views updated May 21 2018



10,400sq km (4015sq mi)



capital (population):

Beirut (1,147,800)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Arab (Lebanese 80%, Palestinian 12%), Armenian 5%, Syrian, Kurdish


Arabic (official)


Islam 58%, Christianity 27%, Druse


Lebanese pound = 100 piastres

Republic in sw Asia. The Republic of Lebanon lies on the e shores of the Mediterranean Sea. A narrow coastal plain contains the capital, Beirut, and the second-largest city of Tripoli. Behind the plain are the rugged Lebanese Mountains, which rise to 3088m (10,131ft). The Anti-Lebanon Mountains form the e border with Syria. Between the two ranges is the Bekaa Valley, a fertile farming area and site of the ancient city of Baalbek.

Climate and Vegetation

Coastal regions have a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Onshore winds bring heavy winter rain to the w slopes of the mountains. Lebanon was famous in ancient times for its cedar forests, but these have largely disappeared. Forests now cover only 8% of the land.


In c.3000 bc, Canaanites founded the city of Tyre and established what became known as Phoenicia. In 332 bc, Alexander the Great conquered the territory. In 64 bc, the region fell to the Romans. Christianity arrived in ad 325. Arab conquest in the 7th century saw the introduction of Islam, but Christian Maronites predominated. Lebanon was one of the main battlefields of the Crusades (1100–1300).

In 1516, Lebanon became part of the Ottoman Empire, and Turkish rule continued until World War I. After the war, Lebanon and Syria were mandated to France. In 1926, Lebanon gained a republican constitution. In 1945, it became fully independent. During the 1950s, Lebanon's economy grew rapidly and it pursued a pro-Western foreign policy. This infuriated the Arab population and US troops were called in to crush a 1958 rebellion. Lebanon did not participate in the 1967 or 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars. In the late-1960s, Lebanon came under increasing military pressure from Israel to act against Palestinian guerrillas operating in s Lebanon.

In 1975, civil war broke out between Maronite, Sunni, Shi'ite, and Druse militias. The war claimed c.50,000 Lebanese lives and devastated the economy. In 1976, Syrian troops imposed a fragile cease-fire. In 1978, Israel invaded s Lebanon to destroy Palestinian bases. UN peace-keeping forces were called in to separate the factions. In 1982, Israel launched a full-scale attack on Lebanon. Phalangist militia massacred Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut. In 1983 a terrorist bombing campaign accompanied the deployment of US and European troops in Beirut. Multinational forces left in 1984, and Israeli troops withdrew to a buffer zone in s Lebanon. In 1987, Syrian troops moved into Beirut to quell disturbances.

In 1990, a fragile truce ensued and the government began to disarm the militias. Elias Hrawi's presidency (1989–98) saw the start of reconstruction in Beirut. Syria maintained troops in West Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. In 1996 and 1998, Israel attacked Hizbollah bases in s Lebanon, in retaliation for terrorist strikes in Israel. In 1998, General Emile Lahoud succeeded Hrawi as president. In 2000, Israel withdrew its forces from s Lebanon and the Syrian-backed Hizbollah moved in. In 2001, Israel attacked Syrian radar sites in central Lebanon. Syrian troops withdrew from Beirut in June 2001.


The civil war devastated Lebanon's valuable tourism, trade, and financial sectors (2000 GDP per capita, US$5000). Manufacturing was also badly damaged. Manufactures include chemicals, electrical goods and textiles. Farm products include fruits, vegetables and sugar beet.

Political map

Physical map


http://www.lebanonembassyus.org; http://www.lebanon-tourism.gov.lb

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