Lebanon is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of a narrow strip of territory and is one of the world’s smaller sovereign states. The Capital is Beirut. Mediterranean climate characterized by long, hot, dry summers and short, cool, rainy winters. The Lebanese enjoy hummus (a chickpea dip), fool (a fava bean dip), and other bean dishes. Eating in Lebanon is tied to the family: people almost never eat alone. The Lebanese consider eating out a social and almost aesthetic experience. Hence, restaurants usually have a pleasant view, of which Lebanon’s geography affords many.

As of 2004, it was estimated that about 70% of the population practices Islam and 23% are Christians. Although the various communities in Lebanon share a similar ethnic background, the fact that they are of different religions and they define their cultural and often geographical boundaries through religious affiliation has always been a source of discord. On numerous occasions, religious diversity has eclipsed the sense of belonging to a common state. When the civil war erupted in the mid-1970s, all formerly suppressed differences and incongruent loyalties emerged and came to dominate the political arena, fuel hatred, and provide an easy ground for outside powers to interfere in the country’s affairs. A tired Lebanon emerged in the early 1990s. Under the Ta’if agreement the civil war ended, the Christians lost some of their political power, and a new government of technocrats came into power with reconstruction highest on its agenda. Today the new moderate government is seeking to secularize political offices and fight corruption.

The effects of war and the growth of the nation’s cities have combined to threaten animal and plant life in Lebanon. In 1986, the National Preservation Park of Bte’nayel was created in the region of Byblos to preserve wooded areas and wildlife. In 2003, less than 1% of the total land area was protected, including four Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included five types of mammals, ten species of birds, one type of reptile, nine species of fish, and one species of invertebrate. The Mediterranean monk seal, African soft-shell turtle, and dogfish shark are on the endangered list. The Arabian gazelle and Anatolian leopard are extinct.

The Lebanese are very gregarious. The souks (markets) are always crowded; shopping downtown is very popular, as is strolling with friends along the busy streets. Lebanese people usually sit close together and interact vivaciously.

Manners are important and are highly influenced by French etiquette, especially in matters of dress, address, and eating. Strangers, as well as acquaintances, greet each other respectfully, usually using French terms, such as bonjour, bon soir, and pardon. Hospitality is very important and travelers to are welcomed genially.

Lebanon’s forests and water supplies suffered significant damage in the 1975–76 war and subsequent fighting. Rapid urbanisation has also left its mark on the environment. Coastal waters show the effects of untreated sewage disposal, particularly near Beirut, and of tanker oil discharges and oil spills. The water pollution problem in Lebanon is in part due to the lack of an internal system to consistently regulate water purification. The nation has about 5 cu km of renewable water resources.

Air pollution is a serious problem in Beirut because of vehicular exhaust and the burning of industrial wastes. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 15.2 million metric tons. Control efforts have been nonexistent or ineffective because of political fragmentation and recurrent warfare since 1975.

To travel to Lebanon a valid passport and a visa are required. This can be obtained from Lebanese embassies prior to travel or an arrival. A visa is valid for a month, with the option of being extended for up to three months.







(The country profile was written by Valentine Moretto)