What Is Lebanon?
Officially known as the Lebanese Republic, Lebanon is a country in the Middle East, located on the continent of Asia. The country is home is several different ethnic groups and about 18 different religious factions, with Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Druze functioning as the main groups.
Lebanon has a population of just over six million people. The country also hosts a large number of Palestian and Syrian refugees. Lebanon has also witnessed the migration of many of their own citizens. From 1975-2011, an estimated 1.8 million people emigrated from the country. Today, you can find millions of people of Lebanese descent spread across the world.
The capital of Lebanon is Beirut and the official currency is the Lebanese Pound (LBP).
Where Is Lebanon? Finding Lebanon on a Map
Lebanon is located on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel sits to the South, and Syria to the North and East. The country is relatively small, spread out over just 4,036 square miles (10,452 km2). As such, the population density of Lebanon is quite high, about 1,450 people per square mile (560/km2).
Lebanon is home to two main mountain ranges. In the west and central regions lies the Lebanon Mountain Range, while the Anti-Lebanon Mountain Range lies along the eastern border and stretches into Syria. The highest point is Qurnat as Sawda’, which is the peak of a mountain called Jabal al-Makmel in the northern part of the country. With an elevation of 10,148 feet (3,093 m), this mountain does not belong to either one of the country’s main mountain ranges.
Lebanon’s location on the Mediterranean gives the country a typically moderate climate.
The Creation and History of Lebanon
The history of Lebanon is long (think ancient) and complex. In fact, Lebanon is often considered among the oldest historical civilizations. Various empires and groups have ruled over the region, with one of the more recent being the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Lebanon from 1516 to 1918.
Further reading: What Was the Ottoman Empire?
After World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, France would come to control the territory. They established Greater Lebanon in 1920. Modeled after the French Third Republic, Lebanon was reorganized as a republic and got a new constitution in 1926. They officially gained full independence from France in 1943.
Lebanon’s mountainous landscape has always served as a haven for various religious groups, cultures, and factions. However, at various points throughout its history, the country has been invaded by neighboring Israel and Syria. In 1982, Israel invaded and attempted to destroy the Palestinian Liberation Organization which was composed of Palestinian refugees and maintained a presence in the south of the country until 2000. Syria also maintained troops in Lebanon between 1976 and 2005.
The Lebanese Civil War
Complex issues, including attempting to maintain a political system called Confessionalism, which entails the proportional sharing of power between the country’s diverse religious majorities, led to the outbreak of civil war in 1975. During the civil war, religious conflicts led to the death of about 150,000 people in the country. During this time, a Christian militia came to head with pro-Palestinian Muslim Militia groups. Thousands of people also fled the country.
The civil war officially ended in 1990 following the Taif Accord in 1989. This agreement attempted to evenly distribute power among Lebanon’s three main religious groups by reserving the presidency for a Maronite Christian, the position of Prime Minister for a Sunni Muslim, and ensuring that the speaker of the parliament is always a Shia Muslim.
Since this time, the country has not been without conflict, but has managed to maintain fragile peace despite occasional bombings and political assassinations. That said, in spite of the country’s small size, it plays an important role in regional politics and commerce. This can be attributed largely to Lebanon’s high literacy rate and traditional mercantile culture.
The Country Today
Since the end of the civil war, Lebanon has been working toward rebuilding its economy. The years between 2006 and 2010 saw a massive economic boost, but the growth rate has since stabilized. As a result of its varied religious and ethnic makeup and unique historical roots, the country continues to distinguish itself on the basis of its rich and diverse culture.
As such, Lebanon is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination. It’s in a unique position to cater to tourists of numerous religious and ethnic backgrounds. Lebanon’s cities are known as lively cultural centers. Beirut is famed for its nightlife and entertainment, while Tripoli and Tyre are home to numerous cultural sites and points of interest.
Lebanon is home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some 186 miles (300 km) of shoreline and beaches.