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Lebanon -

From its Mediterranean coast to its snowcapped mountains and standing at the crossroads of three major continents, Lebanon (Lubnan in Arabic) is unlike any other country in the Middle East.
The country's 250km of Mediterranean coastline and two ranges of lofty mountains leave little room for stereotypes. The only sand you see is along its golden beaches and although only 50 km wide, Lebanon is packed with history, archaeology, natural beauty and a handsome population of fun-loving people whose hospitality and warmth extends the length and breadth of the country.

Although the country was for long embroiled in a protracted civil war, Lebanon has for almost a decade now enjoyed a period of peace and stability and efforts have long begun to restoring the country to its once held status as Paris of the Middle East. Throughout the country you thus find an eagerness to embrace the new coupled with a powerful sense of tradition.

The Lebanese coast still proudly carries the names of its ancient Phoenician cities which, today, are modern metropolises housing the majority of the country's almost four million people. But the ancient temples, residencies and theatres of these once powerful city states are not buried in the past; they stand, in-situ, as proud and majestic as they did during their Phoenician, Persian, Greek and Roman eras.

Eighty-five per cent of the population lives in and around the major centres of Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Jounieh, Zahle and Tyre. If you look beyond these urban centres, however, you'll find that most share a spectacular mountain backdrop. From Beirut you see Mount Sannine and Mount Kanisseh. Beyond Byblos are the mountains on whose slopes grow the descendants of the cedars mentioned in the Bible. Beyond Tripoli are the famous cedars of Bsharreh and Lebanon's oldest ski resort.

There is always something entertaining to do in Lebanon. Traditional dances such as the dabbke and sword dances are immensely popular and they perpetuate costumes of the distant past. Every sport can be enjoyed in Lebanon including water skiing, snow skiing, yachting, golf and tennis. The Beirut race course, set in its pine woods, is a favourite with race goers. Only in Lebanon can you swim in the sea in winter as well as spring and an hour later ski at 1,900 meters. Lebanon is thus one of the few winter sports centres in the Middle East. The coastline between Tripoli and Sidon is punctuated by all kinds of leisure facilities from well equipped swim resorts and family run fish restaurants to luxurious condominiums.

The Lebanese are a multi-faith, multi-ethnic people. Arabic is the official language, but English and French are also widely spoken. The two main religions are Islam and Christianity. At home or abroad the Lebanese are know for their kindness and hospitality and these qualities make visitors feel both welcome and at ease.

Few History Marks:

From the third millennium BC:
The coast is colonized by Cananeans, who founded the city-states of Byblos, Beirut, Sidon and Tyr.

Start of the first millennium BC:
Phoenicians dominate all the Mediterranean commerce.

From 800 BC to 100 BC:
Country is successively under Egyptian, Persian, Babylonian and Greek domination.

From 64 BC to 636 AD:
Lebanon is integrated into the Roman Province then Byzantine of Syria.

Conquest of Lebanon by Arabs.

From the VIIth to the IXth century:
Coast and mountain are useful for refuge to lot of Christian communities.

From 1099 to 1291:
Latin from Jerusalem and Tripoli dominate the coast up to the conquest by Mamelouks from Egypt.

Lebanon is annexed by Ottoman Empire.

1593 - 1840:
The Druze Sultans, especially Fakhr al-Dïn (1593-1633) and Chihâb Bachir II (1788-1840), unify Lebanese mountain and manage to have its self-governing.

1858 - 1860:
Some confrontations oppose Druze and Maronites (who are in economic and demographic progress period).

1861 :
France obtains creation of Province "Mont-Liban".

Lebanon is liberated from Turkish Empire. With the plain of Bekaa, the "Great Lebanon" is born.

1920 - 1943:
Lebanon is under French mandate. The decision has been taken by the NS (Nations Society).

The Lebanon's Republic:

The independence is proclaimed. The "National Pact" institutes a confessional politic system that shares powers between Maronites, Sunnis, Shi'a, Orthodox Greeks, Druze, and Catholic Greeks.

1952 - 58:
C. Chamoun practices a cooperation with Occident.

The nationalists Arabs, favorable to Nasser, spark a civil war off. Only the American intervention takes an end to this crisis.

1958 - 70:
The Republic is presided by F. Chehab (58-64), then by C. Helou.

- 1967:
Palestinians, who have taken refuge in Lebanon since 1948, get organized. They become autonomous.

1970 - 76:
Under the Presidency of S. Frangiye, there are a few confrontations with the Palestinian organization.

Confrontations degenerate into civil war. Syria intervenes. Then war opposes a coalition of "left" (favorable to the Palestinians, in majority Sunni, Druze & Shi'a, which main army is Fedayins, Druze militia and Amal Movement) and a coalition of "right" (in majority Maronite and favorable to Israel, which main army is the "Phalanges" and the South Lebanon Army.)

Creation of the UNIFIL

Israeli Army institutes the blockade of Beirut, from where it expels the Palestinian army. Gemayel succeeds his brother Bachir, assassinated, as President of the Republic.
A "National Union" Government is created, encouraged by Syria.

Israeli Army retires to Lebanon. The civil war goes on, intricate by confrontations inside of each camp, especially between different Muslim tendencies : Sunni, moderate Shi'a from Mal movement, Shi'a favorable to Iran (Hezbollah).


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