mary. A Taste of Lebanon. New York: Interlink Books, 1988.

Sawaya, Linda Dalal. "Memories of a Lebanese Garden." Aramco World, January/February 1997, 1623.

Scott, David. Recipes from an Arabian Night: Traditional Cooking from North Africa and the Middle East. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.

Sheehan, Sean. Cultures of the World: Lebanon. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1997.

Web Sites

Arab Net. [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

Cedar's Land. [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

Cyber-kitchen. [Online] Available (accessed March 5, 2001).

Global Gourmet. [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001). [Online] Available (accessed March 5, 2001). [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

Lebanon Guide. [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

Lonely Planet World Guide: Lebanon. [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

Recipes from Lebanon. [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001). [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

Searchable Online Archive of Recipes (SOAR). [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

Virgin Net. [Online] Available (accessed March 1, 2001).

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independent arab country located on the eastern end of the mediterranean sea.

A small country of 10,632 square kilometers (4,105 square miles), with a maximum length (north to south) of 217 kilometers (135 miles), Lebanon is bordered by Syria and Israel. There is no current

reliable census of Lebanon's population (the last official census was conducted in 1932); in 1994 the country's population was estimated to be around 3 million. The sectarian composition of the population remains a contentious issue because political power has been distributed according to a formula that favors the Maronites (Catholic Christians), who in the 1932 census reportedly constituted the largest religious group in the country. The demographic profile of the population has changed dramatically since 1932, with the Shiʿite Muslims becoming more prominent because of their high birth rate. Some estimates put the Shiʿa at 45 percent of the population, and most authorities agree that Muslims (including all sects) are now the majority, constituting some 70 percent of the overall population.

The historical myth of Lebanon, which has been challenged by the Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi, among others, is predicated on the belief that Lebanon has always been a haven for persecuted minorities, its rugged mountains providing shelter for heterodox groups from throughout the Middle East. Lebanonese ultranationalists claim that Lebanon has been in existence since before Phoenician times. The late Princeton University historian Philip Hitti suggested that people have been residing in what is today Lebanon for thousands of years. Lebanon as a political entity is a twentieth-century phenomenon, the product of the division between Britain and France of the spoils of World War I. Central Lebanon, known as Mount Lebanon, was occupied by Maronites, Druze, and Shiʿa. Those groups have lived together yet apart, separated by geographic lines of demarcation and by fear and suspicion. Lebanon cannot, and may not, continue to exist as a political entity in the absence of the minimum degree of social-national cohesion.

Lebanon under the Ottoman Empire

For much of the period between 1516 and 1918, Lebanon was only quasi-independent. This relative autonomy is exaggerated by those who claim that the

Lebanese state has been in continuous existence for thousands of years. The region in question, Mount Lebanon, was governed by a local prince (from the Maʿnid and, later, from the Chehab dynasties) who was in turn under the jurisdiction of a sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The political independence of the local ruler depended on the relative power of the government in Istanbul at a given time, and on the degree of external intervention in Lebanese affairs. During the earlier part of the period in question, the Druzes were the politically ascendant group. In the nineteenth century, however, the ruling Chehabi dynasty converted (originally secretively) to Maronite Christianity, and the Maronites began moving into areas that had been exclusively Druze-inhabited. The power of the Maronite Church, which was taking advantage of the consequences of Tanzimat, was also increasing.

In 1840 Mount Lebanon was divided into a southern district (Druze) and a northern district (Maronite). DruzeMaronite clashes occurred throughout the century, and a major conflict in 1860 left the Druzes militarily victorious and the Maronites politically victorious (due to support by European powers). The war resulted in the establishment of a European commission to oversee the situation. After negotiation with the Ottoman government, it was decided that Lebanon should be ruled by a nonMaronite, non-Lebanese Christian citizen of the Ottoman Empire. The governor (mutasarrif in Turkish, and later in Arabic too) would be assisted by a council of representatives from the various sects, with the Maronites constituting the largest group. The regime established in 1861 continued until World War I.

Lebanon Under French Mandate

During World War I, Lebanese and Syrians of all religions were executed for anti-Turkish activities. After the war, France would not allow the "protected" Maronites, who called France al-Umm alHanun (the Tender Mother), to be placed in an inferior position in Lebanon. Before the beginning of the French mandate system, Lebanese Maronites launched a strong propaganda campaign, characterized by Christian evangelical zeal, in Egypt (where members of the Maronite elite resided) and in France. The campaign led to the creation of Greater Lebanon, which included Mount Lebanon, southern Lebanon, Tripoli and the North, the Biqa region, and the Beirut region. The addition of those areas was motivated not by considerations of national harmony but by calculations of economic viability and French calculations. The predominantly Muslim population of the annexed areas was not consulted, and many staunchly opposed what appeared to be a Western-engineered attempt to sever ties between Lebanon and the larger, surrounding Muslim Arab nations.

In 1926 the French mandate authorities urged the elected Lebanese representatives to draft a new constitution. The constitution affirmed the political, diplomatic, economic, and legal supremacy of the French government and their ally the president, who was to be a Christian. Article 95 confirmed the sectarian foundation of Lebanese politics by stipulating that governmental posts shall be distributed "equitably" between the sects. This in effect established a system that had as its basic unit not the individual citizen but the sect. The highly controversial 1932 census revealed that the Maronites were the most numerous sect; consequently, the highest government posts were reserved for them.

Independence and Nationhood, 19431975

Although official and quasi-official Lebanese historiography claims there was an "independence movement" in the country, BritishFrench rivalries in the Levant helped to bring about the independence of Lebanon in 1943. Bishara al-Khuri, the foremost Maronite politician and first president after independence, and Riyad al-Sulh, the foremost Sunni politician and first prime minister after independence, were the architects of Lebanon's National Pact. This unwritten document became, in the words of Maronite Phalange leader Pierre Jumayyil, more important than the written laws of the country. It stipulated that the Christians (for whom the Maronites spoke, according to the agreement) would not seek protection or alliance with France, and the Muslims (for whom the Sunnis spoke) would respect the sovereignty of Lebanon and renounce dreams of unity with Syria or any other Arab country. The National Pact also decreed that the presidency of Lebanon would be held by a Maronite, the weak speakership of parliament by a Shiʿite, and the prime ministership by a Sunni. It is still regarded as a social contract, though most Lebanese were not consulted about its provisions.

The country was governed by a small group of wealthy politicians who monopolized power within their sects. Political competition, when it occurred, was between members of the economic/political elite and not between average citizens. The first president, Bishara al-Khuri (19431952), disregarded the minimum standards of honesty and integrity. His cronies and relatives enriched themselves, and he had the parliament (which was chosen in the scandalously fraudulent 1947 election) amend the constitution so that he could have a second term as president. In 1952 a large bloc of parties and politicians formed a front to force his ouster. After his resignation, Camille Chamoun was elected president.

The rule of Chamoun was marked by what many considered to be violations of the National Pact. Although early in his career he had been identified with pan-Arab politics, he closely aligned Lebanon with the West during his presidency, particularly on anticommunism and anti-Nasserism. His opposition

to Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, provoked many Lebanese who admired the Egyptian leader. Following the example of his predecessor, Chamoun flagrantly rigged the 1957 elections to ensure a subservient parliament that would allow him a second term, and thus ousted most of his rivals from parliament. In 1958 the Lebanese civil war (still known in Lebanon as the "1958 Revolution") broke out, and the United States dispatched the marines to protect the Chamoun regime.

The most important politician in contemporary Lebanese history was president Fuʿad Chehab (19581964). This former commander in chief of the Lebanese army remains the only politician in the history of Lebanon to have an "ism" associated with his name. Chehabism, the ideology of limited political and economic reforms, was based on the realization that the social and political unrest in Lebanon had socioeconomic roots. Chehab worked to reorganize the Lebanese administrative structure in an attempt to stem the corruption that had been rampant since independence. His regime, however, did not go far enough in its reforms, and Chehab, who distrusted the politicians, ruled through his trusted military aides and his ruthless Intelligence Apparatus (Deuxième Bureau). Rule by the military establishment was inconsistent with the constitution's promises of freedom; the army used heavy-handed tactics against all who opposed the regime.

Chehab was succeeded by his follower Charles Hilu (19641970). Hilu quickly disillusioned his former mentor and associated himself with the right-wing factions such as the Phalange Party, of which he was a founder. He preserved the rule of the Deuxième Bureau (military intelligence) because he lacked a political power base. His weak response to internal instability led to the election of Sulayman Franjiyya (19701976), a semiliterate ultranationalist who favored strong support for the army in light of the growing power of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon. Fran-jiyya sought to use the army to crush the PLO as King Hussein did in Jordan. The army was too weak to succeed, and Israel was increasingly exposing Lebanon's impotence against their continued military actions in Lebanon, which did not distinguish between Lebanese and Palestinian targets, or between civilian and military targets. Franjiyya urged the army to arm and train members of the right-wing Maronite militias in Lebanon, which he wanted to use in his war against the Palestinians. During his presidency there were numerous clashes between the PLO and the Lebanese army aided by right-wing militias. Franjiyya's autocratic rule brought calls for a more meaningful partnership between the president and the prime minister.

Civil War, 19751990

Much has been written about the civil war, but there is no consensus about its origins. Lebanese often emphasize the external causes of what befell the country; they seem reluctant to place any blame for the protracted conflict on themselves. The civil war allowed various external forces to intervene openly in Lebanese affairs. Syria and Israel both exploited the conflict for their own purposes. In 1976 Syria intervened in the war to save the right-wing militias from what seemed an inevitable defeat by the leftist-PLO alliance. It did not want Lebanon to turn into a radical arena that could drag Syria into an unwanted confrontation with Israel.

The presence of Syrian forces in Lebanon made possible the election of Ilyas Sarkis as president in 1976, and Israel began its de facto occupation of part of southern Lebanon. The relationship of the PLO and its Lebanese allies with Syria began to improve as soon as right-wing militia leader Bashir Jumayyil (then commander of the Lebanese Forces) solidified his alliance with Israel and initiated a campaign against Syria's forces in Lebanon. The latter responded with heavy bombardment of East Beirut, the site of Lebanese Forces' headquarters. In the south, Israel formed a surrogate militia to further its goals. In 1978 Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, and was later forced to withdraw to a narrow strip that it called its Security Zone. The United Nations dispatched troops to serve as a buffer between the PLO forces and Israel's forces.

In 1982 Israel launched its biggest invasion ever. Its forces advanced all the way to Beirut and brought about the election of Bashir Jumayyil as president. The invasion resulted in the deaths of some 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, mostly civilians. The PLO came under pressure to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. Jumayyil was assassinated before he officially assumed his responsibilities, and pro-Israel forces killed the Palestinians and Lebanese in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in revenge for Jumayyil's assassination. Amin Jumayyil (19821988) succeeded his brother Bashir as president and began a rule by the Phalange Party. In 1983 the security situation deteriorated further when Druze and Maronite militias engaged in one of the most ferocious battles of the Lebanese civil war. The Druze militia was able to evict Christians from areas under its control.

The rule of Amin Jumayyil divided the country more sharply than ever before, and most Muslims boycotted his government. In 1988, minutes before the expiration of his term, he appointed General Michel Aoun (the Maronite commander in chief of the army) as interim president. Aoun cracked down on the Lebanese Forces and declared a war of "national liberation" against Syria's forces in Lebanon. The war did not bear political fruits for him, although it did generate enthusiasm among the Maronite masses. In 1990, when world attention was focused on Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Syria's forces entered Lebanon and destroyed the force commanded by Aoun, who fled to France.

The civil war theoretically ended with the defeat of Aoun and the establishment of the authority of the government of President Ilyas al-Hirawi. The support of Syria and Saudi Arabia for the new administration revived hopes for badly needed financial aid to wartorn Lebanon. President Hirawi and Prime Minister Rafiq Bahaʾuddin al-Hariri solidified the rule of the Lebanese government and disarmed the militias in the country except for the Party of God, which continues to wage a war of national resistance against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. Whether the war has ended completely or whether a truce at last prevails in Lebanon is a question that requires knowledge of the future. Hirawi was succeeded in 1998 by commander in chief Emile Lahhud, wholike his predecessorenjoyed strong Syrian support. Lahhud's relationship with Hariri was tense, and he preferred Salim al-Hoss as his prime minister. But Hariri was able to utilize his enormous financial powers, and his regional connection, to replace Hoss after a two-year term as prime minister. Hariri and Lahhud continue to express disagreements on a range of issues, from privatization to election laws.

see also aoun, michel; beirut; chamoun, camille; chehab, fuʾad; druze; fran-jiyya, sulayman; hariri, rafiq bahaʾuddin al-; hilu, charles; jumayyil, amin; jumayyil, bashir; jumayyil, pierre; khuri, bishara al-; lebanese arab army; lebanese civil war (1958); lebanese civil war (19751990); lebanese crises of the 1840s; lebanese forces; lebanese front; lebanese national movement (lnm); lebanon, mount; mandate system; maronites; palestine liberation organization (plo); phalange; sabra and shatila massacres; sarkis, ilyas; shiʿism; sulh, riyad al-; tanzimat.


AbuKhalil, As'ad. Historical Dictionary of Lebanon. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998.

Ajami, Fouad. The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shiʿa of Lebanon. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.

Collelo, Thomas, ed. Lebanon: A Country Study, 3d edition. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1989.

Halawi, Majed. A Lebanon Defied: Musa al-Sadr and the Shiʿia Community. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.

Keddie, Nikki, and Cole, Juan R. I., eds. Shiʿism and Social Protest. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986.

Kramer, Martin. The Moral Logic of Hizballah. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1987.

Norton, A. R. Amal and the Shiʿa: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.

as'ad abukhalil

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Official name: Lebanese Republic

Area: 10,400 square kilometers (4,015 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Qurnat as-Sawdā (3,088 meters/10,132 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 217 kilometers (135 miles) from northeast to southwest; 56 kilometers (35 miles) from northwest to southeast

Land boundaries: 454 kilometers (282 miles) total boundary length; Israel 79 kilometers (49 miles); Syria 375 kilometers (233 miles)

Coastline: 225 kilometers (140 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Lebanon is a small Middle Eastern country located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. With a total area of 10,400 square kilometers (4,015 square miles), it is about three-fourths as large as the state of Connecticut.


Lebanon has no territories or dependencies.


Lebanon has a subtropical, temperate Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and cool, humid winters. Temperatures rarely exceed 32°C (90°F). Average temperatures in Beirut are 28°C (82°F) in the summer and 13°C (55°F) in the winter. Temperatures are cooler in the mountains. Average annual rainfall ranges from about 38 centimeters (15 inches) in the Bekáa Valley, to 89 centimeters (35 inches) on the coast, to over 127 centimeters (50 inches) in the mountains. Four-fifths of the annual rainfall occurs in the winter months, between November and March. The peaks of the Lebanon Mountains are snow-covered from winter to spring.


Lebanon is mostly mountainous. Its dominant topographical feature is a central range spanning most of the country's length and reaching almost to the coast. In addition to this rangecalled the Lebanon Mountainsthere are three other distinct geographical regions: a narrow coastal plain; a second mountain system in the east, on the border with Syria (the Anti-Lebanon and Hermon ranges); and the Bekáa Valley, which separates the coastal and interior mountains. The Bekáa Valley belongs to the same geological rift that continues southward to become the Jordan River Valley and the Great Rift Valley of eastern Africa.


Lebanon is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

Coastal Features

Lebanon has a relatively smooth coastline with no major indentations. It has few good natural harbors but instead has many shallow, curved bays. The northern part of the coast is mostly rocky; south of Beirut, it becomes sandy in places.


Lebanon has no inland lakes.


Lebanon has few year-round rivers. Its most important, and longest, river is the Al-Lītānī, which drains into the Mediterranean near the city of Tyre. Another major river is the Orontes, which flows through the northern Bekáa Valley into Syria and then into Turkey before emptying into the Mediterranean.


Lebanon has no actual deserts.


A narrow plain, whose shore is alternately sandy and rocky, rims Lebanon's Mediterranean coast; in the north, this plain widens into the 'Akkar Plain.


The Lebanon Mountains extend about 161 kilometers (100 miles) northeast to southwest, or nearly the entire length of the country. Its peaks rise rapidly from the coast, reaching their highest elevations in the northern part of the country and gradually decreasing in elevation as they extend southward. To the east, Lebanon's border with Syria is demarcated by a second mountain system composed of two different ranges, the Anti-Lebanon Mountains to the north and the Hermon range to the south. The interior mountains are generally lower than those to the west, although Mount Hermon, which rises to 2,813 meters (9,232 feet), is the country's second-highest peak.


Lebanon has no actual canyons or caves.


The name Lebanon comes from the Arabic name for the Lebanon Mountains, Djebel Libnan, which means "milky-white mountains" (a reference to its snow-covered peaks).


The fertile Bekáa Valley separates Lebanon's two parallel mountain systems, reaching maximum elevations of around 914 meters (3,000 feet). Extending the entire length of the Lebanon Mountains, it constitutes the country's greatest expanse of essentially level terrain.


In 1999, the al-Ola, al-Griah, Alman, and Senik Bridges, which together connected the capital city of Beirut to the southern part of the country, were destroyed in Israeli air attacks aimed at terrorist bases in the country. Iran subsequently agreed to fund reconstruction of the bridges.



Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989.

Haag, Michael. Syria and Lebanon. Cadogan Guides. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1995.

Reid, Carlton, Kathryn Leigh, and Jamie Kennedy. Lebanon: A Travel Guide. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Kindlife, 1995.

Web Sites

Arabnet. (accessed April 9, 2003).

"Center for Middle Eastern Studies." University of Texas at Austin. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

The Republic of Lebanon


Identification. Loubnan derives from the Phoenician for "white mountain" and denotes Lebanon's mountains, some parts of which remain snow-covered all year.

Location and Geography. Lebanon is bounded on the north and east by Syria, on the west by the Mediterranean, and on the south by Israel.

Lebanon consists of two mountain chains, the Lebanon and the ante-Lebanon; a narrow coastal strip, where all the major cities lie; and a fertile plain, the Bekaa valley, which lies between the two mountain chains and provides most of the local agricultural produce.

The capital, Beirut, was chosen for its ideal location on the Mediterranean and acts as the heart of Lebanon's banking industry, tourism, and trade. The port of Beirut is the busiest and most important in the country.

Demography. As of 1994, the population of Lebanon was estimated to be 3,620,345. Ninety-five percent of the population is Arab, 4 percent is Armenian, and other ethnic backgrounds comprise the remaining 1 percent. The birth rate is 27.69 per thousand and the death rate is 6.55 per thousand. The average life expectancy for those born at the end of the twentieth century was 69.35 years.

Whereas at independence, gained in 1943, the population was one-half Christian and one-half Muslim, a higher birth rate among Shiite Muslims upset this balance and was one of the causes of the civil war. Estimates in the 1990s reveal a population composed of nearly 70 percent Muslims and 30 percent Christians.

Linguistic Affiliation. Languages spoken include Arabic, French, English, and Armenian. There are many accents in Lebanon. The Beirut accent is the mellowest and most highly regarded, while country accents are harsher. Accents are a much higher indicator of social status than they are in the United States.

Lebanon has seen many invasions, which introduced new cultures and languages. The Canaanites, the first known settlers in the country, spoke a Semitic language. In the Hellenistic era Greek was introduced and spoken along with Aramaic. Latin later became common, and finally the Arab invasion in the eighth century introduced and assured the hegemony of Arabic. Today, all Lebanese speak Arabic; most of them, especially the upper and middle classes, speak French; recently, English has become increasingly important.

Symbolism. The cedar in the center of the Lebanese flag is the symbol of six thousand years of history: the cedar was Lebanon's chief export in ancient times. The location of the cedar tree in the middle of the flag touching the upper and lower red stripes is also a reminder of Lebanon's constant troubles because the red stripes represent the blood spilt by the Lebanese throughout their history.

The country's religious diversity has led to the transformation of many religious holidays into national ones. Additionally, the new government has placed much emphasis on secular holidays, particularly Id Il-Jaysh, which celebrates the accomplishments of the Lebanese Army.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The first cities to emerge in Lebanon were built by a maritime people, the Phoenicians, who determined the cultural landscape of the country from about 2500 to 400 b.c.e. and absorbed aspects of the many other cultures around them. The Phoenicians are celebrated today in the government-supervised history books as the inventors of the alphabet and as the symbol of Lebanon's golden past.

In the medieval period, Christian minorities often helped the Crusaders. This created a close relationship between Lebanese Christians, particularly the Maronites, and Europe, particularly France. These ties persisted and grew stronger, especially in the eighteenth century, and were a major factor in the creation of the modern Lebanon.

After World War II, Lebanon was placed under French mandate. Later, France gave Lebanon a parliamentary system and, for the first time in the Middle East, created a nation where Christians had a strong political presence: each government office was apportioned to a representative of the country's main sects, with the presidency reserved for the Maronite Christians. The privileging of Christians in governmental positions was one of the main reasons for the civil war, when the population percentage shifted in favor of the Muslims.

National Identity. Although the various communities in Lebanon share a similar ethnic background, the fact that they are of different religions and they define their cultural and often geographical boundaries through religious affiliation has always been a source of discord. On numerous occasions religious diversity has eclipsed the sense of belonging to a common state. When the civil war erupted in the mid-1970s, all formerly suppressed differences and incongruent loyalties emerged and came to dominate the political arena, fuel hatred, and provide an easy ground for outside powers to interfere in the country's affairs.

A tired Lebanon emerged in the early 1990s. Under the Ta'if agreement the civil war ended, the Christians lost some of their political power, and a new government of technocrats came into power with reconstruction highest on its agenda.

Today the new moderate government is seeking to secularize political offices and fight corruption.

Ethnic Relations. There is a feeling today that most Lebanese are tired of the war and are trying to put their differences behind them as they reconstruct their country, which is currently under Syrian hegemony.

Lebanese are present throughout the world. Since they have always been at the border between East and West, they often blend easily with the societies to which they migrate.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Most of Lebanon's population lives in the main cities of Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon which are densely populated.

Cities in Lebanon suffer from a lack of space. Most people live in apartments. Furniture is often a mixture of Arabic, Italian, European, and American styles. Apartments are usually decorated in western style: couches are placed against the walls, end tables are common, and walls are often adorned with framed paintings and tapestries.

Lebanese people gather for sports, political events, and concerts. The Lebanese prefer to hold public gatherings in open-air and historical locations.

Government buildings are generally simple and do not display reliefs, paintings, or slogans. Government buildings are often surrounded with small flowerbeds and/or trees.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Lebanese cuisine is Mediterranean. Pita bread is a staple. The Lebanese enjoy hummus (a chick pea dip), fool (a fava bean dip), and other bean dishes. Rice is nearly a staple, and pasta is very popular. Salted yogurt is common in many dishes. Red meat and chicken are common but are usually eaten as part of a dish. Pork is less popular, since it is forbidden under Islamic law.

Eating in Lebanon is tied to family: people almost never eat alone. The Lebanese consider eating out a social and almost aesthetic experience. Hence, restaurants usually have a pleasant view, of which Lebanon's geography affords many.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is the occasion for large meals at sundown. Soup, fatteh (a chick pea and yogurt dish), and karbooj (a nut-rich pastry) are especially eaten during Ramadan.

During Lent, Christians eat meatless dishes and at Barbara (Halloween) they eat a variety of wheat-based dishes.

Basic Economy. Although Lebanon produces and exports much of its agricultural produce, it still imports much of what its inhabitants consume, such as rice and some vegetables. Since most people live in city apartments, the only Lebanese who grow their own food live in mountain villages and some coastal towns.

Land Tenure and Property. Private property is very common and encouraged in Lebanon, although the government still owns most public services. Land laws are similar to those in France and the United States, but both religious and secular courts govern land inheritance.

Commercial Activities. Lebanon produces and sells oranges, apples, and other fruits, as well as a variety of beans and vegetables. It is also becoming a Middle East hub for a number of computer software and hardware manufacturers. The banking industry, which was very prominent before the war, is once again rising to occupy a privileged place in the region.

Major Industries. The major industry is the manufacture of concrete and building material, to serve local needs. There are also some small factories that produce clothing and fabrics.

Trade. Lebanon sells fruits and vegetables to neighboring Arab countries as well as to Italy, France, and the United States. Wine is produced in the Bekaa and exported to France. Lebanon imports fruits and vegetables from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; crude oil from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; and electric and electronic gadgets and cars from Europe, Japan, and North America.

Division of Labor. Adolescents in Lebanon rarely work. The working population is usually 18 years and older. Lebanon is mainly a capitalist country, and the price of living is quite high. Lebanon is rebuilding itself; construction sites are everywhere.

Construction companies prefer to hire workers from Syria or Egypt, who will accept a wage of about $100 (U.S.) a month, an insufficient wage for a Lebanese.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There is no caste system in Lebanon. Money is now the most important factor in determining class lines. The middle class suffered a great loss of wealth during the war, and the gap between the very rich upper class and the lower class has widened. As a result, there have been numerous strikes and demonstrations. Differences in wealth and status often occur along religious and family lines.

Symbols of Social Stratification. All Christians and most Muslims who live in the cities wear European style clothes. In poorer Muslim towns and in some Muslim areas in the main cities, one may still find the Muslim chador (the veil traditional Muslim women wear). In the countryside, women sometimes wear traditional colorful skirts and men wear a traditional serwal (baggy trousers).

Political Life

Government. Lebanon is a democratic republic with a parliament, a cabinet, and a president, although power is divided along religious lines. The President (a Maronite Catholic), who lost part of his executive power after the war, is the head of state; the Prime Minister (a Sunni Muslim) is the head of government and chairs the Cabinet; the Speaker of the House (a Shiite Muslim) presides over Parliament, which passes the Cabinet's bills and elects the President.

Leadership and Political Officials. There is much nepotism in Lebanon. However, the political spectrum is very wide: Lebanon boasts a strong communist party, the Syrian Nationalist Party, and the last Phalange party is still in existence.

Each party has its own newspaper and, at least during the civil war, its own television station.

Social Problems and Control. Lebanese civil law is based on the French Napoleonic law. Police as well as the Forces of General Security uphold the law on the streets. People rarely take the law into their own hands, except when it came to opposing ideologies during the civil war. As a result, the crime rate in Lebanon is very low.

Military Activity. The Lebanese Army was highly divided along religious lines during the civil war. Today, the government is rebuilding the army and trying to modernize it.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Lebanon has a relatively good health care program and some free hospitals.

Unemployment is high in Lebanon and, at least according to the IMF and other international organizations, the government, which is struggling to rebuild the country's infrastructure, does not offer sufficient help for the unemployed.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

There is a considerable number of nongovernmental organizations in Lebanon, many of which, such as Friends of the Disabled, welcome members from all religions. A number of independent organizations help the poor.

Many international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), have offices and activities in Lebanon.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The marketplace traditionally has favored men, and more women stay at home than men. Women are allowed to vote, work, attend school, and participate in all forms of public life, but they tend to occupy traditionally female jobs such as secretaries and school-teachers.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Men hold higher social status than women because of the omnipresence of patriarchal religions in Lebanese life. Family is still stressed, as is the woman's role as a nurturing mother. However, many women have broken traditional boundaries and entered the political, artistic, and literary environment, especially in Beirut and other major cities.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Arranged marriages are rare, although they still exist. The country's present economic crisis has rendered money, a secure job, and a home big factors in contracting marriages.

Polygamy is legal among Muslims; however, it holds a social stigma, and very few people choose this lifestyle.

Religious courts decide on issues of marriage and divorce. Divorce is easy among Muslims, harder for Orthodox Christians, and most difficult in Maronite communities. The divorce rate remains very low.

Domestic Unit. Most household units are made up of a nuclear family. However, the extended family is also very important and often functions as a social security system.

In the household, the husband and wife share authority, although wives usually wield more influence over children and in various household matters.

Inheritance. Inheritance laws are the affair of the various religious courts, which usually favor male heirs. In villages, land is the most important inheritance, whereas apartments, money, and privately-owned shops constitute the bulk of inheritance in the cities.

Kin Groups. After the family, a person's loyalty is usually with members of his/her own religion who inhabit the same town. However, marriage between different religious groups has become frequent, and at the end of the twentieth century there was an effort to pass a law legalizing civil marriages which may undermine the traditional religious and communal boundaries.


Infant Care. Infants are usually placed in cribs and playpens, and they have their own small bedrooms. Kindergartens and babysitters are becoming more common as many women today work outside the house. Quite often grandparents or members of the extended family will help care for a baby.

Child Rearing and Education. Education is very important in Lebanon. Many parents prefer to place their children in the more expensive religious private schools, where they may receive moral guidance.

Children are encouraged to learn and to be quiet. Parents are usually strict and demand great devotion. Lebanese children grow up with deep respect for their parents.

Higher Education. Higher education is highly encouraged in Lebanon, which still has some of the best universities in the region. However, there are very few jobs awaiting young graduates.


The Lebanese are very gregarious. The souks (markets) are always crowded; shopping downtown is very popular, as is strolling with friends along the busy streets. Lebanese people usually sit close together and interact vivaciously.

Manners are important and are highly influenced by French etiquette, especially in matters of dress, address, and eating. Strangers as well as acquaintances greet each other respectfully, usually using French terms, such as bonjour, bon soir, and pardon.

Hospitality is very important. Travelers to Lebanon are received genially.


Religious Beliefs. Most people in Lebanon are religious and monotheistic. Lebanon is made up of Muslim and Christian sects which escaped persecution throughout history by seeking shelter in its mountains. No one religion is dominant. The country has Muslim Shiites, Sunnis, Druzes and Christian Maronites, and Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox.

Religious Practitioners. Religious figures have a lot of authority in Lebanon since religious courts decide on many issues concerning individuals' rights and privileges. This authority has been slightly undermined by the civil war.

Death and the Afterlife. Funerals are usually very elaborate; people are encouraged to express their feelings of loss openly and to follow funeral processions.

All the religions in Lebanon place much emphasis on the afterlife. Individuals are constantly exhorted to live righteous lives in the present, which will allow them to enter a beauteous paradise.

Medicine and Health Care

Health care is highly developed in Lebanon. Very little belief in the efficacy of traditional medicine remains. Lebanon has more doctors than it actually needs, and hospitals are constantly trying to modernize.

Secular Celebrations

Independence Day celebrates the country's independence from France. Army Day celebrates the accomplishments of the Lebanese army. Christmas is celebrated by all Christian denominations but Muslims also participate. Id Il-Mouled celebrates the birth of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists are usually self-supporting, although some do receive contributions from patrons of the arts. There is no official government allocation of monies for the arts, although art schools sometimes receive government aid.

Literature. Lebanon has a long history of excellent poets and novelists. In the early years of the twentieth century, Lebanese authors took the lead in defending Arabic and its use in literary creation. Today, Lebanon still has many authors who write in Arabic as well as French and sometimes English.

Oral literature is preserved in villages, where the zajal, a form of poetic contest in the Lebanese dialect, is alive and enjoyed by everyone.

Graphic Arts. Painting is very varied and encouraged in Lebanon. French surrealists, cubists, and impressionists mostly influence Lebanese artists, who add an oriental touch to the French technique and subject matter. Many exhibits are held throughout the country, including the recently reopened Lebanese Museum in Beirut.

Traditional pottery-making is still popular in the coastal towns, such as Al-Minaa in the north, and Sidon in the south.

Local crafts are encouraged and many souks specialize in selling traditional objets d'art to tourists.

Performance Arts. Oriental and Western music are both popular. International festivals are once again very popular and offer an array of symphonies, classical and modern ballets, foreign and local dance troupes, and opera and pop singers. These festivals are usually held in open air on historic sites, such as the Roman temples of Baalbek, Byblos' crusader ruins, or Beirut's central district. Because of the diversity of the programs such festivals offer, people from all walks of life attend and interact.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Schools of engineering are highly developed in Lebanon. However, they produce more engineers than the country needs, and many engineers find themselves unemployed or forced to accept menial jobs.

Social sciences are taught at the major universities; however, students are not encouraged to pursue them as they are less lucrative than other careers.

The Lebanese are encouraged to learn foreign languages and are usually bilingual.


Abukhalil As'ad. Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, 1998.

Abul-Husn, Latif. The Lebanese Conflict: Looking Inward, 1998.

Brody, Aaron Jed. Each Man Cried out to his God: The specialized religion of Canaanite and Phoenician Seafarers, 1998.

Dagher, Carole. Bring Down the Walls: Lebanon's Postwar Challenge, 2000.

Edde, Michel. The First Colloquium on Popular Culture in Lebanon, 1993.

Mardam-Bey, Farouk. Liban: Figures contemporaines, 1999.

Mouzoune, Abdekrim. Les transformations du paysage spatio-communautaire de Beyrouth, 1999.

Shehadeh, Lamia. Women and War in Lebanon, 1999.

Uvezian, Sonia. Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen, 1999.

Various authors. Political Studies Dedicated to Joseph Moughayzel, 1996.

Ziser, Eyal. Lebanon: The Challenge of Independence, 2000.

Frank Darwiche

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Lebanon (city, United States)

Lebanon, city (1990 pop. 24,800), seat of Lebanon co., SE Pa., in the Pennsylvania Dutch farm country; founded 1753, inc. as a city 1868. Its manufactures include fabricated metal products, lumber, apparel, machinery, tools, textiles, fertilizers, and processed foods. Grain, soybeans, and apples are grown, and livestock is raised. Lebanon was a flourishing town before 1790, and early 18th-century German religious groups are still represented there. The city has a historical museum, and horse shows are a local feature. Also in the area are the Cornwall Furnace (operated 1742–1883) and the Union Canal tunnel, a civil-engineering landmark.

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The people of Lebanon are called Lebanese. Lebanese are divided into Muslims and Christians. Muslims are divided into Sunnis and Shi'ites. The Christian Maronites make up about one-third of the total population of Lebanon, and are a distinct and significant group.

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LebanonBuchanan, cannon, canon, colcannon, Louisianan, Montanan, Rhiannon, Shannon •Botswanan •Lennon, pennon, tenon •Canaan •Burkinan, Henan •finnan •phenomenon, prolegomenon •Parthenon •Arizonan, Conan, Ronan •Lebanon • Algernon • Vernon •Groningen • Vlissingen •Tongan, wrong'un •cap'n, happen •dampen, lampern •aspen •parpen, sharpen, tarpon •weapon • hempen •capon, misshapen •cheapen, deepen, steepen •tympan • ripen • saucepan • open •lumpen

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