Lebanon

Introduction Following the capture of Syria from the Ottoman Empire by Anglo-French forces in 1918, France received a mandate over this territory and separated out a region of Lebanon in 1920. France granted this area independence in 1943. A lengthy civil war (1975-1990) devastated the country, but Lebanon has since made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions. Under the Ta'if Accord - the blueprint for national reconciliation - the Lebanese established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater voice in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, Lebanon has conducted several successful elections, most militias have been disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizballah, a radical Shi'a organization listed by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, retains its weapons. During Lebanon's civil war, the Arab League legitimized in the Ta'if Accord Syria's troop deployment, numbering about 16,000 based mainly east of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley. Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the passage in October 2004 of UNSCR 1559 - a resolution calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and end its interference in Lebanese affairs - encouraged some Lebanese groups to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well. The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq HARIRI and 20 others in February 2005 led to massive demonstrations in Beirut against the Syrian presence ("the Cedar Revolution"), and Syria withdrew the remainder of its military forces in April 2005. In May-June 2005, Lebanon held its first legislative elections since the end of the civil war free of foreign interference, handing a majority to the bloc led by Saad HARIRI, the slain prime minister's son. Lebanon continues to be plagued by violence - Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 leading to a 34-day conflict with Israel. The LAF in May-September 2007 battled Sunni extremist group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp; and the country has witnessed a string of politically motivated assassinations since the death of Rafiq HARIRI. Lebanese politicians in November 2007 were unable to agree on a successor to Emile LAHUD when he stepped down as president, creating a political vacuum.
History

Ancient history

The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered in Byblos, which is considered to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world,[15] remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars which are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago. [5]

Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great. After two centuries of Persian rule, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Persian, Assyrian, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and Ottoman.

French mandate and independence

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, in a region known as Greater Syria,[17] until 1918 when the area became a part of the French Mandate of Syria following World War I. On September 1, 1920, France formed the State of Greater Lebanon as one of several ethnic enclaves within Syria.[18] Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druzes. On September 1, 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. The Republic was afterward a separate entity from Syria but still administered under the French Mandate of Syria. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany.[19] General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Christian and its prime minister be Muslim.

Lebanon's history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.

1948 Arab-Israeli war

Five years after gaining independence, Lebanon reluctantly joined the Arab League but never invaded Israel[20] during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It took over logistical support of the Arab Liberation Army after it found itself cut off from its bases in Syria while going on an attack on the newly-proclaimed Jewish State.[20] After the defeat of the Arab Liberation Army in Operation Hiram,[21] Lebanon accepted an armistice with Israel on March 23, 1949. Approximately 100,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon in 1949 as a result of the creation of Israel and the subsequent war. The Lebanese-Israeli border remained closed, but quiet, until after the Six Day War in 1967.

Civil war and beyond

In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country's economy, and resulting in the massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 maimed.[23] The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.

During the civil war, the Palestine Liberation Organization used Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel. Lebanon was twice invaded and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978 and 1982,[25] the PLO expelled in the second invasion. Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when there was a general decision, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw due to continuous guerrilla attacks executed by Hezbollah militants and a belief that Hezbollah activity would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence.[26] The UN determined that the withdrawal of Israeli troops beyond the blue line was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, although a border region called the Shebaa Farms is still disputed. Hezbollah declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area was liberated.

Recent history

On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion near the Saint George Bay in Beirut. Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack[29] due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending pro-Syrian President Lahoud's term in office. Others, namely the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.

This incident triggered a series of demonstrations, known as Cedar Revolution, that demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1595 on April 7, 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.[31] The findings of the investigation were officially published on October 20, 2005 in the Mehlis report.[32] Eventually, and under pressure from the international community, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon.[33] By April 26, 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria.[34] The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that led to the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and that led to a conflict, known in Lebanon as July War, that lasted until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect on 14 August 2006.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria
Geographic coordinates: 33 50 N, 35 50 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 10,400 sq km
land: 10,230 sq km
water: 170 sq km
Area - comparative: about 0.7 times the size of Connecticut
Land boundaries: total: 454 km
border countries: Israel 79 km, Syria 375 km
Coastline: 225 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers; Lebanon mountains experience heavy winter snows
Terrain: narrow coastal plain; El Beqaa (Bekaa Valley) separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Qurnat as Sawda' 3,088 m
Natural resources: limestone, iron ore, salt, water-surplus state in a water-deficit region, arable land
Land use: arable land: 16.35%
permanent crops: 13.75%
other: 69.9% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,040 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 4.8 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.38 cu km/yr (33%/1%/67%)
per capita: 385 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms
Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; air pollution in Beirut from vehicular traffic and the burning of industrial wastes; pollution of coastal waters from raw sewage and oil spills
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: Nahr el Litani is the only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity
Politics

Lebanon is a parliamentary, democratic republic, which implements a special system known as confessionalism.[69] This system, allegedly meant to insure that sectarian conflict is kept at bay, attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of religious sects in the governing body. As such, high-ranking offices in are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Catholic Christian, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Deputy Prime Minister an Orthodox Christian.

This trend continues in the distribution of the 128 parliamentary seats, which are divided equally between Muslims and Christians. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975-1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions.[72] According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every four years, although for much of Lebanon’s recent history, civil war precluded the exercise of this right.

The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term. At the urging of the Syrian government, this constitutional rule has been bypassed by ad hoc amendment twice in recent history. Elias Hrawi’s term, which was due to end in 1995, was extended for three years. This procedure, denounced by pro-democracy campaigners, was repeated in 2004 to allow Émile Lahoud to remain in office until 2007.

The President appoints the Prime Minister on the nomination of the parliament (which is, in most cases, binding).Following consultations with the parliament and the President, the Prime Minister forms the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

Lebanon's judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Lebanese law does not provide for Civil marriage (although it recognizes such marriages contracted abroad); efforts by former President Elias Hrawi to legalize civil marriage in the late 1990s floundered on objections mostly from Muslim clerics. Additionally, Lebanon has a system of military courts that also has jurisdiction over civilians for crimes of espionage, treason, and other crimes that are considered to be security-related. These military courts have been criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for "seriously fall[ing] short of international standards for fair trial" and having "very wide jurisdiction over civilians".

After Rafic Hariri's assassination on 14 February 2005, the country has seen turbulent political times, and it shaped the Cedar Revolution and the rise of the March 14 alliance which is made of: Lebanese Forces, Future Movement and the PSP.

People Population: 3,971,941 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26% (male 526,994/female 505,894)
15-64 years: 66.8% (male 1,275,021/female 1,380,131)
65 years and over: 7.1% (male 128,002/female 155,899) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 28.8 years
male: 27.6 years
female: 30 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.06 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 22.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.08 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.41 years
male: 70.91 years
female: 76.04 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.87 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,800 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Lebanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Lebanese
Ethnic groups: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1%
note: many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendents of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians
Religions: Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%
note: 17 religious sects recognized
Languages: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 87.4%
male: 93.1%
female: 82.2% (2003 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Lebanese Republic
conventional short form: Lebanon
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Lubnaniyah
local short form: Lubnan
former: Greater Lebanon
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Beirut
geographic coordinates: 33 52 N, 35 30 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 8 governorates (mohafazat, singular - mohafazah); Aakar, Baalbek-Hermel, Beqaa, Beyrouth, Liban-Nord, Liban-Sud, Mont-Liban, Nabatiye
Independence: 22 November 1943 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
National holiday: Independence Day, 22 November (1943)
Constitution: 23 May 1926; amended a number of times, most recently Charter of Lebanese National Reconciliation (Ta'if Accord) of October 1989
Legal system: mixture of Ottoman law, canon law, Napoleonic code, and civil law; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 21 years of age; compulsory for all males; authorized for women at age 21 with elementary education
Executive branch: chief of state: vacant (as of 24 November 2007); note - former President Emile LAHUD's term expired on 23 November 2007, and the Cabinet temporarily assumed presidential powers
head of government: Prime Minister Fuad SINIORA (since 30 June 2005); Deputy Prime Minister Elias MURR (since April 2005)
cabinet: Cabinet chosen by the prime minister in consultation with the president and members of the National Assembly
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a six-year term (may not serve consecutive terms); election last held 15 October 1998 (next election orginally scheduled for fall 2004 but was postponed beyond the constitutionally mandated 23 November deadline; under Syrian pressure, Parliament extended Lahoud's term for three years); the prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president in consultation with the National Assembly; by agreement, the president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the National Assembly is a Shi'a Muslim
election results: for 15 October 1998 election: Emile LAHUD elected president; National Assembly vote - 118 votes in favor, 0 against, 10 abstentions
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Majlis Alnuwab (Arabic) or Assemblee Nationale (French) (128 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held in four rounds on 29 May, 5, 12, 19 June 2005 (next to be held 2009)
election results: percent of vote by group - NA; seats by group - Future Movement Bloc 36; Democratic Gathering 15; Development and Resistance Bloc 15; Free Patriotic Movement 15; Loyalty to the Resistance 14; Qornet Shewan 6; Lebanese Forces 5; Popular Bloc 4; Tripoli Independent Bloc 3; Kataeb Reform Movement 2; Syrian National Socialist Party 2; Tashnaq 2; Syrian Ba'th Party 1; Democratic Left 1; Democratic Renewal Movement 1; Kataeb Party 1; Nasserite Popular Movement 1; independent 4
Judicial branch: four Courts of Cassation (three courts for civil and commercial cases and one court for criminal cases); Constitutional Council (called for in Ta'if Accord - rules on constitutionality of laws); Supreme Council (hears charges against the president and prime minister as needed)
Political parties and leaders: 14 March Coalition: Democratic Gathering Bloc [Walid JUNBLATT, leader of Progressive Socialist Party]; Democratic Left [Ilyas ATALLAH]; Democratic Renewal Movement [Nassib LAHUD]; Future Movement Bloc [Sa'ad HARIRI]; Kataeb Party [Amine GEMAYEL]; Lebanese Forces [Samir JA'JA]; Tripoli Independent Bloc
Change and Reform Alliance Bloc: Free Patriotic Movement [Michel AWN]; Metn Bloc [Michel MURR]; Popular Bloc [Elias SKAFF]; Tashnaq
Hizballah and Amal Alliance: Development and Resistance Bloc [Nabih BERRI, leader of Amal Movement]; Hizballah Party [Hassan NASRALLAH]; Loyalty to the Resistance [Mohammad RA'AD]; Nasserite Popular Movement [Ussama SAAD]; Syrian Ba'th Party [Sayez SHUKR]; Syrian Social Nationalist Party [Ali QANSO]
Political pressure groups and leaders: none
International organization participation: ABEDA, ACCT, AFESD, AMF, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAS (observer), OIC, OIF, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Antoine CHEDID
chancery: 2560 28th Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6300
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6324
consulate(s) general: Detroit, New York, Los Angeles
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Michele J. SISON
embassy: Awkar, Lebanon; (Awkar facing the Municipality)
mailing address: P. O. Box 70-840, Antelias, Lebanon; from US: US Embassy Beirut, 6070 Beirut Place, Washington, DC 20521-6070
telephone: [961] (4) 542600, 543600
FAX: [961] (4) 544136
Flag description: three horizontal bands consisting of red (top), white (middle, double width), and red (bottom) with a green cedar tree centered in the white band
Culture

Overview

Phoenicia and its colonies.

The area including modern Lebanon has been home to various civilizations and cultures for thousands of years. Originally home to the Phoenicians, and then subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Ottoman Turks and most recently the French, Lebanese culture has over the millennia evolved by borrowing from all of these groups. Lebanon's diverse population, composed of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country's lively festivals, highly successful musical styles and literature as well as their rich cuisine, and numerous violent clashes amongst different religious and ethnic groups. When compared to the rest of the Western Asia, Lebanese society as a whole is well educated, and as of 2003 87.4% of the population was literate.[66] Lebanese society is very modern and similar to certain cultures of Mediterranean Europe. It is often considered to serve as Europe's gateway to Western Asia as well as the Asian gateway to the Western World.[67]

Cuisine

The Lebanese Cuisine is considered to be a Mediterranean basically Levantine Arabic delicacy consisting of a variety of fresh vegetarian recipes, salads and stews all seasoned with a flavorsome combination of herbs and spices. One of the most world known Lebanese specialties is called the Maza, also written "Mezze", which is a selection of appetisers: olives, cheeses, Labanee, or small portions also known as muqabbilat (Arabic for starters).

As with most Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese cuisine is considered to be a very balanced, healthy diet.

The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten it is usually lamb. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil-nary a meal goes by in Lebanon that does not include these two ingredients. Most often foods are either grilled, baked or sauted in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts. Vegetables are often eaten raw or pickled as well as cooked. While the cuisine of Lebanon doesn't boast an entire repertoire of sauces, it focuses on herbs, spices and the freshness of ingredients; the assortment of dishes and combinations are almost limitless. The meals are full of robust, earthy flavors and, like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons.

Food and music overlap greatly with those of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Turkey (all were Ottoman provinces for 400 years.)

Creative arts

Lebanese music is known around the world for its soothing rhythms and oriental beats. Traditional and folk music are extremely popular as are western rhythms.

One of the most well-known Lebanese singers is Fairuz; her songs are broadcast every morning on most radio stations and many TV channels, both in Lebanon and the Arab world in general. Other prominent artists include Julia Boutros, composer and oud player Marcel Khalife, Majida El Roumi, Sabah, and the important nun and singer Sister Marie Keyrouz, founder of The Ensemble of the Peace.

Some Lebanese artists, such as Najwa Karam and Assi Hellani, remain loyal to a traditional type of music known as 'jabali' ("from the mountains"), while other artists incorporate Western style into their songs. Lebanese artists are perhaps the most popular in the Arab world, alongside Egyptian performers, and the star scene includes prominent figures like Najwa Karam, Nancy Ajram, Elissa (singer), Ragheb Alame, Myriam Fares, Wael Kfoury, Nawal al Zoghbi, Haifa Wehbe, Carole Samaha, Julia Boutros, Marwan Khouri, Waleed Tawfeek, Amal Hijazi and Majida El Roumi. In addition, the lead guitarist from All Time Low, Jack Barakat, was born in Lebanon.

Sports

Because of Lebanon's unique geography, both summer and winter sports thrive in the country. In fact, in autumn and spring it is sometimes possible to engage in both during the same, skiing in the morning and swimming in the Mediterranean during the afternoon. At the competitive level, basketball, football are among Lebanon's most popular sports. In recent years, Lebanon has hosted the Asian Cup and the Pan-Arab Games; the country will host the Winter Asian Games in 2009. To meet the needs of these international competitions, Lebanon maintains state-of-the-art athletic facilities, which in turn encourage local sporting activities. Lebanon sends athletes to both the winter and summer games of the Olympics and Special Olympics. The Lebanese national soccer team has progressed past the first round of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2010 by eliminating India, 6-3 on aggregate. Rugby league is also popular in Lebanon. The national rugby league team nearly qualified for the 2008 World Cup, but were narrowly beaten by Samoa in their final game.

Lebanon boasts six ski resorts, with slopes suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and levels of experience. Off-slope, there are many opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. In the summer, skilifts can be used to access some of Lebanon's best hiking trails, with panoramic views stretching as far as Cyprus to the west and Syria to the east on clear days. Canoeing, cycling, rafting, climbing, swimming, sailing and spelunking are among the other common leisure sports in Lebanon. Adventure and extreme sports are also possible throughout the country. The Beirut Marathon is held every fall, drawing top runners from Lebanon and abroad. Shorter races are also held for youth and less serious competitors. Race day is promoted as a fun, family event, and it has become a tradition for many to participate in costumes or outlandish clothing.

Arts and literature

Lebanon's contribution to the Arab Rennaissance during the middle of the 19th century is immense. This flowering allowed for the modernisation of the Arabic language moving it away from its Koranic classical dictums, and allowing for the creation and adaptation of previously unknown terms/ words as Al-Watan (the nation), Al-Watania (Nationalism).

The first theatre production in the Arab world was performed at the Al-Kahzen household in 1862, a Lebanese aristocratic family who were also representatives of France.

By the turn of the 20th century, Beirut was vying with Cairo as the major centre for modern Arab thought, with untold number of newspapers, magazines, and literary societies.

In literature, Gibran Khalil Gibran is known to be one of the world's famous writers, particularly known for his book The Prophet, which has been translated into more than twenty different languages.[68]

Several contemporary Lebanese writers have achieved international success; including Elias Khoury, Amin Maalouf and Hanan al-Shaykh.

In art, Moustafa Farroukh and Alfred Bassbouss are very famous. Mustafa Farroukh (1901-1957) was one of Lebanon's most prominent painters of the 20th century. Formally trained in Rome and Paris, he exhibited in venues from Paris to New York to Beirut over his career. His work was applauded for its representation of real life in Lebanon in pictures of the country, its people and its customs. Farroukh became highly regarded as a Lebanese nationalist painter at a time when Lebanon was asserting its political independence. His art captured the spirit and character of the Lebanese people and he became recognized as the outstanding Lebanese painter of his generation. His total paintings were more than 2000 sold to collectors inside and outside of Lebanon. He also wrote five books and taught art at the American University of Beirut.

Festivals

Several international music festivals are held in Lebanon, featuring world-renowned artists and drawing crowds from Lebanon and abroad. Among the most famous are Baalbeck International Festival, Beiteddine Festival, Byblos International Festival, and the Al-Bustan Festival. Beirut in particular has a very vibrant arts scene, with numerous performances, exhibits, fashion shows, and concerts held throughout the year in its galleries, museums, theatres, and public spaces.

Economy Economy - overview: The 1975-90 civil war seriously damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a Middle Eastern entrepot and banking hub. In the years since, Lebanon has rebuilt much of its war-torn physical and financial infrastructure by borrowing heavily - mostly from domestic banks. In an attempt to reduce the ballooning national debt, the Rafiq HARIRI government began an austerity program, reining in government expenditures, increasing revenue collection, and privatizing state enterprises, but economic and financial reform initiatives stalled and public debt continued to grow despite receipt of more than $2 billion in bilateral assistance at the Paris II Donors Conference. The Israeli-Hizballah conflict in July-August 2006 caused an estimated $3.6 billion in infrastructure damage, and prompted international donors to pledge nearly $1 billion in recovery and reconstruction assistance. Donors met again in January 2007 and pledged over $7.5 billion to Lebanon for development projects and budget support, conditioned on progress on Beirut's fiscal reform and privatization program. Internal Lebanese political tension continues to hamper economic activity, particularly in the tourism and retail sectors.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $40.65 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $24 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 0.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $10,400 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 5.2%
industry: 18.4%
services: 76.4% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 1.5 million
note: in addition, there are as many as 1 million foreign workers (2005 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Unemployment rate: 20% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line: 28% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.6% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 19.4% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $6.116 billion
expenditures: $9.421 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 188% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: citrus, grapes, tomatoes, apples, vegetables, potatoes, olives, tobacco; sheep, goats
Industries: banking, tourism, food processing, wine, jewelry, cement, textiles, mineral and chemical products, wood and furniture products, oil refining, metal fabricating
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 9.183 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 97.2%
hydro: 2.8%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 10.58 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 455 million kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 106,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 102,300 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $-3.337 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $3.099 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: authentic jewelry, inorganic chemicals, miscellaneous consumer goods, fruit and vegetables, tobacco, construction minerals, electric power machinery and switchgear, textile fibers, paper
Exports - partners: Syria 26.8%, UAE 12%, Switzerland 6%, Saudi Arabia 5.7%, Turkey 4.5% (2006)
Imports: $10 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: petroleum products, cars, medicinal products, clothing, meat and live animals, consumer goods, paper, textile fabrics, tobacco, electrical machinery
Imports - partners: Syria 11.6%, Italy 9.8%, US 9.3%, France 7.7%, Germany 6.1%, China 5%, Saudi Arabia 4.7% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: of the $7.6 billion in grants and loans pledged to Lebanon at the Paris III conference in January 2007, Beirut as of mid-December 2007 had signed agreements for $3 billion, including $1 billion in project financing, $750 million in direct budget support, $750 million in private sector credit, and $285 million in in-kind aid; about $500 million of the $1.7 billion pledged for direct budget support has been disbursed to Lebanon; donors in August 2006 also pledged nearly $1.8 billion in aid to help Lebanon recover from the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war; during the conflict, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait provided $1.5 billion in concessional loans to the Lebanese central bank to maintain confidence in the Lebanese currency. (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $19.4 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $34.67 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $NA
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $NA
Market value of publicly traded shares: $8.279 billion (2006)
Currency (code): Lebanese pound (LBP)
Currency code: LBP
Exchange rates: Lebanese pounds per US dollar - 1,507.5 (2007), 1,507.5 (2006), 1,507.5 (2005), 1,507.5 (2004), 1,507.5 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 681,400 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 1.103 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: repair of the telecommunications system, severely damaged during the civil war, now complete
domestic: two wireless networks provide good service; political instability hampers privatization and deployment of new technologies; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership approaching 50 per 100 persons
international: country code - 961; submarine cable link to Cyprus; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Atlantic Ocean); coaxial cable to Syria
Radio broadcast stations: AM 20, FM 22, shortwave 4 (1998)
Radios: 2.85 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 15 (plus 5 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 1.18 million (1997)
Internet country code: .lb
Internet hosts: 5,635 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 22 (2000)
Internet users: 950,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 7 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 5
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 43 km (2007)
Railways: total: 401 km
standard gauge: 319 km 1.435 m
narrow gauge: 82 km 1.050 m
note: rail system became unusable because of damage done during fighting in the 1980s and in 2006 (2006)
Roadways: total: 7,300 km
paved: 6,198 km
unpaved: 1,102 km (1999)
Merchant marine: total: 35 ships (1000 GRT or over) 132,871 GRT/140,011 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 3, cargo 14, livestock carrier 12, passenger/cargo 1, refrigerated cargo 1, roll on/roll off 2, vehicle carrier 2
foreign-owned: 3 (Greece 2, Syria 1)
registered in other countries: 55 (Antigua and Barbuda 1, Barbados 1, Cambodia 7, Comoros 5, Cyprus 1, Dominica 1, Egypt 1, Georgia 3, Honduras 2, Hong Kong 1, North Korea 3, Liberia 2, Malta 12, Mongolia 1, Panama 3, St Vincent and The Grenadines 7, Syria 4, unknown 2) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Beirut, Tripoli
Military Military branches: Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF): Army, Navy, and Air Force (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18-30 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 974,363
females age 18-49: 1,024,273 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 821,762
females age 18-49: 865,770 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 3.1% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: lacking a treaty or other documentation describing the boundary, portions of the Lebanon-Syria boundary are unclear with several sections in dispute; since 2000, Lebanon has claimed Shab'a Farms area in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights; the roughly 2,000-strong UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been in place since 1978
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 405,425 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)), 20,000-40,000 (Iraq)
IDPs: 17,000 (1975-90 civil war, Israeli invasions), 200,000 (July-August 2006 war) (2006)
Illicit drugs: cannabis cultivation dramatically reduced to 2,500 hectares in 2002 despite continued significant cannabis consumption; opium poppy cultivation minimal; small amounts of Latin American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin transit country on way to European markets and for Middle Eastern consumption; money laundering of drug proceeds fuels concern that extremists are benefiting from drug trafficking