Facts about Lebanon

I would like to dedicate my first blog to Lebanon itself, a country where I live now. It took me a while to decide about the format of the first blog, as I wanted it to be informative yet not too boring with loads of dates, names and political issues. So I have compiled a list of 10 absolutely random facts about this ancient unique country, which witnessed a lot of civilizations, wars and invaders. For every item I added an explanation based on my own knowledge to make each point clear and open enough.

Let’s go!

1. The first miracle of Jesus Christ has been committed in Lebanon, in the town called Qana (Qana Galilee).

I am, of course, talking about the transformation of water into wine at the wedding ceremony. After his baptism in the waters of Jordan River, Jesus returned to Galilee, and was invited to the wedding. Weddings in the East have always been (and still are) very large-scale, with a big number of invitees. Consequently, food and drinks were also supposed to be in abundance for all the guests, as it was always the main sign of hospitality. However there was not enough of wine during the wedding in Qana which could result in dramatic shame for newlyweds. So Jesus took the vessels with water, which were filled up to the top, and then handed them over to the governor of the ceremony. Water in vessels turned into wine.

Qana is located in the South of Lebanon, 10 km from the ancient city of Tyre (or Sur) and only 12 km from the Israeli border. The majority of the population is Shiite Muslims. Modern history of Qana is quite tragic (better not to Google the images) and is often associated with massacres of locals by Israeli army during the operation in 1996 and 2006 Lebanon War with Israel.

Being a curious tourist, I really wish to visit this place which is deeply important for all Christians and history lovers. But my husband has a lot of doubts, saying that before there were tombs of victims, who died from Israeli attacks, along the roads of the town (omg, that sounds like a nightmare!). I honestly don’t believe this, as I can’t imagine how anybody can live in such conditions. But the information is on the “test stage”. Therefore if everything is ok, we will definitely visit Qana! So stay tuned guys!

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The statue of Jesus in Zouk

2. There are no deserts in Lebanon.

Lebanon is a part of the Middle East. Moreover it is an Arab country with the significant amount of Muslim population. That’s it! Here most of people usually imagine the following: yellow sandy dunes, vast deserts and of course a huge palace right in the middle of the desert with such a big round roof… We all watched Aladdin cartoon when we were kids, didn’t we?!

Basically people who always thought that Lebanon is full of desserts have their point! Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabic and other Gulf countries, Egypt – there are deserts everywhere! But not in Lebanon! Lebanese landscape is rich with mountains covered by cedars and other beautiful trees, with green valleys and with the sea. You can definitely find sand here but mainly by the coast J And the climate here is super humid all year round.

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3. Lebanon has the largest in the Middle East percentage of Christians.

And, according to the Constitution, the President should also be a Christian (the Prime minister – a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of Parliament – a Shiite Muslim). This model was developed in the course of Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943. You know, just to keep the main religious groups in the country satisfied and equal. This fact #3 is my straight answer to all my relatives and friends in Russia who thought that moving here I would convert and wear hijab immediately 🙂

P.S.: it has been around 2 years the country staying without the President. Well they can’t decide and agree on whom to vote for… That’s where all the domestic problems come from. But this topic needs a separate post

4. Our tiny Lebanon has 42 national banks.

Yes guys, I’m talking about national, not branches of international banks. Lebanon is known to be called “Switzerland of the Middle East”. Prior to Civil war in 1975, it was a very prosperous country with the very attractive policy of strict confidentiality in banking sector, very similar to Swiss banking policy. Therefore, foreign citizens, especially the representatives of the “oil” countries in the Persian Gulf, preferred to keep their “savings” in Lebanon.  This policy exists in Lebanon until now, but the Civil war and then the war with Israel have undermined the country’s economy.

5. The word “Bible” comes from the name “Byblos”, which is one of the oldest cities in the world and it’s located on the territory of modern Lebanon.

Ok so this is very simple. The Greek word “Byblos” in ancient times referred to papyrus, which was used for writing before the invention of paper. Papyrus was delivered to Greece from Byblos, hence its name. Later this word in Greek language got a meaning of “a collection of books, texts,” what in fact the Bible is.

6. The first alphabet was invented in ancient Phoenicia, which was the center of what modern Lebanon is.

It’s not a secret that the first alphabet, the ancestor of Greek and Latin, is Phoenician alphabet. It was invented for the calendar notations and had about 30 letters. Later on the Greeks developed and improved it, giving each character a completed meaning.

7. Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, has been fully / almost fully destroyed and rebuilt at least seven times.

Perhaps this fact will seem uninteresting, and you will even think that there’s nothing special about Beirut in particular. And you are right, as many cities were destroyed and rebuilt in the course of various historical events. But just think about it, 7 times it was TOTALLY destroyed and rebuilt!

The first global destruction was caused by the earthquake in 551 AD, which arose away from the shore, right in the sea water. Underwater tremors led to a powerful wave of the tsunami, which as the result killed 30 000 people in Beirut only!

Beirut had been severely damaged not only in antiquity but also in the XX century during the Civil war between Lebanese Christians and Palestinian refugees, and later on the Lebanese Muslims and intervene Syrian army. There used to be a so-called “green line” in the center of the city separating the warring parties. The city, especially its center, was destroyed to such an extent that it took many years for it to recover. A lot of buildings weren’t restored and stood ruined with the traces of bullets on them. That’s quite a reminder for the modern generation of how bad and ruinous a war can be.

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Roman baths in Beirut
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Fully renovated after Civil war (1975-1990) center of Beirut

8. The population of Lebanon is a around 4 million people, while there are 15 million Lebanese living outside of the country.

Lebanon is probably one of the few countries where the population within the state is less than outside of it. The explanation to that is in the fact #7. Of course, after so many wars, conflicts and as the result – the economic crisis in the country, it was hard for locals to survive inside Lebanon. So the majority decided to immigrate to Canada, Sweden, Germany, America and other countries. And those who stood, admit that they could never leave their beloved homeland, no matter what the external and internal dangers are. Therefore, the Lebanese in Lebanon are very patriotic, they firmly believe that their country is the best, the most unique and stunning the world! Such a good sense of patriotism that many should learn!

9. Great Temple of Jupiter in Baalbak city.

Baalbak is the city in North-Eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian border. It is controlled by the Shiite party Hezbollah. This tourist place is now empty due to the volatile situation on the border and Syrian attempts to illegally enter the country. It is an ancient and, in my opinion, quite mysterious city. Before the conquests of Alexander the Great, there is no information about the city though the building remains are clear evidences of its longer history.

The main attraction of Baalbak is an impressive temple ensemble, the biggest part of which is the temple of Jupiter. According to its style, archaeologists suggest that the temple was built under the rule of the Roman Empire. However, the Roman sources never mentioned that such a large construction was built on that territory. This fact is rather weird for people, who used to boast about everything they possibly did or constructed… Feel the power of UFO now and another proof that extraterrestrial civilizations were related to the ancient architecture on planet Earth 🙂

Also the temple of Jupiter is unique in its structure and is larger than the pyramid of Cheops and the Greek Parthenon. So the aliens must have suffered way more here than in Egypt. Poor things!

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10. Cedars – the symbol of Lebanon.

I would like to end this list of facts by something that has a deep meaning for Lebanese people all around the world. And this is the cedar tree. Have you ever seen a Lebanese passport? It is so pretty I must admit! Navy blue with the image of cedar painted in gold spreading its branches to the sides. So why a cedar tree exactly?

The first thing you see when you arrive to Lebanon is the sea and wonderful mountains, entirely covered with cedars. From the immemorial times, the tree has served faithfully for the people living on the territory of modern Lebanon. Phoenicians built their houses out of cedars, and just as importantly, their ships. After all, the Phoenicians were traders, and they invented the first ships and boats. Solomon’s temple, the first Christian church which was built in Jerusalem, was also built of cedars transported from Lebanon.

There’s a large cedars park in the mountains called Cedars of God, and it is under the UN protection. This is a highly spiritual and blessed place with fresh clean air. But it definitely requires a separate post with tones of photos attached.

So here it is, the mighty Lebanon! Small, but proud and obstinate. Elegant, but sometimes dangerous. Beautiful and so green surrounded by trees and the remains of different civilizations. But most importantly it’s mine now! Or let’s say becoming mine day by day!

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