Lebanon is a small Middle Eastern country with a long and tumultuous history dating back many thousands of years. In its modern form, the nation of Lebanon covers a total land area of 3,950 square miles and shares a land border with both Syria and Israel. Based on information from the United Nations, the country is home to a population of approximately 6,073,284 people with a density of 1,536 residents per square mile.
Due to factors such as political upheaval (i.e., the 2006 Lebanon War) the nation’s economy has experienced its share of financial instability and insecurity. The country’s government ascribes to a so-called laissez-faire approach to economic issues and encourages free markets and private ownership. Among the biggest industries in Lebanon include banking, tourism, agriculture, education, and communication.
The robust banking industry in Lebanon is responsible for approximately eight percent of the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product). Local banks in Lebanon are widely considered to be secure as well as high on liquidity. This emphasis on security stems from the implementation of the banking secrecy law established in 1956. The Middle Eastern country is home to 63 banks including its central financial institution, the Banque du Liban.
Currently, Lebanese banks play an active role in the fields of trade and project finance as well as private banking. Foreign-owned financial institutions may operate in Lebanon but are limited to just one branch (except for HSBC and BNP). The majority of the financial deposits in Lebanese banks (a value of approximately $51 billion) come from foreign countries, the most significant portion being American dollars.
According to figures published in The Economist Lebanon’s tourism industry accounts for about ten percent of the nation’s GDP. Before the war in neighboring Syria the nation attracted approximately 1,333,000 to 2,000, 000 visitors every year. A large number of tourists make the journey to Lebanon from countries such as Japan, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
The appeal of Lebanon as a vacation spot is due to a variety of factors such as the nation’s unique cultural and historic sites as well as its range of sporting facilities, bars, restaurants, and gambling venues.
Major tourist destinations in the country include the coastal city of Byblos (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Baalbek Roman Ruins which feature the tomb of Kholat (daughter of Husayn ibn Ali; the grandson of the prophet Muhammad), and the Qadisha Caves where in 1989- 1991 mummified remains were discovered thought to originate back to the year 1283 A.D.
The arts also play a large role in attracting visitors to Lebanon. The country has produced a large array of talented artists including such internationally recognized names as painter Moustafa Farroukh (1901- 1957), writer Kahlil Gibran (1883- 1931), and modern singer Lydia Canaan.
The agricultural sector is a vital part of the Lebanese economy. According to reports some twelve per cent of the county’s work force is employed in this industry. Figures released in 2011 show that Lebanon’s agricultural industry accounted for just under six per cent of the nation’s GDP. Unlike in other nearby Middle Eastern countries Lebanon is home to a high level of available farm-able land as well as an environment which provides plenty of sunshine and rain. The fertile lands of Lebanon produce an array of natural and much sought after crops including fruit such as grapes, lemon, apples, peaches, and oranges as well as tobacco and olives.
One of the most important sectors of Lebanon’s agriculture is the production of domestic wine. This industry has a very long history in the country with accounts of early wine production dating back to around 2686 BC–2134 BC. Wine remains a key product in Lebanon’s agricultural industry with an estimated 6,000,000 cases of the beverage being produced on a yearly basis. Grapes grown in the nation include varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cinsaut, Carignan, and Grenache.
Popular Lebanese wines include varieties or red such as Chateau Musar Red Lebanon, Massaya la Colombier, and Ksara Prieure as well as a number of white wines including Ixsir Grande Reserve White, Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blancs la Cuvee de Norma, and Karam Winery Cloud Nine. Rose wines such as Chateau Ksara 'Sunset Rose' Bekaa Valley, Massaya Rosé, and Batroun Mountains Rose Royal are also popular.
According to 2013’s Global Information Technology Report compiled by the World Economic Forum Lebanon’s educational system came in at fourth place in terms of its math and science curriculum and ranked tenth for best overall educational quality. As dictated by national law the first eight years of school are compulsory for Lebanese citizens.
Lebanon’s 41 universities include both private and public schools as well as French and English institutions. The American University of Beirut was founded in 1866 and boosts a student population of 9,102. This prestigious private school offers bachelor, masters, as well as PhD. degree programs. Saint Joseph University, also in Beirut, is a Francophone institution founded in 1875 by Jesuit priests. With an enrollment numbering about 15,000 students the university is spread over five urban campuses and includes twelve faculties and 24 institutes. Saint Joseph also has a number of regional centers in cities such as Sidon, Tripoli, Lebanon, Zahlé, and Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates).
Another noteworthy educational institution, the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik is located in the suburban community of Mount Lebanon and was established in 1938. This private Catholic facility was founded by the Lebanese Maronite Order which, although primarily operating in French, also provides its students with a multi-lingual education. The university features four institutes (Nursing, Liturgy, History, and Political Science) and eleven faculties (Sciences, Engineering, Letters, Medicine, Agriculture, Music, Business, Law, Philosophy, Fine Arts, and Theology).
Lebanon’s communication systems underwent substantial renovations during the early 1990s. The country now has a complex and modern telecommunication system that includes telephones, radio and television stations. According to recent estimates, Lebanon has approximately 1,816,262 telephone landlines and 1,816,262 mobile phones. In regards to radio communications, the country has only one AM and 32 FM radio stations which broadcast their content in a number of languages including English, French, Arabic, and Armenian. Lebanon has 28 TV stations including Al Jadeed, Orange TV, and Future TV. Cable television networks consist of companies such as Cable Vision, UCL, Eco Net, Digitek, and City TV.
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