• Lebanon!

    Lebanon: House in Byblos. Go Now!

    Lebanon
    This country is home to a wide range of people from conservative Muslims and Christians to liberals who embrace the changing world. Explore Lebanon!

  • Bangladesh!

    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    Bangladesh
    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    Mongolia
    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Lebanon

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

Ethnicity

Nearly every person living in Lebanon is an ethnic Arab, which is a group of people originally from the Arabian Peninsula. Like all Arabs there are various ethnic groups represented in their genetic make-up. One of these other ethnic groups is the Canaanites or Phoenicians, who are an ancient group of people, with whom the people today have many commonalities on a genetic level. Today many Muslims consider themselves to be "Arab" while many Christians tend to identify as "Phoenician." No matter, the people have traces of both these groups in them and how an individual identifies doesn't necessarily mean they are more ethnically Arab or Phoenician so much as it defines their religious affiliation. The largest minority group in Lebanon, which is less than 5% of the population, is the Armenians.

Language

Arabic is the only official language in Lebanon. The written form of the language is called Modern Standard Arabic (written in the Arabic script), which gives the language consistency across countries from a written perspective. The spoken dialects of Arabic are so drastic from location to location that Arabic speakers in Lebanon may not even understand Arabic speakers from a country further away, like Morocco. Obviously the dialect of Arabic in Lebanon is most closely related to the dialects spoken in nearby countries like Syria and Jordan.

Arabic is a Semitic language; other closely related Semitic languages include Amharic (Ethiopia) and Hebrew. More distantly related are languages like Berber (North Africa) as well as historic languages including Phoenician and ancient Egyptian.

There are a number of ethnic minorities that speak less common languages, including a significant Armenian-speaking population. French is the most commonly taught second language in the country and many young people speak at least a minimal amount of French if they are not completely fluent. English is also commonly taught as a second language and the number of people who can speak English is slowly growing, often times at the expense of learning French.

Religion

About 60% of Lebanon's population is Muslim, primarily Shia Muslim. However, nearly all of the other 40% is Christian; these Christians adhere to numerous branches of Christianity including Maronite Catholics and Greek Orthodox among many others. Although the people are ethnically similar, Muslim adherents tend to identify as Arabs and Christian adherents tend to identify as Canaanites or Phoenicians.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Lebanon is fairly liberal in how they practice Islam.

Most Muslims are Sunni, which is the branch of Islam that closely follows the teachings of Muhammad and accepts Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (a ruler of an Islamic community); the Sunni Muslims are sometimes referred to Orthodox. Shia Muslims believe only God can chose who heads the Islamic community and believed it was Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law who was first chosen; Ali became the first Imam (according to Shia Muslims, this term only refers to the leaders of the faith, to Sunni Muslims Imam is often times used in reference to the prayer leader in mosques).

This page was last updated: May, 2014