Location, Population, Religion, Membership, Currency
mountainous, bounded on the north and east by Syria, on
the west by the Mediterranean and on the south by
Palestine. Between the parallel mountains ranges of
Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon lies the fertile Bekka Valley.
About one-half of the country lies at an altitude of over
Lebanon is a small country of only 10,452 sq km (4036 sq
mi); from north to south it extends 217 km (135 mi) and
from east to west it spans 80 km (50 mi) at its widest
Arabic is the official language. French is the second most
commonly used language and English is also spoken,
especially in business circles. Kurdish and Armenian are
spoken by a small percentage of the population.
Unlike most other Arab countries, Lebanon is characterized
by great religious and cultural diversity. At the time of
independence Christians formed a slight majority of the
population, the largest single community (nearly 30% of
the total) being the Maronite Christians, who mostly
inhabited the north of Lebanon and the capital, Beirut.
Other Christian groups included Greek Orthodox
communities, Greek Catholics and Armenians. The Muslim
groups were the Sunnis (living mainly in the coastal towns
of Tyre, Sidon and Beirut), the ShiŽas (a predominantly
rural community in southern Lebanon and the northern
BekaŽa valley) and the much smaller Druzes, an ancient
community in central Lebanon.
1997 estimated population was 3,111,828, but this figure,
provided by the Lebanese government, does not include
Palestinian refugees and foreign workers, mainly Syrian.
Lebanon is a member of the UN and Arab League, and
Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Lebanese Pound (LŁ) = 100 piastres.
GMT + 2 (GMT
+ 3 in summer)