Lebanon <<LEHB uh nuhn>> is a small country in western Asia. It lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.Israel lies to the south, and Syria lies to the north and east. Beirut, the capital and largest city of Lebanon, is on the coast. About half of Lebanon’s people live in the Beirut area.
Sandy beaches stretch along the Mediterranean coast. East of the coast, farmers raise fruit on a narrow plain. Most of Lebanon’s cities are in this area.
Rugged mountains rise east of the plain. They extend down most of the length of the country. Farmers raise fruit in the mountains. Mountains also run along the country’s eastern border.
A valley lies between the two mountain ranges. Many vegetables are grown there. The ruins of several ancient cities also are in this valley.
Most of Lebanon’s people are Arabs. A large number are Palestinian Arabs, who once lived on land that is now part of Israel. Many of them came to Lebanon during the wars between Arabs and Israelis. Other groups in Lebanon include Kurds, people of a mountainous region of southwest Asia, and Armenians. Almost all Lebanese speak Arabic, the national language.
More than half of the people of Lebanon are Muslims. They follow the religion of Islam. Almost all the rest are Christians.
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A war between Christians and Muslims in the 1970′s and more fighting in the 1980′s hurt Lebanon’s industries and closed many businesses. Many people had no work.
Today, many people work in service industries. They work in banks, stores, hospitals, and hotels. Many people also work in factories and on farms.
People have lived in what is now Lebanon for thousands of years. About 4,000 years ago, the Phoenicians <<fih NEE shuhnz>> lived in cities along the coast. They were sailors, traders, and explorers. The Roman Empire gained control of the area a little over 2,000 years ago. Ruins of Roman temples and a Roman town still stand in Lebanon.
Christianity came to Lebanon about 1,700 years ago. Many Lebanese became Christians. In the early 600′s, Muslims came to Lebanon. Many people along the coast became Muslims. But most people in the mountains remained Christians.
The Ottomans took over Lebanon in 1516. They ruled until World War I (1914-1918), when Britain and France took control of the country.
France helped set up Lebanon’s government. The country became independent in 1943. Christian and Muslim leaders agreed to share power in the government.
In the mid-1970′s, fights between Christians and Muslims led to civil war. The war ended in 1976. But fighting between Christians, Muslims, and other groups in Lebanon continued. The fighting caused many deaths and destroyed much of Lebanon. A peace plan ended most of the fighting in 1991.
In July 2006, Israel began bombing Lebanon after an anti-Israeli group based there, called Hezbollah <<HEHZ buh LAH>>, captured two Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah fired missiles into northern Israel. In August, a peace agreement ended most of the fighting. Over 1,000 people died in the conflict, most of them Lebanese.
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