Lebanon (officially the Republic of Lebanon) is a country in Western Asia, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. Lebanon’s location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich, sometimes violent history, and shaped its unique cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity.
The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than 7,000 years—predating recorded history. Lebanon was the historic home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for more than 3,000 years (3700-450 BC). Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that comprise present-day Lebanon were mandated to France. Lebanon established a unique political system in 1942, known as confessionalism, a community-based power-sharing mechanism. It was created when the ruling French mandatory powers expanded the borders of the former autonomous Ottoman Mount Lebanon district that was mostly populated by Maronite Catholics and Druze. The country gained independence in 1943, and French troops withdrew in 1946.
Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the country enjoyed a period of relative calm and prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, and banking. It is considered one of the banking capitals of Western Asia, and during its heyday was known to some as the “Switzerland of the East” due to its financial power and diversity at the time. Lebanon also attracted large numbers of tourists to the point that the capital Beirut was referred to as “Paris of the Middle East.” Immediately following the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.
Until July 2006, a considerable degree of stability had been achieved throughout much of the country, Beirut’s reconstruction was almost complete, and an increasing number of foreign tourists were pouring into Lebanon’s resorts. This was until the one month long 2006 Lebanon War, between the Israeli military and Hezbollah, which caused significant civilian death and serious damage to Lebanon’s civil infrastructure. The conflict lasted from 12 July 2006 until a cessation of hostilities call, by the UN Security Council, went into effect on 14 August 2006.