Lebanese






PRONUNCIATION: leb-un-EEZ

LOCATION: Lebanon

POPULATION: 3.1 million

LANGUAGE: Arabic (official); English; French

RELIGION: Islam; Christianity; Druze; Alawi; Baha'i

1 • INTRODUCTION

Lebanon is a small, war-torn country on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Located on fertile territory at the crossroads of three continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe—it is a valuable and highly desired territory. Throughout its history, it has been the stage for conflicts between local tribes-people and world powers. After being ruled by the Ottoman Empire and by the French, Lebanon gained full independence in 1943.

The presence of Palestinian refugees and guerrilla bases, and tensions between Christians and Muslims, have led to continuing political instability and warfare in recent decades. However, the Lebanese people have continued to survive in the face of repeated disruptions of their economy and day-to-day life. From 1975 until 1991, civil war ruined Lebanon. Since the early 1990s, the government has gradually regained power but there are still incidents of political violence, especially in the south near Israel.

2 • LOCATION

Lebanon is a tiny country. Its area is only a little more than 4,000 square miles (10,400 square kilometers)—about the size of the state of Connecticut. Lebanon has two mountain ranges, a coastal strip, and an inland plain. In former times it was famous for its cedars. However, due to centuries of deforestation, very few cedars are left. Those that remain are now protected.

The population of Lebanon is as varied as its terrain. The official population of Lebanon, excluding Palestinian refugees, is about 3.1 million. Most Lebanese are Arabs.

3 • LANGUAGE

Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, but many Lebanese also speak English. For some, the French language still has the greatest prestige.

"Hello" in Arabic is marhaba or ahlan, to which one replies, marhabtayn or ahlayn. Other common greetings are as-salam alaykum ("peace be with you"), with the reply of walaykum as-salam ("and to you peace"). Ma'assalama means "goodbye." "Thank you" is shukran, and "you're welcome" is afwan. "Yes" is na'am and "no" is la'a. The numbers one to ten in Arabic are: wahad , itnin , talata , arba'a , khamsa , sitta , saba'a , tamania , tisa'a , and ashara .

4 • FOLKLORE

One of the most popular characters in Arab folklore is Jeha the Fool. He figures in many stories, from teaching tales to purely humorous anecdotes. Also popular are the real-life lovers, Ablah and Antar. Antar was a sixth-century Arab who was born a slave but became a heroic warrior and a poet. Antar and Ablah, the chief's daughter, fell in love. But of course a slave could not marry the chief's daughter. Eventually, after many tragic struggles, Antar was given his freedom, and he and Ablah married.

The story of the Greek hero Adonis takes place at Byblos, in Lebanon. Also, Saint George, who later became the patron saint of England, lived in Lebanon. He fought the famous sea-dragon at the mouth of a river near Beirut. Most likely, the Christian Crusaders took Saint George's tale back with them to the West.

The Lebanese are very fond of proverbs and can quote one for almost any situation. Examples include "Better blind eyes than a closed mind," and "The one who took the donkey up to the roof should be the one who brings it down."

5 • RELIGION

Christianity arrived in Lebanon during the Byzantine Roman era (AD 4–636). Its followers have since divided into a variety of sects including Maronite, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant. Islam was introduced in the seventh century ad. Muslims are now divided into Sunnis, several types of Shi'ites (including Ismaeli), and Sufis (Muslim mystics).

The Lebanese government keeps a record of every citizen's religious affiliation. A person may belong to any religion, but each person must belong to one. It is estimated that a little more than half of the Lebanese population is Muslim. The rest are mostly Christian. Seats in the government are based on religious representation.

6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Lebanese celebrate both the Christian and Muslim holy days, plus a couple of secular public holidays. The major Muslim holidays are Ramadan, celebrated by complete fasting from dawn until dusk for an entire month; Eid al-Fitr, a three-day festival at the end of Ramadan; Eid al-Adha, a feast at the end of the hajj (the pilgrimage month to Mecca); the First of Muharram, the Muslim New Year; Ashura, a Shi'ite commemoration and day of mourning; and the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

Two Easters are celebrated in Lebanon (both in late March or early April)—the Greek Orthodox date, and the date for the rest of the Christian population. Other Christian holidays include New Year's Day (January 1); St. Maroun's Day (the patron saint of Maronite Christians, February 9); the Day of the Ascension (May 15); the Feast of the Assumption (August 15); and Christmas and Boxing Day (December 25 and 26).

Three secular public holidays in Lebanon are: Labor Day (May 1); Martyrs' Day, which honors patriots killed by the Turks during World War I (May 6); and Independence Day (November 22).

The Christian New Year's Day (January 1) is celebrated in Beirut by shooting tracer bullets out over the Mediterranean Sea. It is also customary to go "strolling" along the coast road in one's car after midnight on New Year's. Such "strolling" is a Lebanese tradition for almost any festival.

Both Muslim and Christian children play a game with colored (hard-boiled) eggs at Easter time. One child taps the tip of his or her egg against the tip of another child's egg. The child whose egg stays intact while cracking everyone else's eggs wins the game. The children then eat their eggs.

7 • RITES OF PASSAGE

Most Lebanese mark major life events, such as birth, marriage, and death, within the Islamic or Christian religious traditions.

8 • RELATIONSHIPS

The Lebanese lifestyle is relaxed, but by no means lazy. Opinions are strongly held and fiercely defended with vigorous gestures in heated discussions. At the market, the same vigor is used to haggle prices, something the average Lebanese is quite good at doing. A favorite Lebanese pastime is to sit and discuss politics or other hot topics—loudly. The same attitude prevails on the road, where there are few (if any) traffic signals or stop signs, and drivers simply "get ahead" as they need to. Pedestrians also cross the road whenever and wherever they choose, leaving it to drivers to stop for them.

Recipe

Baked Kibbeh

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cracked wheat (bulgur)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • ¼ cup melted butter

Directions

  1. Place cracked wheat in a large mixing bowl and cover with the cold water. Let stand 5 minutes, and then drain. Press on grains to remove water.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Process in batches in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.
  4. Butter a 9x12-inch baking pan. Spread the mixture into the pan, smoothing the top with wet hands. Cut into 2-inch squares.
  5. Pour melted butter over the top. Bake at 375° F for 50 minutes. Serve with pita bread.

Adapted from Salloum, Mary. A Taste of Lebanon. New York: Interlink Books, 1988, p. 102.

Traditional Arab hospitality reigns in Lebanon. Hosts provide feasts for their guests, then smoke the nargile (a water pipe) after dinner. Visits are usually not planned in advance. Lebanese are very affectionate with friends and family. They touch each other often, hold hands, and men may kiss each other on the cheeks. An Arab will never ask personal questions, as that is considered rude.

9 • LIVING CONDITIONS

Until recently, Lebanon was a war-torn nation. Much of the capital city of Beirut was in ruins. So was a great deal of the rest of the country. Rebuilding is now under way in order to address a lack of housing, as well as unreliable gas and water supplies.

In rural areas, farmhouses are made of stone or concrete with tile floors. They have only a few necessary pieces of furniture. A small wood-burning or kerosene stove is used for heat in the winter. Most rural houses have running water.

10 • FAMILY LIFE

Most city families are small, averaging two children each. Children usually live with their parents until they get married. Most businesses are family-owned and -run. The revenue sent back by family members working abroad has kept the Lebanese economy afloat during the recent, difficult war years.

Rural families generally live on small farms. They have many children to provide help with the farmwork—often as many as ten or fifteen. Women on the farms have a very busy life. They do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry (in old-fashioned washtubs, with no electric dryers). They also work in the fields when needed.

11 • CLOTHING

Western-style fashions are popular in Lebanon's cities. Urban women are very fashion-conscious. More-traditional clothes are still worn in some villages. These include long dresses for women, and black pants and jackets for men. Men's pants are full and baggy from the waist to the knee, then tightly fitted from the knee to the ankle. Their jackets have fancy, brightly colored, embroidered trim. Some older rural men continue to wear the traditional short, cone-shaped, brown felt hat. Most modern Lebanese men, however, have traded it in for a keffiya, the common Arab head scarf

12 • FOOD

Lunch is the big meal in Lebanon. Almost everything is eaten with bread. Two types of unleavened Lebanese bread are khub, which resembles pita bread, and marqouq, which is paper-thin. Lebanese do not eat fish and dairy in the same meal. Mezze are popular in Lebanon, as elsewhere in the Middle East. Similar to appetizers, mezze basically consist of any food served in small portions. An entire meal can consist solely of mezze. The Lebanese national dish is kibbeh (or kibbe), made of either lamb or beef and cracked wheat (bulghur, or birghol ).

Common ingredients in Lebanese cooking include laban (similar to yogurt), rice, lentils, grape leaves (which are served with various stuffings, such as rice or meat), pine nuts, rose water, sesame seeds, chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), and mint.

Wine has been made in Lebanon for thousands of years. A unique Lebanese alcoholic creation is arak, a colorless, 100-percent-alcohol beverage flavored with anise. Other popular beverages are coffee served very thick, tea with lots of sugar and no milk, and locally bottled spring water from the mountains.

13 • EDUCATION.

Education is highly valued in Lebanon. There are five years of required education, with an attendance rate of over 90 percent. A major problem in Lebanon is a lack of standard education across the nation. Many Lebanese send their children to private schools. Each school emphasizes a different type of learning, so children receive vastly different educations.

14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE

Lebanon has long been known for its high-quality book publishing. A flourishing film industry produces high-quality films. A revival of folk art, music, and dance began in the late 1960s. The national folk dance of Lebanon is the debki, a line dance. People hold hands and step and stomp to the beat of a small drum called a derbekki . Belly dancing is also popular.

15 • EMPLOYMENT

Lebanon has a high proportion of skilled labor among its labor force. However, there is a shortage of jobs for them. Many work outside the country or are unemployed. Business dealings are based on friendship. A great deal of "wining and dining" is done to establish connections before any business is conducted.

16 • SPORTS

Soccer, basketball, and volleyball are popular. Cross-country running, particularly in the mountains, and the martial arts are widely practiced. Skiing, rock-climbing, and cave exploration are also enjoyed in the mountains. Many Lebanese go swimming and fishing in the lakes, rivers, or Mediterranean Sea. In the city, pigeon-shooting is a favorite sport.

17 • RECREATION

The Lebanese love television. There are over fifty television stations in Lebanon, all of them commercial. Lebanese cinemas tend to show violent, sexy American and European films. Live theater is popular, as are nightclubs and pubs. At home, besides watching television, Lebanese enjoy playing board games (especially Monopoly), chess, checkers, card games, and backgammon. The Lebanese enjoyment of good conversation is so great that talking could even be called the national pastime.

The social center of rural life is the foorn, the village bakery where women bake their loaves of bread.

18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

Traditional Lebanese crafts include basketry, carpet weaving, ceramics and pottery, copper-and metalworking, embroidery, glass-blowing, and gold-and silversmithing. Lebanon is also known for its finely crafted church bells. Wine making can also be considered an art, one that dates back thousands of years.

19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Warfare has caused widespread destruction throughout the country. At least 120,000 people were killed in the recent civil war and 300,000 were wounded, most of them civilians. Another 800,000 or so left the country, mostly the wealthy and well-educated. As many as 1,200,000 Lebanese—almost half the population—had to move from their homes and neighborhoods during the war.

The "Green Line" dividing Muslim Beirut and Christian Beirut is now the center of major urban reconstruction.

20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bleaney, C. H. Lebanon. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1991.

Eshel, Isaac. Lebanon in Pictures. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1988.

Foster, Leila Merrell. Enchantment of the World: Lebanon. Chicago, Ill.: Children's Press, 1992.

Marston, Elsa. Lebanon: New Light in an Ancient Land . New York: Dillon Press, 1994.

WEBSITES

ArabNet. [Online] Available http://www.arab.net/lebanon/lebanon_contents.html , 1998.

Embassy of Lebanon, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.erols.com/lebanon/ , 1998.

World Travel Guide, Lebanon. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/lb/gen.html , 1998.



User Contributions:

Lisa Parker
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Mar 4, 2007 @ 3:15 pm
Thank you for this information. I am in on a team of parents that will teaching "Lebanon" to an entire elementary school this April. We will be transforming 5 classrooms into "Lebanon" via foods, crafts, music, decor, games and stories. We will also, of course, be teaching them much about this beautiful country. Your site was very informative. Thank you.
nadine
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Mar 5, 2007 @ 11:23 pm
i would be so glad if you just send me a contact adrresse for the writer who prepared the information about lebanon......for he would like to learn a new style of writing.....
mary barakat
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Mar 13, 2007 @ 1:01 am
heyy people this is a very good website i recomend to the people that you use this website and how i no that this is true is because i am lebanese and their could be a few improvments with the lebanese grammer like kubas (bread) and also add more things toadd to it like the food and more infomation about the acuall country and how it came to be
ya mum
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Sep 6, 2007 @ 2:02 am
your information was really helpful for me i have learnt alot about lebanon. thankyou
rhoda
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Nov 30, 2007 @ 7:07 am
Thanks for that information! It's the only site I can actually find modern information on Lebanon for my project.
meyassar
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Dec 9, 2007 @ 8:08 am
i really liked this website it was very informative. i learned alot from it thank loads
Marina
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Jan 29, 2008 @ 8:08 am
Thank u alot for this information!!! its really useful if someone had projects!!
denese
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Sep 17, 2008 @ 2:14 pm
Much thanks for the info about Lebanon. I'm from Jamaica and attend Garmex HEART Academy pursuing nursing for one year. The only thing i'm lacking is a speaker to attend our Culturama Day which will be held on October 16th, 2008, to perform the dances properly and to prepare and display the dishes, to dress as the males and females dresses in Lebanon. The info acquired will have to be suffice. Much, much thanks. Wish us luck!!!! Hope we win. Others will be doing other cultures e.g China, India and so on. bye
marwa
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Nov 17, 2008 @ 9:09 am
it is really anice web!!!!!!!!!
my teacher gave me A+ about this essay!!!!!!!!!!!!!
go on like this.
Max
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Feb 10, 2009 @ 7:07 am
Thanks allot for giving me this information because its gonna give me 10/ 10 in my English project about cultures and i wish this site stays forever. = )
Ella Favazzo
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Mar 11, 2009 @ 5:17 pm
thank you so much this is some of the best information ive received today :)
salma
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Apr 26, 2009 @ 6:18 pm
Thank you so much for this information :) I'm using it for my english project ! Keep it going !!
BTW : LEBANONNN 4 LIFE :D im lebanese :P
janita
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Aug 17, 2009 @ 10:22 pm
HI thank you for this info
i work in a nursing home and this helps those of us who have no idea about your life style, back ground as some of us live way out of the cities and need help with the aged so they don't feel we don't care thank you
19
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Dec 8, 2009 @ 6:18 pm
Thank you so much for all this information! I am doing a Geography project on Leanon and it really helped. But you might want to put this information in french. Now that would be really helpfull
yolly
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Dec 9, 2009 @ 3:03 am
i'm so thankful to have this article coz i need to learn more about the living style i n lebanon..i'm a filipina and it's an honor for me to have this site for my future reference and studies..thank you
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Apr 20, 2010 @ 2:02 am
Nice piece, but I have a couple little corrections: the word for "you're welcome" in Lebanese Arabic is "tikram," not "afwan." Afwan means "excuse me."

Pigeon-shooting is common in the country, not the city.

And Lebanese families, even in the city, are often large. What's mentioned here about the Lebanese having small families is really only true for the wealthy/Westernized Maronite Christian population. Family size here is determined more by sect and social class than region -- Christians have smaller families (often 1 or 2 children), while Shias often have large families (10, 15 children), with Sunnis falling somewhere in the middle. Within those categories, the wealthy tend to have fewer children than the poor.

All of this has political significance because all Lebanese government positions are allocated based on sect. The country was really set up by the colonial French (shaved off of Syria) to serve as a "Christian homeland" in the Middle East, but even then, in the 1930s, Christians were only around half of the population -- so the measures the French took to ensure their power in government -- 5/4 of all Parliament seats and the Presidency were to be held by Christians -- were soon found oppressive by the Muslim population, which resented being ruled by what was, soon, clearly a minority elite. Parliamentary representation -- the 5/4 ration of Christians to Muslims, was supposed to be proportional and in line with the demographics of the census taken in 1932, before the de-facto constitution was created. But those in power never allowed another official census (which would lend credence to calls to increase representation for Shias in particular, and somewhat for Sunnis, while decreasing it for Christians) so the last official Lebanese census is the 1932 one. Now people in each sect seem to argue that their numbers are far higher than they could possibly be in reality. These kinds of demographic/representational tensions led to the 1975-1990 Civil War (which had no real winner, but did result in Parliament seats being distributed 50/50 Muslim/Christian) and continue to fuel violence and political unrest in the country.
Ashlee
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Mar 2, 2011 @ 6:18 pm
I'd like to say thank you for all of the infomation on here. The only thing I could ask more of would be the education. I'd like to learn more. But this site was the most information I have gotten from over ten sites together. Thank you again :)
LEBANESE FOR LIFE!!! (I'm Lebanese, ha)
melanie
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Mar 27, 2011 @ 11:11 am
thank you so much for an excellent and informative piece ..the best i have read about lebanon
I have a question about relationships...do couples "just meet" by chance or are they introduced by family or I have heard that it is customary for cousins to marry (I am talking about Christian tradition ) I would like to know more about "courtship" in general thank you
Debbie Hartnett
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Aug 6, 2011 @ 6:06 am
I am a 60-year old woman in America and I sponsor an 11 year old boy in Lebanon and write him letters. He is in a school where he will be taught English but his letters to me are written in Arabic and translated. I send him letters but everything must fit in a small envelope. I was sending him an American deck of cards since he should be learning English numbers. Can you tell me what kind of card games Lebanese children play or give me a website to go to. Would they play the American card game "Go Fish"? I plan to correspond with this child until he is 16 if I can. He is very special to me. Do you have any ideas about small things I could send him? I have friends in my town whose parents came from Lebanon. I know I don't know you but any suggestons you have would be appreciated. Thank you.
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Oct 23, 2011 @ 7:19 pm
Thank you soo much for all this information it was very helpful.I am doing a project for lebanon i recomended it to my other classmates.
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Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
I am fully Lebanese. I am very proud also! I love being different. All of this information for the most part is correct. I am not an Arab, though, I am a Nondenominational Christian, meaning I believe in parts of a bunch of religions. For example, I do not think the sea split apart for Jesus to walk through it, though I do believe in Jesus. I do not believe all the teachings of the Buddha, but I do believe you should follow a path to "nirvana". I believe certain parts of the bible, but I think other parts are to fairy-tale-istic to be true. I do believe though, that in the Islamic religion if you do not make it to heaven, hell is coming back to earth to live once again as another person. I believe this keeps happening until you make it to heaven, reincarnation. Lebanese are a great race of people, 100% and proud! (:
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Oct 25, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
Hi my name is jediah for school I'm doing this project about Lebanon and I just want to learn more about Lebanon. I think it is a nice place. I have a little bit of things that i need but i really just need more. Really hope you can help me with what I need. Also I need alot of pictuers. Thank you very much.
Hailey
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Dec 5, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
This website is amazing it saved my butt; It was the last day until my project on Lebanon was due and I had not even started. I got the information and I got it fast. I got an A and all the info was correct and real supportive. Thank you a ton!
Anthea
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Mar 7, 2012 @ 11:23 pm
I loved reading this article it was very interesting. My daughter works in Dubai and is going out with a lebanonese guy, she told me he is a venetion catholic, I dont know if that is the right spelling. Could you tell anything about a venetion catholic from the lebanon Thankyou. Just a matter of interest.
Elizabeth Faitarone
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Jun 23, 2012 @ 11:11 am
Thank you so much for this information. My ancestors come from Balbek and I would love to visit my family there. Now I understand why I like certain things, I guess it is in my genes. The cultural gene which travels the soul.
Apana
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May 17, 2013 @ 6:18 pm
Thank you so much for posting this useful information. I am in Elementary School and had a project to complete on the Syrian and Lebanese culture and history. I was able to cover every single topic and more on my list given. And what makes this article even more interesting is that my half sister is Lebanese and is three at this time. So when she grows up, I will be able to explain to her, her culture. :)

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