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Lebanon Post Cards!

Everywhere you go, you come in contact with the past.

Ancient ruins blending into the landscape form a typical characteristic of the country. Archaeological discoveries include Babylonian, Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Arab constructions. Many Roman temples have been transformed into mosques or Byzantine churches and numerous village houses have been built with the debris of ancient monuments.

In the vast complex of the Roman ruins at Baalbeck are the temple of Bacchus, built around 150 AD and much larger than the Parthenon in Greece, and the temple of Heliopolitan Jupiter, the largest and most sumptuous in Roman antiquity. In ancient times this area was called the "granary of the Roman Empire".

The country is also dotted with churches, mosques, convents and monasteries. In the Christian sections, statues to the Virgin and lamp-lit altars are seen along the roadside. The Lebanese are basically very religious, either Christian, Moslem or Druze. Even those who profess atheism adhere to religious customs.

They are also highly educated. As well as many religious schools there are over 1000 state schools and four universities.

Their heritage is one of academic, trade and cultural achievement. Commencing 3000 years ago with the Phoenicians, the Lebanese were the merchant traders of the ancient world. The phonetic alphabet was developed here, and Phoenician travelers were the first to use the Polar Star for navigation. An interesting note is the flourishing trade they set up in a rare purple dye extracted from shellfish, which became known as Tyrian purple. Only wealthy and famous people were permitted to wear this color, so it became the status symbol of the day. Even now we hear the cliché "born to the purple".

The Arabs left the deepest mark on Lebanese culture and from them the Lebanese took their language. Other early influences came from the Crusaders and the Turks. Modern Western influence arrived when Lebanon became a French Protectorate early in the twentieth century. French and American schools and universities were subsequently established, and today both French and English are spoken widely throughout the country.

The average Lebanese is extremely individualistic. Lebanese people like to "show off" but have a great sense of dignity and humor. They are always willing to be of assistance and are extremely hospitable. From their Phoenician ancestors they have inherited an aptitude for business dealings and a fondness for travel. These two characteristics could help to account for the fact that the Lebanese are migratory people. It is estimated that there are as many Lebanese settlers abroad as those living in Lebanon. Areas of emigration include the United States, Canada, South America and Australia.

But whether at home or abroad, the Lebanese remain intensely proud of their culture and heritage.

A brief Guide to Lebanon - Dawn, Elaine and Selwa Anthony - Lebanese Cookbook - 1978




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