The Lebanon Portal

A view of Byblos, Lebanon
A view of Byblos, Lebanon

Lebanon (/ˈlɛbənɒn, -nən/ LEB-ə-non, -⁠nən; Arabic: لُبْنَان Lubnān [lɪbˈneːn]; French: Liban), officially the Republic of Lebanon (الجمهورية اللبنانية al-Jumhūrīyah al-Lubnānīyah; République libanaise), is a country in West Asia. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, by Israel to the south, and by the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Cyprus lies a short distance away from the country's Mediterranean coastline. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin, between Europe and the Middle East, has contributed to the country's rich history and shaped a unique cultural identity denoted by religious diversity. Located in the Levant, the country has a population of more than five million people and covers an area of 10,452 square kilometres (4,036 sq mi), making it the second-smallest Asian country. The capital and largest city is Beirut, followed by Tripoli and Jounieh. While Arabic is the official language, French is also recognized in a formal capacity; Lebanese Arabic is the country's vernacular, though French and English play a relatively significant role in everyday life, with Modern Standard Arabic being limited to news and government matters.

The earliest evidence of human civilization in Lebanon dates back to 5000 BCE. From 3200 BCE to 539 BCE, it was the site of Phoenicia while being annexed by various Near Eastern empires. In 64 BC, the Phoenicians were conquered by the Roman Empire, and the region soon became a major center for Christianity under the aegis of the Byzantine Empire. In the 7th century, the Arab conquest of the Levant brought the region under the control of the Rashidun Caliphate. The 11th century saw the beginning of the Crusades and the establishment of Crusader states, though these later fell to the Ayyubids and the Mamluks, who in turn ceded the territory to the Ottoman Turks in the aftermath of the Ottoman–Mamluk War of 1516–1517. Under Ottoman ruler Abdulmejid I, the first Lebanese proto-state was established in the form of the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, created in the 19th century as a home for Maronite Christians under the Ottoman "Tanzimat" period.

Lebanon is a developing country, ranked 112th on the Human Development Index. It has been classified as an upper-middle-income state. However, the Lebanese liquidity crisis, coupled with nationwide corruption and recent disasters such as the 2020 Beirut explosion, have precipitated the collapse of Lebanon's currency and fomented political instability, widespread resource shortages, and high unemployment and poverty. The World Bank has defined Lebanon's economic crisis as one of the world's worst since the 19th century. Despite the country's small size, Lebanese culture is renowned both in the Arab world and globally, powered primarily by the Christian-dominated Lebanese diaspora. Lebanon is a founding member of the United Nations and of the Arab League, and is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. (Full article...)

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Engraving of a portrait of Fakhr al-Din by Giovanni Mariti, 1787

Fakhr al-Din Ma'n (Arabic: فَخْر ٱلدِّين مَعْن, romanizedFakhr al-Dīn Maʿn; c. 1572 – March or April 1635), commonly known as Fakhr al-Din II or Fakhreddine II (Arabic: فخر الدين الثاني, romanizedFakhr al-Dīn al-Thānī), was the paramount Druze emir of Mount Lebanon from the Ma'n dynasty, an Ottoman governor of Sidon-Beirut and Safed, and the strongman over much of the Levant from the 1620s to 1633. For uniting modern Lebanon's constituent parts and communities, especially the Druze and the Maronites, under a single authority for the first time in history, he is generally regarded as the country's founder. Although he ruled in the name of the Ottomans, he acted with considerable autonomy and developed close ties with European powers in defiance of the Ottoman imperial government.

Fakhr al-Din succeeded his father as the emir of the Chouf mountains in 1591. He was appointed over the sanjaks (districts) of Sidon-Beirut in 1593 and Safed in 1602. Despite joining the rebellion of Ali Janbulad in 1606, Fakhr al-Din remained in his post and the Ottomans recognized his takeover of the Keserwan mountains from his rival Yusuf Sayfa. Seven years later, an imperial campaign was launched against him for allying with Tuscany and garrisoning the strategic fortresses of Shaqif Arnun and Subayba. He escaped and became an exile in Tuscany and Sicily. Upon his return in 1618, he resumed control of his former domains and within three years took over northern Mount Lebanon, which was predominantly Maronite. After Fakhr al-Din routed the governor of Damascus at the Battle of Anjar in 1623, he extended his control to the Beqaa Valley, the stronghold of his rivals, the Harfush dynasty. Fakhr al-Din proceeded to capture fortresses across central Syria, gained practical control of Tripoli and its eyalet, and acquired tax farms as far north as Latakia. Although he frequently attained government favor by timely forwarding of tax revenue, bribing officials, and using opportunities of mutual interest to eliminate local rivals, his outsized power and autonomy were considered a rebellion by the imperial government. A near-contemporary historian remarked that "the only thing left for him to do was to claim the Sultanate". He surrendered to the Ottomans during a siege of his Chouf hideout in 1633 and was executed in Constantinople two years later. In 1697 Fakhr al-Din's grandnephew was awarded a tax farm spanning southern Mount Lebanon. It was gradually expanded by the Ma'ns' marital relatives, the Shihabs, in 1711, and was a precursor to the Lebanese Republic.

According to the historian Kamal Salibi, Fakhr al-Din "combined military skill and eminent qualities of leadership with a keen business acumen and unusual powers of observation". During a period when the empire was in a long economic crisis, Fakhr al-Din's territories thrived, and Sidon in particular attained political significance for the first time in its modern history. He protected, promoted, and helped modernize commercial agriculture in his domains, inaugurating the lucrative silk trade of Mount Lebanon. By opening his port towns for European commerce, he facilitated the most significant European political and economic penetration of the Levantine coast since the 13th century. Fakhr al-Din's wealth, derived mainly from his tax farms, but also from extortion and counterfeiting, enabled him to invest in the fortifications and infrastructure needed to foster stability, order, and economic growth. His building works included palatial government houses in Sidon, Beirut and his Chouf stronghold of Deir al-Qamar, caravanserais, bathhouses, mills, and bridges, some of which remain extant. Tax farming financed his army of sekban mercenaries, which after 1623 mostly replaced the local peasant levies on which he previously depended. Christians prospered and played key roles under his rule, with his main enduring legacy being the symbiotic relationship he set in motion between Maronites and Druze, which proved foundational for the creation of a Lebanese entity. (Full article...)

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Khalifa in October 2019
Mia Khalifa (/mə kəˈlfə/; Arabic: ميا خليفة, romanizedMiyа̄ Ḵalīfah [mijaː χaliːfa(h)]; born 1993) is a Lebanese-American media personality and former pornographic film actress and webcam model. She began acting in pornography in October 2014, becoming the most viewed performer on Pornhub in two months. Her career choice was met with controversy in the Middle East, especially for a video in which she performed sexual acts while wearing a hijab. (Full article...)

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