A map of Lebanon Once the centre of the ancient Phoenician civilization, Lebanon is a small, mountainous country bordering the Eastern Mediterranean. Along the coast is a wide, flat plain. Inland, the Lebanon Mountains (Jebel Liban) rise steeply from this plain. Running parallel to this range further east are the Anti-Lebanon mountains. They form part of the border with Syria. Between the two ranges lies the fertile, but dry Beqaa Valley (El Beqaa). Lebanon’s mountains were once heavily forested, but most of the trees have since been cut down or lost to wildfires. Today much of its land is Mediterranean-type scrubland. Summers are hot in Lebanon, while winters are wet and mild. The highest mountains are snow-capped in winter, and cooler all year round.
Lebanon is home to a people whose ancestors were from ancient Syria and Greece, as well as Phoenicia, the trading nation founded in Lebanon around 1500 BC. Religion is more important to the Lebanese than ethnic origins; strong divisions exist between the country’s Christians (mainly Maronites and Greek Orthodox) and Muslims (Sunni and Shia). Dating back to the rule of the Ottoman Empire, when different religious groups were given special privileges, these tensions remain among the different religious groups. Most Lebanese speak Arabic alongside French and English.
So many refugees from Syria have fled to Lebanon that today, one in every four people living in Lebanon is a refugee from the Syrian conflict.
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