Once a vibrant cultural hot-spot, Lebanon suffered badly from years of civil war and occupation until a 1989 peace deal. Reconstruction was reversed by Israeli bombardment in 2006.
Geography: Behind a narrow Mediterranean coastal plain, two parallel mountain ranges run the length of the country, separated by the fertile Beqaa Valley.
Climate: Winters are mild and summers are hot, with high coastal humidity. Snow falls on high ground in winter.
People and Society: Politics has long been dominated by divisions between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims and the traditional ruling Maronite Christians. Power-sharing ended 14 years of civil war in 1989. Syria acted as power broker until made to withdraw in 2005. Israel attacked in 2006 in a botched bid to crush Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants. A huge gulf exists between the poor and a small, immensely rich elite. Lebanon hosts 420,000 Palestinian refugees.
The Economy: Much infrastructure destroyed. Instability undermines Beirut’s role as regional financial center. Wine and fruit production. High public debt.
Insight: The Cedar of Lebanon has been the nation’s symbol for more than 2000 years
Official Name: Republic of Lebanon
Date of Formation: 1941
Population: 4.22 million
Total Area: 4015 sq. miles(10,400 sq. km)
Density: 1069 people per sq. mile
Languages: Arabic*, French, Armenian, Assyrian
Religions: Muslim 70%,Christian 30%
Ethnic Mix: Arab 94%, Armenian 4%, other 2%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Lebanese pound = 100 piastres