Lebanese people share many of their cultural characteristics of the Arab world. Yet, it has attributes that differentiate it from many of its Arab neighbors.
Read on to find out more about Lebanese people and their history.
What is a Lebanese?
The Lebanese people are the inhabitants of Lebanon or who have their origins in the country. The term also covers those who inhabited Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountains (which sit between modern-day Syria and Lebanon) before forming the modern Lebanese state. Approximately 4.7 million Lebanese citizens are living in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s birth and death rates are well below the global average. Around one-fourth of the population is under 15, and half is under 30. Lebanon has a high life expectancy; it is above the worldwide average.
Arabic is Lebanon’s official language, although some Lebanese people are Armenian, Kurdish, English, or French-speaking. Syriac is also used in some Maronite churches, although it’s a minority. The Beirut accent sounds very mellow and is the most respected in the county, while rural accents are much harsher. Accents are an indicator of social status in Lebanese culture.
The density of the country depends on the region, with an overall uneven distribution of the population. The largest concentration of Lebanese people outside of Lebanon can be found in Brazil, estimated to be around 6 million people. Countries including Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic have large Lebanese communities.
History of Lebanese People
The first cities to emerge in Lebanon were built by maritime people, the Phoenicians, in-between 2500 and 400 B.C.E. The Phoenicians are still celebrated as a symbol of Lebanon’s golden past. They are believed to be the inventors of the alphabet.
In 64 BC, the region came under the rule of the Roman Empire. Eventually, it became one of the Empire’s leading centers of Christianity. The Maronite Church was established in the Mount Lebanon range. The area held onto this identity, despite the Arab Muslims later conquering the area.
Lebanon was eventually ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Following World War I’s collapse after World War I, the country came under the French Mandate of Lebanon.
The French expanded the area, which was populated by Maronite and Druze people, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence from the French in 1943, establishing confessionalism and a unique power-sharing political system based on religious communities. Foreign troops would not withdraw from the country until the end of 1946.
Despite its small size, the Lebanese people have been highly influential across the Arab world. Before the Civil War in 1975, the country was relatively calm and was renowned for its prosperity. When the war ended in 1990, there was a great effort to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.
What Do Lebanese People Look Like?
There is no one Lebanese look. Lebanese people, women, in particular, are often depicted in the media are being exceptionally beautiful. These stereotypes have caused a boom in the plastic surgery industry. Lebanese men are stereotyped for being well-dressed and very fashion conscious.
Celebrities who are Lebanese born or come from Lebanese descent include singers Shakira and Mika, actors Salma Hayek, Tony Shalhoub, Wentworth Miller, and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
Lebanese people are predominantly native Levantine rather than Arab ancestrally. Recent studies show that most Lebanese people’s genetic makeup today is shared with that of Phoenician and Canaanite peoples native to the region.
There has been no census data since 1932, so it is difficult to know the exact ethnic demographic of Lebanon. Lebanon society is formed of numerous ethnic, kinship, and religious groups. A large number of Lebanese people have Brazilian ancestry. Lebanese people also have an ethnic history with Phoenicians, Greeks, Armenians, and Arabs. You can also find Armenian and Kurdish minorities in Lebanon.
Lebanese Race: Beginnings and Ancestry
The Lebanese race is generally Arabic. A debate over national identity has raged in the last century in Lebanon. Many Maronites claim direct ancestry from the Phoenicians to distance themselves from the Muslim Middle East.
An article in the Lebanese constitution drafted in 1943 stated that Lebanon was a country with an “Arab face.” This was replaced at the end of the civil war in 1999 with an article declaring Lebanon “an Arab country.”
Main Religion of Lebanon
While most Lebanese people are Arab, they are generally divided into Muslims and Christians. In those two religious groups, there is a subdivision of faiths or sects. The government officially recognizes 18 religious’ sects of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
The Muslims are divided into Sunnis and Shi’is. The Druzes, whose religion originated in Islam, are a significant minority in the country. The Christians are divided among Maronites, Greek Orthodox, and Greek Catholics. All these groups have their paramilitary units, territorial strongholds, and political groups. Some Jews, Syrians, and Kurds also make up the Lebanese population.
Religious diversity has long been an issue for Lebanese people, often affecting the sense of belonging for the citizens. When the civil war erupted in the mid-1970s, all formerly suppressed loyalties became dominant in the political arena. Religious differences were one of the big fuels of hatred during the war.
Under the Ta’if agreement, the civil war ended in the 1990s. The Christians lost part of their political power. A new government of technocrats came into power with reconstruction on their minds. The current moderate government aims to secularize political offices in aid to fight corruption.
Religious differences are built into government and politics. Christians are guaranteed 50 percent of parliamentary seats. The President is always a Christian, and the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House are still Muslims. The Druze are awarded eight parliamentary seats. The government believes this political system prevents one community from gaining an advantage.
Lebanese Community: Reflection of Arab Customs
A Lebanese community is generally very conservative, drawing on Arab customs. Long-standing Islamic and Christian are deeply ingrained into the society. However, many practices and lifestyles reflect modern European influences.
Lebanon communities are closer than Western ones and are incredibly loyal. A person’s name and honor are considered a cherished possession. Belonging to a family is incredibly important, and your behavior doesn’t just reflect on you but your entire family. In the Lebanese community, acting with dignity and honor is vital to uphold your family’s reputation.
Lebanese communities are hospitable and incredibly proud of this tradition. It is considered an honor to have a guest in your home, and every guest should be treated as such. They are generally greeted with tea or coffee, which must never be rejected, as this could be viewed as an insult.
In a Lebanese community, men generally work, and women generally stay at home. Men hold a higher social status as Lebanese communities are patriarchal. Women can work, vote, and attend school. They generally stick to more traditional female roles in a community. In modern society, women have entered political, artistic, and literary environments.
Lebanese people are generally very expressive. Eye contact and physical content are essential to the people of Lebanon. They believe direct eye contact is a sign of trust, sincerity, and honesty. But, when dealing with elders, prolonged eye contact is considered rude and challenging.
Their communication style is indirect and non-confrontational. They rely heavily on context to explain the true meaning of the word and non-verbal cues, and body language. Lebanese people, generally, are relaxed and believe losing their tempers in public demonstrates a weakness of character. The raising of the voice can be seen as a challenge to personal honor.
Lebanese culture is not stringent about punctuality. Timekeeping is very relaxed, and it is common to be 20 minutes late to an appointment. In Lebanese culture, it’s advised not to cross your legs with your ankle on your knee. It isn’t very respectful to point your foot at another person.
It is considered rude to give someone an object to hold. This is regarded as a non-verbal way of declaring another person beneath them and is deemed lazy. Items are received with and passed with the right hand or with both hands together.
Ancient Lebanese Communities
The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to 5000 BC, although some believe it could be earlier. In Byblos, which is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited city globally, archaeologists have discovered remnants of prehistoric which feature evidence of Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities.
Lebanon appeared in recorded history around 4000 BC. It was inhabited by the Canaanites, a Semitic people whom the Greeks called Phoenicians. They mainly lived by the sea and engaged in trade and navigation.
Each of these coastal cities was an independent kingdom, noted for specialized activity. Tyre and Sidon were important maritime and trade centers; Gubla and Berytus were trade and religious centers. Gubla was the first Phoenician city to trade actively with Egypt, exporting cedar, wine, olive oil, and wine.
Citizens across the eastern Mediterranean coastline, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, share much of the same genetic makeup.
Lebanon is a fascinating country, and the Lebanese people are unique.
Here are some of our favorite facts about Lebanese people and Lebanon:
- There are 42 universities.
- Lebanon has over 100 banks
- Many Lebanese people are trilingual. They speak Arabic, French & English.
- The creators of Tom & Jerry and Scooby-Doo (amongst many other famous cartoons) are originally Lebanese. (Joseph Barbera and William Hanna)
- Tony Fadel, the creator, and the production manager of the iPod, is originally Lebanese.
- Carlos Slim, one of the richest men in the world, is of Lebanese descent.
- Since 1945, it is illegal to raise any foreign flag in Lebanon.
How do Lebanese People Live?
Most of Lebanon’s population lives in the main cities of Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon. These cities are densely populated, as the country suffers from a lack of space. Most Lebanese people live in apartments that are decorated in a Western-style.
Lebanese cuisine is similar to food served in the Mediterranean. Pita bread is a staple, usually eaten alongside hummus (a chickpea dip) and fool (a fava bean dip). Rice and pasta are also trendy staple dishes. Red meat and chicken are common, pork less so as it is forbidden under Islamic law.
Food for Lebanese People is connected to family. Eating is considered a social experience, with people eating together in restaurants. Lebanese meals take an extended period. Lunch guests can expect to stay till past 4 p.m. Dinner guests will wish to remain all evening to socialize after dinner.
Lebanese people have an exciting and sometimes challenging history. Their complicated religious history means they are a melting pot of different religions, ethnicities, and cultures.
Let us breakdown some of their history:
- Lebanese people are native or have their origins in Lebanon.
- Arabic is the official language of Lebanon.
- The cities are very densely populated, but rural villages less so.
- Lebanese cuisine is the Mediterranean influenced.
- The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to 5000 BC.
- Lebanese culture is a mix of modern European and Arabic traditions.
- The country is generally divided into Muslims and Christians.
Culturally, economically, and geographically, Lebanon people have played an essential part in the Arab world and the Middle East. They have also played a cultural junction people the East and West, mixing Muslim and Christian cultures.