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LebanonLebanon's name comes from the Semitic root of lbn, which means "white." The name is probably in reference to the snow on Mt. Lebanon, which eventually lent its name to the entire region. This name has been in use for over 4,000 years.

WARNING: Terrorist threats and violence exist in Lebanon, please read this travel warning before going!

Introduction:

The way of life in Lebanon is strongly influenced by religion as the population is divided between Muslims and Christians, plus the people follow these religions to varying degrees, giving the culture even more diversity. This divide also alters how each individual identifies and dictates numerous other rules including dress, behavior, and diet. However, the culture is also the result of numerous other factors as well.

In the 300s many of the people of the region, known as the Canaanites or Phoenicians converted to Christianity and today a substantial percentage of the population still practices this religion. The Christians tend to be more liberal than the Muslims in many realms so generally dress more freely, drink alcohol, and have few restrictions on dating or communication between the sexes. However, other Christians are more conservative and many of the Muslims are also quite liberal and do all of the above.

In the 600s Islam arrived to the region and today most of the people in Lebanon are Muslim. This faith is more conservative than Christianity on most measures and the faithful are required to dress conservatively, abstain from alcohol, and they also have other regulations, including stricter guidelines on dating and interacting with people of the opposite sex. Today these rules and restrictions are followed to varying degrees.

Another item of importance in determining the current way of life in Lebanon is their location since people have passed through, stopped, or taken control over the region throughout history. These many outside exposures have led to a greater fight for independence in the past and today as wider divides between the Muslims and Christians have arise in some ways, but this has also led to similarities and crossover from one culture to the next. While these outside influences have both positive and negative effects, they have made the people very aware of cultural differences between themselves and outsiders. Today things thought of as being "non-Muslim," like liberal dress and the consumption of alcohol, are common among many Muslims. However, for others this isn't the case and many Christians have become more modest in dress and behavior due to the Islamic influences, making the divide between religious groups less pronounced.

Although the country found itself in civil war in 1975 and tensions still exist between some Christians and Muslims, as well as between people with varying political viewpoints, for the most part the people have learned to accept differences and work together. This is not a statement on their ability to negotiate so much as it is a testament that they understand differences exist and they recognize these differences, but they still manage to work across religions and political beliefs.

The final important aspect that has led to the present way of life in Lebanon is their unity in focusing on economic progress and growth. In the 1940-50s Lebanon was an economic leader in the Middle East and today the people are working on getting back to that position. The economy in Lebanon is one of the strongest factors uniting the differing groups and is the base of their growth as all seek better jobs, better growth, and better opportunities for themselves and for their families.

Information for Lebanon was last updated: November, 2012 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks