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Country Profile

After years of unrest, Lebanon is regaining its former reputation as «The Switzerland of the Middle East». Its mountains and its scenic beauty were almost untouched. Lebanon was visited by nearly one million visitors during 2000, 1.4 million during 2002, and the number is expected to grow a lot within the next five years. One who visits Lebanon is fascinated by the 7,000 year old little country. The weather is always moderate, the prices are very reasonable and, most of all the people are friendly.

As a republic since 1943, it is a compact country of 10,452 square kilometers with a population of 3.57 millions (year 2000). The capital is Beirut.

Lebanon falls on the Eastern Mediterranean sea, between 33° 34'.40 latitude north and 35° 36'.40° longitude east. The country is located at the meeting point of three continents, and over the centuries it has been the cross roads of many civilizations whose trace may still be seen today. In winter, the high peaks are covered with snow and in summer the limestone slopes glimmer white in the distance. Two rocky ranges traverse Lebanon parallel to the seacoast, separated by the high plateau of the Bekaa Valley. Its countryside is a place of rocks, cedar trees and magnificent ruins that look down from the mountains to the sea.

Local time in Lebanon is GMT +02 in winter and GMT +03 in summer (April to September). Winter days are short with daylight from 6 AM until 5 PM. In summer, the days are longer, from 5 am until 8 PM.

Lebanon is a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government and a cabinet headed by a Prime Minister. Its constitution is based on the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers, with a president elected every 6 years.

Passports: Passports valid for 6 months are required by all except nationals of Syria arriving from their country with a valid national ID.

Visas: Visas are required by all, except for the nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the UAE for stays of up to 3 months. Nationals of the European Community, Common Wealth, American Continent, Russia and Japan can obtain their visas on arrival at Beirut International Airport or any other port of entry at the Lebanese border. Other nationals of East Europe and Asia should contact the consulate at the Lebanese Embassy for details about how to obtain their visa.

Cost: Visitor or Business visas cost 50,000 Lebanese Pounds (US $33).

Restricted Entry: The Government of Lebanon refuses entry to holders of Israeli passports, holders of passports containing a visa for Israel, valid or expired, used or unused and passports with entry stamps to Israel.

Lebanon enjoys an essential Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and longer warm summers. The country is rain free between June and October. Visitors can count on 300 sunny days every year. However, mountains are cold and snowy in winter. Average annual rainfall is about 1,000 mm in Beirut (40 inches), but much higher in the mountains.

Warm clothes are essential in the winter. Lowest temperature may be as low as -4ºC in the mountains, and 10ºC on the coast.

Car rental companies provide self driven cars with or without a driver. Lebanese taxis are reasonably priced (Between 1000 and 2000 liras).

Bus service is also available to various destinations. However, don’t count on them if you have an appointment. They are not reliable. You can never know when you will get there ! 

Driving is the most convenient way to get around in the country. The road network is undergoing a massive reconstruction after the war. In and around Beirut, traffic jams are now a way of life. Beware of traffic lights that are rare and signs that are not always respected. Today Lebanon is saturated with cars (1.3 million), which means there is one car for every 3 persons ! However, driving , driving in the mountains is definitely fun and relaxing: fresh air and wonderful scenery.

Movement of currency and all exchange transactions are completely free of any kind of control. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any bank or at one of the numerous money exchange shops.

The monetary unit is the Lebanese Lira (LL) or Lebanese Pound. One US Dollar is almost equal to LL 1505, depending on the exchange rate.

During the war and until recently, the whole economy was «dolarised». Still, most Lebanese calculate their transactions in US Dollars. Amazingly, the cellular phone system, privately owned, but somehow controlled by the government uses cents and dollars to charge their customers. All ski resorts accept US Dollars.

Visitors may use credit cards in major establishments, such as Master Card, America Express, Diners Club and Visa.

  • Government offices: 8 AM - 2 PM

  • Banks, shops and other business: 8 AM - 5 PM

The electrical current is 220 Volts, but some areas are still on the 110 Volts level. Unification is on the way. It is best to check.

Land lines: International call facilities are provided by Lebanon’s own satellite stations. The country code is 961 and the outgoing international dialing code is 00.
Cellular phones are widely available and the cellular GSM 900 network is operated by both Alfa and MTC Touch. Visitors may buy a "limited time" GSM card for their cellular phone at about LL 100,000 for the first month.
Internet connection is mainly provided by 3 ISPs: Cyberia, IDM and TerraNet. There are cybercafés in major towns of Lebanon.
Fax: International facilities are available. Faxes can be sent from most hotels.
: With the newly privatized LibanPost, post to Europe usually takes 2-4 days and to the USA between 4-7 days. Post offices are open Mon-Thurs 0800-1400 and Fri 0800-1100.
Press: There are more than 30 daily newspapers published in Arabic, Armenian and French and over 100 publications appear on a weekly or monthly basis. The Daily Star and Beirut Times are published in English and there are several English-language weeklies, primarily Monday Morning. The best-selling Arabic dailies are Al Anwar, Al Nahar, Al Liwaa, Al Safir and Al Dyar. The most important dailies in French are L'Orient-Le Jour and Le Soir. A wide choice of international newspapers and magazines are also available at bookshops.

Christianity and Islam are the main religions.  Christian denominations, mainly Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Armenian and Protestant account for approximately 40 per cent. Islam (predominantly Shi'ite and Sunnite) accounts for another 40 per cent of the population's beliefs. Other religions account for the remaining 20 per cent.

Lebanon is the only country in the middle east following the western Sunday weekend style. The country celebrates both Christian and Muslim holidays.

Arabic and French are the official languages of Lebanon and commonly spoken. English is very widely spoken. You can also hear Armenian on the streets and public places; and we Lebanese are well known for our talent to mix all of the first three languages in only one sentence!

How to say it in Lebanese

Thank You:
Excuse me:
The check:
Good Bye:
Good Morning:
Good Night:
How much does it cost
Min fadlak
Be sur’aa
Al hissab
Sabah el kheir
Masa’a al kheir
Addeish ha'o
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