Consulate General of Lebanon in Montreal

Geography

Bordered on one side by the Mediterranean and on the other by two parallel mountain ranges, Lebanon is a small and beautiful country located at the meeting point of three continents and, as such, it has been the crossroads of many civilizations that left their incredible and priceless traces until today. Its coastline is about 220 km (150 miles) in length and is, on average, 45 km (30 miles) wide and the total area of the country is 10,452 square km (4,500 square miles). Lebanon geography is characterized by rough and rocky terrain, is extremely varied and exhibits various kinds of soils, vegetation and land forms.

Lebanon’s most famous cities are on the shoreline: the capital, Beirut, in the center, Tripoli in the North and Saida and Tyr in the South, bordered by the green chain of mountains (Mount-Lebanon).  The central plateau with its very rich and fertile Beqaa Valley, divides the Anti-Lebanon and Lebanon Mountains.

Residing majestically over the valley, Qournet Assaouda in the north of Mount Lebanon (altitude 3,083 meters or 10,112 feet) and Jabal al-Sheikh in the south of the Anti-Lebanon Range (altitude 2,814 meters or 9,230 feet) remain the highest peaks in the country.

Several streams and rivers flow through Lebanon but none of them are fit for navigation. Most of these water bodies have their source in springs located high above in the mountains. These rivers come down with great speed and the resulting momentum erodes away the surface of rocks. The Litani and the Orontes River are the two major rivers of Lebanon. 

 

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Lebanese population and economy

Lebanese population is estimated at nearly 3.5 million inhabitants. The war of Lebanon (1975-1990) forced an important number of Lebanese to exile, thus prolonging a history of emigration that started around the end of the 19th century. This is the main reason why we found nowadays, Lebanese communities in the majorities of the continents, especially in America and Africa. 

The residing population is in a slightly growing rejuvenation, with a rate of fertility of almost 2.3 and a life expectancy of almost 68 years old/person.

The Lebanese economy is characterized by a strong role played by the private sector, and an important opening on the outside word that allowed Lebanon to be, for decades, the hinged plate of the Middle-East. Before the war, an important portion of the Lebanese population came from the middle class.  This ration is decreasing today unfortunately and Lebanon is confronted with the challenge of reinforcing its economic growth while ensuring an effective redistribution of the national income.

 

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Weather

Lebanon Weather is essentially Mediterranean in Nature: Lebanon enjoys about 300 days per year of sunshine. The country displays a varied weather mainly because of its topographical features like huge mountain ranges and strong westerly winds. The summers are usually hot and dry especially on the coast, and mild on the mountains, while the winters are chilly and snowy in those mountains and mild on the coast. It is the winter season which witnesses the maximum amount of rainfall, and it is not unusual during the spring to ski in the mountains and swim on the coast in the same day!

 

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Political and institutional data

“The State of great Lebanon” was proclaimed in 1920, in the wave of treaties of “after 1st world war” and placed under French mandate.

In 1926, a constitution proclaims Lebanon as a parliamentary republic with powers distributed proportionally to its main religious communities.  In 1943, Lebanon is finally an independent country, and joins the Organization of the United Nations and the Arab League (as a founder member). 

Throughout the years, Lebanon is faced against a succession of crisis, mainly because of the delicate balance in the internal social and religious social structure. In 1975, and for 15 years, thou country endures a vicious series of conflicts. The war devastates the country and threatens its stability.  In 1989, an agreement is signed in “Taef” that widens the boarders of the old constitution, for a better distribution of power.

Since 1990, the country is recomposing its political system, trying to strengthen its economy and rebuilding its infrastructure.

The President of the Republic is elected by the Parliament for a nonrenewable six years mandate.

The executive power is given to the Council of Ministers. The president of the Council is appointed by parliamentary consultations with the Head of State. The Parliament’s mandate is for four years. It is composed by 128 deputies, divided equally between Moslems and Christians.

 

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History and civilization

http://destinationlebanon.gov.lb/en/DiscoverLebanon/details/2/6

 

Prehistoric Times (5,000-3,500 B.C.)

A trip through Lebanon’s history begins in Jbail (Byblos), where archaeologists have discovered the earliest known settlements in Lebanon. Today, remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago.

 

The history of Lebanon as we know it starts with the Cannanean – Phoenician civilizations. Around 3,500 B.C., the Phoenicians put up their trading counters on the Lebanese coast. These trading city-states rapidly become small yet wealthy kingdoms, like Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, and Arados.

 

800 B.C.:

The Phoenician's long-lived prosperity starts to decline with the uprising of the Assyrian empire. The latter will be followed by the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks.

 

In 333 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered the Phoenician city-states, and ancient Phoenicia was absorbed into the Greek Empire (which covered Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East). Greek customs and the Greek language were adopted. Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C. (only 10 years after his conquest of the Middle East), and over 250 years of unrest and dynastic struggles followed. Greek rule in the region

 

Romans (64 B.C. - 399 A.D.)

Roman rule in Lebanon lasted over 300 years. During this period, the old Phoenician cities continued to grow and prosper as centers of industry and commerce. The coastal cities (Saida, Sour, Beirut) exported cedar, perfume, jewelry, wine, and fruit to Rome and served as trading centers for goods imported from Syria, Persia, and India. Local industries, including the production of silk, glass, purple-dyed textiles

 

Byzantines (399-636 A.D.)

In 333 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered the Phoenician city-states, and ancient Phoenicia was absorbed into the Greek Empire (which covered Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East). Greek customs and the Greek language were adopted. Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C. (only 10 years after his conquest of the Middle East), and over 250 years of unrest and dynastic struggles followed. Greek rule in the region

 

64 B.C.:

The last of the Phoenician cities surrender to the Syrian province of the Roman Empire after their conquest of Pompeii.

 

Up to the year 395 A.C.:

Commercial and cultural activities prosper and Christianity develops under the Roman domination. Then the Byzantine Empire takes over the control of the region.

637 A.C.:

Lebanon is conquered by the Arabs and becomes a state of the Omayyad califes before it becomes dominated by the Francs from 1099 to 1291 A.C..

 

 

1291 to 1516 A.C.:

The crusaders are driven away by the Mamelouks who develop Beirut's commercial port's activities.

1516 to 1918 A.C.:

The Ottomans reign over the country as masters, however leaving its management to the local emirs.

 

 

During the 19th century:

Lebanons' fate vacillates between the Ottoman power and an autonomy that was imposed by Europe. The latter supported the local development of religious communities. A portion of the country's population, supported by the Europeans, demands its autonomy.
1841: The Mount Lebanon Province is divided into two districts: to the North, the maronites (Bikfaya and the Metn), and to the South the Druze (Beit ed-Dine and the Chouf).
1860: Following the massacre of thousands of Christians by the Druze and Ottomans, Napoleon the 3rd sends an expeditionary mission to Lebanon. This will lead to the autonomy of Lebanon in 1864.

1866: The American University in Beirut is founded.

1875: The St Joseph University is founded.

1916: France and Great Britain sign the Sykes-Picot treaties. Russia ratifies the treaties which separate the Ottoman Empire into influential zones. France awards itself the Lebanese-Syrian coastal strip, among other territories.

1920: Marks the start of the French mandate following the signature of the Sèvres treaty. The state of Great Lebanon is proclaimed.

1943: The independence of the Lebanese Republic is effective on the 22nd of November. Bechara El-Khoury and Ryad Solh conclude a "national pact" which sets the rules of representation for each religious community.

1945: Lebanon participates to the foundation of the Arab League.

1946: French troops leave Lebanon from March to December. The first twenty years of independence are those of great economic prosperity in the Lebanese Republic.
1958: Lebanon is shaken by a civil war (May till September) that is motivated by a disagreement on Egypt and Syria's joining into the United Arab Republic. President Camille Chamoun, who was opposed to Gamal A.Nasser, calls the United States to the rescue in an effort to save his regime. American troops are sent to Lebanon, however it is the election of President General Chehab that will resolve the crisis. The latter will
conduct a policy centered on Arab solidarity.

1967: The 6 Days war drives around 450,000 Palestinians to find refuge in Lebanon.
1969: The first conflict between the Lebanese Government and the Palestinian movement leads to the Cairo agreements which authorized the presence of the Palestinian army in South Lebanon.

1973: Confrontations between the Lebanese army and the Palestinian PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) militia become more and more frequent. Moreover, a number of Palestinian leaders are assassinated by the Israeli commandos. Tension builds up and leads to the burst of the civil war in April 1975.

1975 – 1989: Lebanon endures the civil war.

1990….:

With peace restored, the country launches a complex process of reforms and rebuilding. A number of objectives (constitutional reform, restoration and development of the public infrastructures and recasting of certain institutions are already realized. The majority of the families that left their homes during the war rebuilt them and moved back. Despite all the local socio-economical difficulties, and the political situation in the region, the efforts taken to encourage investments and replenish the local economy are continuous.

 

 

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Lebanon, a cultural mission

 

Land of Mythology and Alphabet…

First millennium before J-C, Phoenicians, famous navigators and wise tradesmen, established the first “Alphabet” of 22 phonetic letters, adopted and improved later on by the Greeks, then transmitted to the Romans, before it became the origin of all western alphabets.

At the same time, Phoenicians created the first myths, so it was said that “Cadmus” spread the alphabet while searching for his sister “Europe” who was captured by “Zeus” and founded “Thebes”, city of “Oedipus” and his descendants….

 

Beautiful Beirut…

The old “Beryte” or “Bérytus”, commercial city of the Roman world well known for its intellectual treasures, town of Phoenicians mentioned since the 2nd millennium, became under the reign of “Augustus” in the year 15 Before J-C, a Roman colony named “Colonia Julia Augusta Felix”.

Beirut has its own Roman Law School since the 3rd Century and it competes with the Law Schools of Rome and Byzantium.  Reduced to ruins following the seism of 551, the city was rebuilt by “Justinian the Great”, but didn’t recover its full cultural radiance until the 19th century where it became an example of modernity with what has been called “AnNahda” (“Renaissance”),  finding its roots in Lebanon.

Cradle of different ideas and visions and encouraging all innovative ideas, this great Lebanese city begins to redefine its cultural destiny: foreign missions, printing houses, translation offices, colleges and universities are born and gave birth to famous names.

The “AnNahda” movement developed quickly, spreading beyond borders. Between 1888 and 1929, 52 Arab newspapers are born in New York, most of them for literature.  The writers of emigration express themselves in their native language as well as in English or French (Gibran Khalil Gibran, Mikhaïl Naaymeh and Amine Rihani). In the inter-war period, Lebanese writers start up a “Second Nahda” (an-Nahda al-Thaniya) or “Restoration” (Al-Tajdeed). But in it’s in the mid-fifties that Beirut will know its incredible cultural era, as well as a remarkable economical advancement.  It will be unique space where all the cultural, literary and artistic aspects of the Arab world can be expressed.  

 

Lebanon, land of the book….

In the 16th Century, the 1st printing-plant of the Middle-East is installed in the Maronite Monastery of “St-Antoine Qozhaya”, where are printed the first books in Syriac letters. Printing industry developed more and more in the 17th century, in the convent of St-John the Baptist in Khonchara.  In 1848, the Jesuits created the “Catholic Printings” which remained, until its recent closing in 1998, an extremely important publishing center in the Middle East.  

Lebanon launched the career of a great number of Arab painters, writers and musicians, promoting their talents and printing their books. First consumer and producer of French books in Asia, Lebanon is also the main publisher and exporter of Arabic books, and the planner of many International Book Fairs and Festivals.  

 

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Lebanon, a natural aptitude for dialogue

 

Many times mentioned in the Holy Books, Lebanon is well known for being the only country, apart from Palestine, to have witnessed the visit of Christ. Lebanon was also the land from where the Great Imam of Baalbek, Al- Ouzaï, preached tolerance during the 2nd century of Hegire!  Lebanon has been, from the beginning, a welcoming and sheltering land to all religions and it hasn’t change since. 

Twelve Christian communities, five Moslem communities and the Jewish community are recognized by the State and have the right to live their religious believes freely and have their own schools.

 

Lying in the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, while having its own geographical characteristics, Lebanon is the meeting point of different cultures, traditions and civilizations.  The successive waves of immigration that struck him throughout times left their prints on the country and sometimes even threatened its identity.  So in order to protect it, Lebanon always defended the cultural diversity that defined the way of life of its people. It is thus not astonishing that the Constitution stated that “Any act threatening the pact of common life is illegitimate”.

 

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The « Francophonie » in Lebanon

 

For Lebanon, “Arabic” is more than one language, it’s a universe of values and an identity cultural space.  However, this belonging to the Arabic culture does, in no way, ignore the plurality and richness of its linguistic reality.  And if the Arab aspect is a common base of the Lebanese identity, the “Francophonie” plays an important part and is registered, just like other languages, as the framework of the opening to the cultures of the world.

Since the middle of the 19th century, French became the first foreign language in Lebanon and a majority of Lebanese students studied in French schools.  Many universities including the Lebanese University (institution of State) propose French teaching and research programs.

 

French language occupies a substantial place in the local Medias: newspapers and magazines, university and academic reviews are published in French, and radio and television stations propose many French programs. 

 

References

Text extracted from:

· La brochure officielle du  Sommet de la Francophonie, publiée par le Ministère de la Culture du Liban“ and translated to English.

· The official website of the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism ,http://destinationlebanon.gov.lb/en/DiscoverLebanon/details/2/6

 

 

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LEBANON

 

· Geography

· Lebanese population and economy

· Weather

· Political and institutional data

 

· History and civilizations

· Lebanon, a cultural mission

· Lebanon, a natural aptitude for dialogue

· The «Francophonie» in Lebanon