Formally known as the Lebanese Republic, Lebanon is a country in Western Asia. The culture and customs of the country have evolved and grown over thousands of years. Several communities and people such as the Phoenicians, the Greek, the French, and others have influenced the culture. In modern times, this diversity is observed in several things such as the population. The population has several religions and practices including festivals, cuisine, architecture, music styles, and other things.
However, within the diversity, there are uniformities in things like language, which is clearly stated in the law. The official language is Arabic although there are provisions for using French. Aside from the two, the country has a hybrid language known as Lebanese. Here are some important factors related to Lebanese culture.
5. Religions Practiced
Lebanon has at least 18 known religious groups. The two main religions, as is the case for most countries in the world, are Islam (54% of the population) and Christianity with a share of about 40.4% of the population. In this regard, Lebanon shows similar characteristics with other Middle Eastern countries where the dominant population practices Islam as well as having a sizeable Christian following. Islam is divided into two main groups namely Sunni and Shia while Christianity has smaller divisions including the Maronite Church, the Protestant Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and others.
Interestingly, the latest data shows that Shia and Sunni Muslims have the same number with each group contributing half of the 54%. Among Christians, the largest sect is the Maronite Church with a share of about 21% of the total Christian population. The Lebanese community also has a minor Jewish group, which has a following of fewer than 100 people. Religion is so important to the country such that the President, the Prime minister, and the Speaker of the Parliament have to be Maronite, Sunnite, and Shiite respectively.
As the country has a significant following of both Muslims and Christians, it is not a surprise that it observes both Muslim and Christian holidays and festivals. Muslim holidays are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar while both the Gregorian and the Julian Calendars determine Christian ones. Some of the Muslim holidays include the popular Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. These two are possibly the biggest festivals since the former ends the holy month of Ramadan while the latter is simply one of sacrifice. Other Muslim celebrations include the Birth of their Prophet Muhammad, Ashura, and a celebration to remember the willingness by Abraham to sacrifice his only son to God. On the other hand, Christians celebrate popular holidays such as Christmas on December 25 and Easter. The Armenian Orthodox Christians have their Christmas as per the Julian calendar, which is on January 6.
The country has several national holidays such as the Worker’s day, Martyrs Day, and Independence Day. In addition, there are a number of music festivals including the famous Baalbeck International Festival, Beiteddine International Festival, Dhour Chwer Festival, and others.
Unsurprisingly, the food is similar to other countries in the Middle East such as Syria and Cyprus. Some of the main national dishes include kibbe and the tabbouleh. The former is simply a meat pie prepared out of burghul and minced lamb while the latter is a salad prepared out of tomatoes, burghul, and parsley. Arak is the national beverage and is prepared by fermenting grape juice. The drink is usually served with ice and water as well as food. Arak has similarities to raki of Turkey and ouzo from Greece. In recent times, other drinks such as wine and beer are gaining popularity among the population as the diversity increases. The hotel sector serves several other delicacies including things like a selection of mezze and grilled meat as well as fish. Fruit, Arabic coffee, and traditional sweets usually accompany these meals.
People who are not well off usually eat a thick stew of rice, lentils, and onions known as M'Juhdara. Mostly, people living in the Lebanese diaspora in places like Lent eat this stew. Other people’s daily life is dominated by foods such as pita bread, rice, pasta, red meat, and other foods. Fruit is also a popular component of a diet.
2. Music And Dance
Both traditional and modern styles of music are popular in the country. While traditional styles are still around, modern forms of music such as pop and fusion have also gained popularity. Accordingly, radio stations air both kinds of music. Popular local musicians include the likes of Fairuz, Najwa Karam, and others. Some of the artists who have been mixing traditional and modern styles include Marcel Khalife while modern artists include the likes of Haifa Wehbe and Fadl Shaker. The World Intellectual Property Organization reports that the music industry in the country could potentially grow to be the leading one in the Middle East.
Some popular Lebanese writers include the likes of Khalil Gibran who lived between 1883 and 1931. Khalil is famous for one of his poetry books, The Prophet, which he wrote in 1923 and includes 26 poems. Today, the book has more than 40 different translations. Other writers include Elias Khoury, Georges Schehadé, Amin Maalouf, and Hanan al-Shaykh.