|STATE STRUCTURE||Parliamentary republic|
|INTERNAL DIVISION||Lebanon is divided into 6 governorates or provinces, which in turn are divided into 25 districts. The regions are divided into districts.|
|OFFICIAL LANGUAGE||Arabic language|
|NATIONAL COMPOSITION||Arabs (95%), Greeks, Armenians, etc.|
|TIMEZONE||EET (UTC+2, summer UTC+3) / MSK +0|
The Lebanese flag was adopted in 1943. Later in 1967 it was slightly modified. The state symbol is a rectangular panel with an aspect ratio of 2:3, consisting of red and white stripes. In the center of the flag on a white stripe is an image of a green Lebanese cedar.
The cedar is a traditional symbol of Lebanon, associated with Christianity (see Psalm 91:13- “The righteous one blossoms like a palm tree, stands like a cedar in Lebanon”). The cedar is also a symbol of immortality. In the XVIII century, the cedar becomes a symbol of the Christian Maronite Church, which spread its influence mainly in Syria and Lebanon. Later, when Lebanon became part of the French possessions, the French tricolor was used with the image of a cedar in the center of the flag. The red and white colors are identified with the Causites and Yemenites, respectively. These clans were the most influential in Lebanon from the 7th to the 18th centuries. Later, the white color of the flag began to mean the purity of the snow of the Lebanese mountains and the purity of the thoughts of the people of the country, the red – the blood shed in the struggle for independence against the French invaders.
The coat of arms of Lebanon consists of a red shield with a white curve, in which a tree is placed – the Lebanese cedar. The coat of arms is very similar to the flag of Lebanon, with the exception of the horizontal stripe on the flag changing to a curve.
Lebanon – Land of the ancient Phoenicians
According to Franciscogardening.com, Lebanon is a small Middle Eastern state, sheltered for the most part in a mountainous area on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The territory of the country in the east and north borders on Syria, in the south – on Israel. Currently, approximately 4 million local residents live here, as well as more than 1 million refugees from Syria.
The country probably got its name from the ancient Jews, since the word “Lebanon” is translated from Hebrew as “white mountains”. There are really a lot of mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks in Lebanon.
The coast of Lebanon has a subtropical Mediterranean climate with hot and humid summers. At the height of the summer period, in July, the thermometer can rise to + 28-30 degrees Celsius, and sometimes even higher. In combination with high humidity, such temperatures are tolerated by the human body, accustomed to living in other climatic conditions, quite difficult. However, in the north-east of the country, the climate is arid, sandstorms are common. In winter, the temperature on the coast is about + 13C, although in the mountains it drops to a “minus” mark, a lot of snow falls, which lies on some slopes for about half a year, which makes Lebanese ski resorts attractive vacation spots for snowboarders, freestylers and skiers.
The nature of Lebanon is picturesque and diverse. Two mountain ranges cross the country from north to south. Along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea stretches the western ridge. This area of the country is surrounded by orange groves and banana plantations. But the coastal plain, which, however, is quite mountainous, occupies a narrow strip of land, the width of which is from 1 to 10 kilometers. Near the coast, the hills are literally buried in forests. They grow Syrian maple, Aleppo pine, oak, laurel, plane tree and wild olive trees. In the mountains above, juniper grows and the famous Lebanese cedar, which has become the national symbol of the country. The highest point in the country is Mount Kurnes al-Sauda (3083 meters).
An interesting fact: In the old days, ships that sailed through the waters of the Black and Mediterranean Seas were built mainly from Lebanese cedar. This tree became the main building material for the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. The sarcophagi of the Egyptian pharaohs were also built from it.
Currently, only two cedar groves have survived in Lebanon. Now they are under state protection. The oldest of them – the Divine Cedar Grove or Horsh-Arz-el-Rab (its area occupies 102 hectares) – is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Anti-Lebanon mountain range stretches along the border with Syria. It is in these places that the oldest karst caves are located. Some of them have been ennobled by man: multi-colored illumination of stalactites and stalagmites, as, for example, in the Jeita grotto, allows you to achieve an interesting effect – to create the impression of a ghostly fairy-tale picture. It makes a lasting impression on tourists.
Between the two ridges is the Bekaa Valley, through which the largest Lebanese river, El Litani, flows. The width of the valley varies from 8 to 14 kilometers. But in the northern part of the country, this plain turns into a stone desert, on which only wind tornadoes and herds of goats and sheep roam freely in search of at least some kind of food. Ever since the time of the ancient Phoenicians, the fertile part of the valley was considered the main granary of the country – people sought to master every plot suitable for agriculture.
The fauna of Lebanon can be called diverse with a big stretch, but of the large mammals in this country there are deer, hyenas, jackals and even Syrian bears. But some of these animal species are already listed in the Red Book and are practically not found.
Archaeologists have proven that people in the territory that today belongs to Lebanon appeared around the 6th millennium BC, and the first cities began to form in the 3rd millennium BC. It was on Lebanese soil that the Mediterranean state of Phoenicia was born, famous for its shipbuilders and seafaring merchants, who were the first to circumnavigate Africa and found Carthage.
Interesting fact: The ancient Phoenicians invented the world’s first linear alphabet, which gave rise to almost all modern branches of alphabetic writing (with the exception of Japanese kana, Korean writing and some others).
There is a version that it was the Phoenicians who invented the world’s first money – gold talents, as well as the Phoenician letter, which the ancient Greeks later borrowed from them. They are also credited with the palm and in terms of other inventions – glass, soap and purple, which they received by digesting sea mollusks.
In 332 BC, after a seven-month siege and assault, Alexander the Great captured the Phoenician city of Tyre, showing miracles of military wisdom and ingenuity. If before, for several centuries, the territory of Lebanon was part of the Achaemenid Empire, then, after the victory of the Macedonian weapons, it entered the empire of the Great Alexander. In later times, after the collapse of a single state, this diodochia (imperial region) became the possession of the Seleucid dynasty.
In the 1st century BC. Lebanon became part of the Great Armenia of Tigran II the Great, but this lasted for a very short period of time, since in 64 BC. Pompey the Great, in turn, conquered this territory. So, Lebanon became part of the province of Syria, becoming part of the Roman Empire. From the 7th century on the territory of Lebanon, where Semitic dialects prevailed, the Arabic language began to penetrate, and with it the Muslim religion. This phenomenon is associated with the invasion of these lands by the army of Caliph Omar. Despite the victorious march of Islam, the Christian religion, planted in Lebanon by the apostles, also survived. What is remarkable: Christianity managed to survive even within the Muslim states – largely due to the mountainous terrain.
From 1182 to 1261, the crusaders ruled the Lebanese lands, and the locals entered into a union with the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, the territory of Lebanon was divided between the county of Tripoli and the Kingdom of Jerusalem of the Crusaders. However, in the 13th century, the Egyptian Mamluks expelled the crusaders. The Mamluks were supported by the South Lebanese Ismailis Druze, on whose support the Muslim rulers later relied during the period of Egyptian rule.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Egyptian government was replaced by the Turkish one – then, as part of the province of Syria, Lebanon entered the Ottoman Empire, in which it remained until the beginning of the 20th century. After the First World War, Lebanon was separated from Syria and came under French control.
The country gained independence in the midst of World War II – in 1943, when an agreement was signed on the state structure of Lebanon.
In 1948, Lebanon took part in the first Arab war with Israel. In 1958, the first civil war broke out in the country, which ended in the same year after the introduction of the American military contingent into the country.
Until the mid-1970s, Lebanon was a prosperous and financially stable state. However, in 1975, as a result of religious differences, a civil war broke out in the country again, almost completely bled the economy. Officially, the civil strife lasted 15 years, but in fact the situation more or less stabilized only by 2006.
Modern Lebanon, despite the rather difficult military-political situation that has developed in the Middle East as a whole, is loved by travelers.
Lebanon is a multi-confessional state: about 60% of its population are Muslims, 40% are Christians. According to the Constitution of the country, 18 religious movements are recognized as official – Islamic and Christian.
In Lebanon, the confessionalism of state administration is constitutionally fixed: a Maronite Christian must certainly become the president of the country, a Sunni Muslim must become the prime minister, and a Shiite Muslim must become the speaker of parliament.
Nevertheless, from a sociological point of view, the current Lebanon is a secular state in which museums, cinemas and theaters are successfully functioning. The most famous theater – “Caracalla” – is located in Beirut. His productions are a kind of symbiosis of the dance traditions of the East and the classical ballet schools of Russia and Europe.
Lebanon hosts five summer music and folklore festivals – in Beirut, Beit al-Din, Tire, Baalbek and Byblos.
An interesting fact: Under the protection of UNESCO in Lebanon are such ancient cities as Anjar, Baalbek, Byblos, Tire, as well as natural reserves – the Sacred Valley (Wadi Kadisha) and the Divine Cedar Grove (Khorsh-Arz-el-Rab).
Medical care in Lebanon is at a very modern level. Most hospitals have new equipment and qualified doctors. There are both public and private medical institutions in the country. When contacting private clinics, the solvency of the client is necessarily checked.
About 300 days a year on the coast of Lebanon is sunny weather, which attracts many tourists here. The total length of equipped and wild beaches is more than 200 kilometers. In Beirut, the beaches are mostly wild, but the recreation areas of Jounieh, where comfortable hotels are built, are much more popular with tourists. From Beirut, they are at a distance of 16 kilometers. The beaches of Byblos are also popular. It takes about 40 minutes to get to this resort town from Beirut.
Lebanon is a sports country. Sports such as football, basketball, swimming and tennis are very popular here; winter sports disciplines are successfully developing. Local ski centers are quite popular in the region. By the way, their appearance is associated with French border officers, who, back in 1935, opened ski schools on Lebanese soil for soldiers patrolling the border in the mountains.
The winter tourist season in Lebanon begins from November to April, but in some ski resorts it drags on until May.
Interesting fact: Lebanon is the only country in the region where the snow lingers for a long time.
Currently, there are several ski centers in the country. Perhaps the most popular of them is the Cedars ski resort. From Beirut, it can be reached in about two hours. The total length of the equipped trails of the resort is 120 kilometers, and the most popular places for skiing and snowboarding are located at an altitude of 2-3 thousand meters above sea level. Cedars is considered a relatively new resort as it was built in the early 2000s. This vacation spot has a developed infrastructure – including hotels of various “star” ratings. Modern equipment is issued at rental points.
Also quite popular in the country is another ski resort – Mzaar, which is still somewhat inferior to the high-altitude Cedars. It is obvious that the tracks of the second ski complex are intended more for amateurs than for professionals, and their total number is quite modest. However, getting from Beirut to this ski center is faster: the journey will take no more than one hour.
It is curious that Lebanon is the birthplace of a number of well-known athletes of world renown – Samir Bannut, Mohammed Bannut, Ahmad Haidar, Mohamed Shawki.
Lebanese athletes regularly participate in the Olympic Games. In the piggy bank of the country, until recently, there were two silver medals (Helsinki-1952 and Munich-1972) and two bronze medals (Helsinki-1952 and Moscow-1980).
Although there are free public schools in Lebanon, in general, education in the country is paid. In the Arab world, a diploma issued by local universities and secondary schools is highly valued. Most citizens, in addition to their native Arabic, also study French and English.
There are five largest universities in the country. The oldest of them – the American University of Beirut, was opened in 1866. Moreover, students from many Middle Eastern countries study at the universities of Lebanon.
On average, “shopping the Lebanese way” corresponds to the generally accepted meaning of this concept in any other country in the world. In Beirut, where the world’s most famous brands – Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Gucci and many others – are represented, lovers of this type of “entertainment” can feel at home, as, for example, in Italy or France.
There are three main shopping areas in Beirut: inexpensive shops and gold markets are located in the Armenian quarter in Burj Hamu; It is easier to find high-quality clothes and shoes on Hamra Street, and the area of expensive boutiques is, of course, Varda.
However, gold jewelry can also be bought at the old bazaar in Tripoli, but it’s better not to do this if you don’t want to take risks and run into a fake. A Jezin knife, Sarafand glass, or crafts made from Lebanese cedar can be a good gift from Lebanon. Local merchants swear that their products are carved from the local world-famous wood. But you don’t need to take their word for it, because often they simply polish wooden products of unknown origin with cedar oil. Time will pass and the oil will run out. But the souvenir, perhaps, will continue to please you for a long time.
Traditional Lebanese cuisine is dominated by fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood, olive and sesame oils. Meat dishes are prepared mainly from lamb or poultry meat. Cooking first courses is not an integral part of the national tradition, but local chefs have learned how to cook excellent cold and hot appetizers – mezze. The variety of forms of this dish is endless: it can be light (bread and vegetables), cooked with meat and seafood (grilled), etc. And for an ordinary quick snack, shawarma will also fit – the Lebanese call it “shawarma”. It is worth clarifying that the usual Lebanese meal involves three or four meals. Usually they invariably include vegetables, rice, lamb, beef and fish. Kebabs are very popular – minced meat of a young lamb with spices.
Lebanese wine, although not very widespread in the world, but some connoisseurs of the “golden vine” are quite aware of its existence. For example, some connoisseurs highlight the local Château Ksara. The very same wine-making house “Ksara” was founded in 1857 by French Jesuit monks. This company accounts for about 40% of all wine production in the country.
Interesting fact: According to the consensus opinion of a number of historians, the ancestral home of the Lebanese – Phoenicia – is the birthplace of winemaking. Phoenician wine gained fame in the ancient world long before Cypriot and Chios wines.
The Lebanese capital Beirut is often referred to as the “Paris of the Middle East”. By the way, Beirut is considered to be the oldest world capital. The first mention of the city dates back to the 15th century BC.
Many Lebanese cities are worth visiting. For example, in the thousand-year-old Baalbek, the buildings of the Roman era are perfectly preserved – the impressive temples of Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, which still amaze the imagination with their fundamental nature. History lovers will be happy to visit the castle of the Crusaders, and the ancient churches, and the Roman amphitheater dating back to the Old Testament times of Byblos.
During the first crusade, Byblos was captured by the crusaders of Raymond of Toulouse, who did not keep their vow of peace. The defenders of the Holy Sepulcher betrayed the city to fire and sword, not paying attention to its great past.
Interesting fact: Lebanon is mentioned 76 times in the Bible.
Lebanon opens its doors to tourists at any time of the year. This country, as well as possible, is suitable for combining historical excursions with “relaxation” – taking sun and sea baths, rapid descents along the ski slopes.
Today, the basis of the holiday calendar in Lebanon is the events of the Muslim (rarely Christian) life. But many secular holidays are also celebrated in this Mediterranean country. So, the Lebanese celebrate the New Year on January 1, Labor Day on May 1, and the country’s Independence Day on November 22.