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Lebanon yesterday and today - A bird’s-eye view of the nation, and the special features that distinguish it from other countries.
- A condensed history
- The modern country

(by George Asseily and James Lawday)

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Recent History

The most recent events in Lebanon probably started in 1967 with the 6-Day War, when Israel extended its borders into Egypt (Sinai), Syria (Golan Heights) and Jordan and displaced many more Palestinians, many of whom ended up in Lebanon. In the ensuing years Israel made further incursions into Lebanon and a Palestinian guerrilla movement was born.

It was not until 1975 that the Civil War started when a Christian faction, the Phalangists, supported at the time by Israel, attacked a bus in South Beirut and murdered 27 Palestinians. Syrian, Iranian, French, Israeli and American forces all took part in fighting in the next 15 years and some spent a lot of time in the country trying to separate the warring fractions. Militia groups were formed including Phalangists, Hezbollah, south Lebanese Army, Amal, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, (PLO). Religious groups including Maronites, Druze, Sunni and Shiite were also involved. Beirut was divided into Christian East and Muslim West by the notorious Green Line - so called after the trees and vegetation that soon took hold of this part of the ruined city. One hundred and fifty thousand were killed in the war with nearly 20,000 killed when Israel bombarded Beirut in 1982 and 2,000 massacred in the Sabra and Chatilla camps by Phalange in the same year. Incidents like the American Shelling of the Druze in the mountains of Beirut and the subsequent bombing of the US Embassy and Marine headquarters in 1983, all made it into the international news, along with kidnapping of Westerners by the militia. Many Lebanese fled their country and established successful business communities around the word.

In 1989 the Taif Accord brought to an end the strife in Lebanon. Gradually normality returned in 1992 when all western hostages had been released, elections were held in the country, the first for two decades, and Rafiq Hariri, a Lebanese/Saudi businessman, was elected Prime Minister. Since that time relative peace returned to the country and a massive rebuilding program was started - a rebuilding program that not only included bricks and mortar but also institutions and people’s lives. Occasional incursions by Israel forces have occurred since then including attacks on Beirut’s infrastructure.
Over 300,000 Palestinian refugees remain in Lebanon and are a constant reminder of the turmoil of the last quarter of the twentieth century.

...And more recent (That part by Wikipedia editors)

On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion near the Saint George Bay in Beirut. Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending pro-Syrian President Lahoud's term in office. Others, namely the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.

This incident triggered a series of demonstrations, known as Cedar Revolution that demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1595 on April 7, 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri. The findings of the investigation were officially published on October 20, 2005 in the Mehlis report. Eventually, and under pressure from the West, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon. By April 26, 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria. The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that led to the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers leading to a conflict, known in Lebanon as July War, that lasted until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect on 14 August 2006.
In October 2007, Émile Lahoud finished his second term as President. The opposition conditioned its vote for a successor on a power-sharing deal, thus leaving the country without a president for over 6 months.

On May 09, 2008, Hezbollah and Amal militants, in an armed attack triggered by a government decision on Hezbollah's communications network, temporarily took over Western Beirut. The situation was described by the government as an attempted "coup".

On May 21, 2008, all major Lebanese parties signed an accord to elect Michel Suleiman as President, to form a national unity government with 11 out of 30 seats for the opposition, thus enabling it to veto decisions, and to adopt a new electoral law, based on the 1960 law with amendments for the 3 Beirut constituencies. The deal was brokered by an Arab League delegation, headed by the Emir and Foreign Minister of Qatar and the Secretary General of the Arab League, after 5 days of intense negotiations in Doha. Michel Suleiman was officially elected President on Sunday May 25, 2008 in the presence of the Foreign Ministers of Syria and Iran as well as France and Saudi-Arabia.

Lebanon Today

Visitors to Lebanon today will have to look hard if they are to see any signs of the destruction that remained evident in the early 1990s. Beirut itself, which for so long had been synonymous with terror and destruction, is now reasserting itself as a modern Mediterranean city. Old buildings with any architectural merit have been restored; old buildings with no merit at all, especially within the central Beirut district, have been pulled down and new modern developments are rising throughout the country. Inevitably the main thrust of this reconstruction program is in Beirut, partly because it had seen the most destruction and also because as the capital of the country it stood as an important symbol of regeneration. Tripoli in the North, a sometime haven for fleeing Beirutis, has become a second centre for Lebanon. Jounieh, virtually a suburb of Beirut, and colonized during the more difficult times, is also thriving. In the south of the country the cities of Sidon and Tyre have been slower to become re-established, partly due to their proximity to the southern border with Israel.

Just after the war in the early 1990s vast areas of central Beirut was destroyed, especially those around the Green Line. Hotels, shops, mosques, churches, offices and homes lay in ruins. The airport barely functioned. Water, electricity and telephone services were severely disrupted. Sports facilities were in ruins although the horse race track in Beirut survived intact. The Museum, art galleries and cinemas barely remained. Transport within the country was confused - confused because large areas of Beirut and the country had so long been off limits for citizens (for example, Christian taxi drivers didn’t know their way around West Beirut). Although Lebanon sported about 80 different banks, some were no more than privately owned money-boxes and only a few had any substance - a devaluation over the twenty years of the Lebanese pound from 2.5 to the US dollar to a low of 2000 to the dollar, had not increased peoples enthusiasm for banks and their owners.

The government of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri embarked upon an ambitious plan for rebuilding the country. International consultants and expert were brought in. Lebanese businessmen, bankers, lawyers, etc, were persuaded to return to join the government and to join in the planning and implementation of a new restructured Lebanon. Even archaeologists were able to excavate large areas of Beirut, which for so long had remained hidden under centuries of development.

Rapidly Lebanon returned to normal. Hotels opened and business travelers and tourists returned. Business groups from Europe were soon knocking at the doors. While the American government maintained a cautious approach, enterprising but discreet American business executives could be seen in smart hotels. Major international trade exhibitions were held in Beirut and Tripoli. Roads were repaired and new highways built. A new airport was constructed. The port, a significant facility for this trading nation, was opened - such was its efficiency that importers and exporters from the region preferred to use Beirut rather than the other established ports in the region. Government offices reopened - the government reduced taxes across the board and found that they had suddenly an increase in revenue? Television and radio stations blossomed and mobile phone networks were installed - Lebanese then became the dubious holders of the record for the most mobile phones per capita in the word.

The wealth and perspicacity of the Lebanese is legendary. Within a short time expensive cars were to be seen on the streets of Lebanon. Luxury hotels opened, offering luxurious surroundings at uncompetitive prices. Restaurant, equivalent in quality to anywhere in the word, were soon overwhelmed by customers. Fast motor cruisers could be seen racing up and down the coastline. Normality and the Lebanese way of life had returned.

Political and financial difficulties returned to the country in the mid 1990s as the burden of the redevelopment program and political disruption from the southern neighbor reduced financial confidence. A new government in the next decade believed in a more cautious fiscal policy. However, this slowdown was temporary and a more measured approach to the rebuilding program continues today.

Decree N. 2385 of 17/1/1924 as amended by law N. 76 of 3/4/1999 ( articles 2, 5, 15, 49 and 85 ) lays down as follows: The author of a literary or artistic work, by the very fact of authorship, has absolute right of ownership over the work, without obligation of recourse to formal procedures . The author will himself enjoy the benefit of exploitation of his work, and he possesses exclusive rights of publication and of the reproduction under any form whatsoever. Whether the work in question comes under the public domain or not those persons will be liable to imprisonment for a period of one to three years and to fine of between five and fifty million Lebanese pounds, or to either one of these penalties, who 1-will have appended or caused to be appended a usurped name on a literary or artistic work; 2-will have fraudulently imitated the signature or trademark adopted by an author, with a view to deceiving the buyer; 3-will have counterfeited a literary or artistic work; 4-or will have knowingly sold, received, or put on sale or into circulation a work which is counterfeit or signed with a forged signature. The punishment will be increased in the event of repetition.



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