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Culture & Identity of Lebanon

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

Introduction

Life in Lebanon is very diverse as the people are diverse. There are great differences from person to person in regards to lifestyle and this begins with religion.

Most of the people in Lebanon are either Muslim or Christian, both of which affect the way of life to some degree. However, generally speaking the people are fairly liberal and there are few conservative Christians or Muslims. For those people that are more conservative in their religious beliefs the lifestyle tends to be modeled to varying degrees on religion.

Islam has numerous rules regarding dress, diet, and even on dating, but today only the most conservative Muslims in Lebanon follow all of these restrictions. More commonly only a fraction of these rules are followed. Likewise, Christianity has rules, but tends to be more liberal in general and this again matches the attitude of most Christians in Lebanon.

For these conservative Muslims and Christians life begins with religion and often times also with family. However, since few people are too conservative much of life in Lebanon today reflects that of the modern world. Weekends are Saturday-Sunday to match the weekend of Europe and many of the country's trading partners. This is perhaps the first and most obvious diversion from Islam, whose holy day is Friday (so many Muslim countries include Friday in their weekend).

In addition to religion, work life also does a great deal to contributing to the lifestyle in the country as most of the people are now urbanized and many hold jobs to support themselves and their families. For many of these people work has regularly scheduled hours. Due to a fairly stable economy and decent incomes, many people today have some discretionary income that is often used to enjoy time off of work. For much of the population socializing with friends at a restaurant or bar is common. The country has numerous entertainment options, especially in the big cities and for many young people time is rather spent with friends than with family, although family remains important to most Lebanese.

Identity

The people of Lebanon identify in numerous ways, but most do so in terms of nationality, religion, or ethnicity. Most people primarily identify as "Lebanese," which many local Muslims define as being a citizen of Lebanon, a Muslim, and an ethnic Arab. Some Lebanese Christians argue with this definition as they define the term "Lebanese" solely in political terms so any citizen is Lebanese, no matter their faith. Despite the difference in definition, the Christians in Lebanon tend to prefer identifying as "Phoenicians," which is defined ethnically as a descendent of the Canaanites. In many ways this is primarily a way for the Christians to separate themselves from the Muslim affiliation of being "Lebanese." It is also important to note that most of the people, no matter their religion, tend to have traces of both Phoenician/Canaanite ancestry as well as Arab ancestry so ethnically all the people, no matter their religion, are very similar.

This page was last updated: December, 2013