Lebanon, or Lebanese Republic, a country in southwestern Asia. It lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Israel and Syria, and occupies most of the area that made up ancient Phoenicia.
|Facts in brief about Lebanon|
|Official language: Arabic.|
|Area: 4,015 mi2. (10,400 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 120 mi. (193 km); east-west, 50 mi (80 km). Coastline—130 mi. (210 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Qurnat as Sawda, 10,115 ft (3,083 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level.|
|Population: Current estimate—3,894,000; density, 970 persons per mi2 (374 per km2); distribution, 87 percent urban, 13 percent rural.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—apples, cherries, cucumbers, grapes, lemons, oranges, peaches, sugar beets, tomatoes. Manufacturing—cement, chemicals, electric appliances, furniture, processed foods, textiles.|
|Flag: Lebanon's flag, adopted in 1943, has three horizontal stripes-red, white, and red (top to bottom). A cedar tree on the middle white stripe symbolizes holiness, eternity, and peace.|
|Money: Basic unit—Lebanese pound. One hundred piasters equal one pound.|
A narrow lowland borders the Lebanese coast. Behind it, the Lebanon Mountains run the iength of the country, cresting at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level. Farther east, the Anti-Lebanon Mountains form part of the Syrian border. Between the two parallel ranges is a relatively fertile but dry valley called the Bekaa. It is drained by Lebanon's two major rivers, the Litani and the Orontes, both of which empty into the Mediterranean. The Litani flows southwestward to the sea; the Orontes flows northward through Syria and Turkey.
Lebanon's climate is typically Mediterranean, much like that of southern California. Winters are mild and wet; summers are hot and virtually rainless, though frequently humid along the coast because of the influence of the sea. The climate becomes moderate to cool only in the mountains; the highest peaks are snow-covered as much as six months each year. August is the hottest month. It averages about 80° F. (27° C.) in most of the lowland areas. January is the coldest month. Along the coast, it averages slightly less than 60° F. (16° C). The annual precipitation increases from about 30 inches (760 mm) along the coast to almost twice that much in the Lebanon Mountains. Both the Bekaa and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains are considerably drier.
Prior to 1975, when a civil war broke out, Lebanon was an important center for trade and finance. The civil war, which lasted until 1990, caused tremendous instability and severiy damaged the economy. Economic recovery since the end of the war has been slow but Lebanon is beginning to reemerge as an important financial center. The chief sources of income include food products, financial services, aid from foreign governments, and contributions from Lebanese living abroad.
Agriculture employs about 7 per cent of the workers. Slightly less than a fourth of the land is cultivated, mostly along the coast and in the Bekaa, where irrigation is practiced. Along the coast and on the adjoining low mountain slopes a variety of crops are grown, including citrus fruits, notably oranges and lemons; olives; vegetables; and tobacco. Grains, especially wheat and barley, are grown mainly in the Bekaa. The Bekaa is also a major vegetable-producing area. As in most Mediterranean lands, sheep and goats are the most numerous livestock.
Though far behind Western nations, Lebanon is one of the more industrialized countries of the Middle East. About a tenth of its labor force is employed in manufacturing. Virtually all the industries are small-scale, privately owned, and devoted chiefly to the production of light consumer goods, especially processed foods and textiles.
Petroleum refining and cement making are among the country's few heavy industries. Lebanon itself produces no petroleum. Some of the oil is imported by pipeline from Syria; the rest comes by tanker from other Middle Eastern countries and from Europe. Most of Lebanon's mineral resources, including gypsum, iron ore, and salt, are of poor quality and limited in amount. Lebanon's main trading partners include Saudi Arabia, the United States, Italy, and France.
Highways provide the best means of transportation throughout most of the country. Railways connect the major Lebanese cities; several lines extend into Syria. Beirut is the principal port. Tripoli and Sidon are secondary ports. At Beirut is one of the largest international airports in the Middle East.
More than 90 per cent of the people are Arabs and about 6 per cent are Armenians; other groups include Assyrians and Kurds. A slight majority of the people are Muslims (about 60 per cent Shiites, the remainder Sunnites). Slightly less than half are Christians (about 70 per cent Maronites, 18 per cent Greek Orthodox, and 12 per cent Armenian Christians). Druses make up about 6 per cent of the people.
The two largest cities are Beirut, the capital, and Tripoli.
Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, but French and English are also widely spoken. Primary education lasts five years, and is followed by four or seven years of secondary education, depending on the type of school. Institutions of higher learning include the American University of Beirut, the Beirut Arab University, and the Lebanese University. The literacy rate is about 80 per cent, high for the Arab world.
Lebanon is a republic under the constitution of 1926 and amendments. The president (head of state) is popularly elected for six years. He must be a Maronite Christian. He appoints the prime minister (head of government) and cabinet. The prime minister must be a Sunnite Muslim. The legislature is the 128-member National Assembly, elected for four years. Membership is equally divided between Muslims and Christians. The judiciary has five types of courts, each dealing with different kinds of cases.