The history of Lebanon is very long, dating back more than seven centuries, but it is characterized by years of religious and political conflict. Today, tensions still run high in the region in what seems to be a never-ending battle.
Lebanon’s history dates back 7,000 years to one of the most powerful sea-faring civilizations in the world – the Phoenicians. They ruled the territory for almost 3,000 years and took full advantage of the region’s geographically advantageous positioning at the junction between the Middle East and Europe.
The Phoenicians lost the area to the Turks who occupied most of the area during the great Ottoman expansion in the 16th century. The region remained under Ottoman control until the end of WWI when the empire was dismantled. The area was then put under French mandate, as stipulated by the terms at the end of the war. During this time, the current boundaries of the country were formed.
Lebanon finally gained independence in 1943 and officially became the Republic of Lebanon. In 1975, the country plunged into a violent civil war between Palestinian fighters seeking protection in Lebanon and the many Christian and Muslim groups who inhabited the region. As a result, the Israeli Defense Force invaded the country in 1982.
Although the civil war officially ended in 1990 after several peace-brokering deals led by Syrian forces, political tension still runs high in South Lebanon near the border with Israel. Violence and fighting between the various religious and political factions continue to affect the stability of the country and tourism.
Lebanon’s culture is extremely rich, having developed over thousands of years. As a result of many occupations, the country is an eclectic amalgamation of many different regional influences. From the Phoenicians and Ottomans to the Greeks, the Romans, and the French, Lebanon’s population, and thus its culture, is comprised of many different ethnicities and religions.
Lebanese cuisine is one of the more striking aspects of the country. The local fare is typically Mediterranean and similar to its neighbors in Syria, Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece. Lebanese staples include grilled meats like lamb and legumes like lentils and chickpeas, which are used to make the regionally popular dip hummus.
Lebanese literature was popularized by famous writer and philosopher Khalil Gibran. Known for his influential piece, The Prophet, Gibran unintentionally put Lebanon on the map. Many other writers have followed in his footsteps, winning accolades and stimulating vibrant debate.
Lebanese music is infectious to say the least and can be heard almost everywhere in the cities. Traditional folk music still holds a prominent place in society, with many bars and restaurants playing traditional songs, but more contemporary genres are becoming increasingly popular, as well.