Lebanon was ravaged by a bloody civil war between 1975-1990, and is still characterized by disagreement between various groups. The civil war in Syria and its relationship with Israel mean that the situation in the country is constantly tense. Lebanon has welcomed over one million Syrian refugees in recent years.
Key figures and facts
- Capital: Beirut
- Ethnic groups: Arabs 95%, Armenians 4%, others 1%
- Language: Arabic, French, English, Armenian
- Religion: Muslims 57.7% (28.7% Sunni, 28.4% Shia, a few Alawites and Ismailites), Christians 36.2% (Maronites make up the largest Christian group), Druzes 5.2%, a few Jews, Bahai ‘, Buddhists and Hindus (2017)
- Population: 6,093,509 (2018)
- Control Form: Republic
- Area: 10 450 km2
- Currency: Lebanese Pound
- GNP per capita: 14 309 PPP $
- National Day: November 22nd
The political situation in Lebanon has led to uncertain population data, but in 2010 the population was estimated at 4 125 250. The average annual population growth in the period 1993-2003 was 2.1%. For 2004, the birth and death rates were calculated at 18.9 and 6.2 per thousand, respectively. The natural growth (born fød dead) is thus 1.3%. The average age is 75 years for women and 70 years for men.
Almost the entire population is Arabs. However, ethnic division is problematic, as many Lebanese do not consider themselves Arabs, but of Phoenician origin. There are minorities of Armenians (4%) of Syrians, Kurds and others. The relationship between Christians and Muslims has long been strained, and the groups are divided. However, today’s political situation is characterized by opposite political interests between Sunni and Shia Muslims, to a greater extent than between Christians and Muslims.
The high population density (366.1 per km2) covers large regional inequalities. The coastal zone is very densely populated, while the mountains and Bekaa Valley have more scattered settlement. As a result of the war in the 1970s and 1980s, there has been a large influx of people from the countryside, especially in southern Lebanon, into Beirut and the other major cities. In 2001, 90% of the population lived in cities and towns, against 28% in 1950. The largest cities are the capital Beirut, Tripoli (Tarabulus) and Sayda (Sidon).
A large number of Palestinian refugees, mainly Sunni Muslims, have helped to make the situation more complicated. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Lebanon has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees. Today these make up approximately 10% of the country’s population. Most Palestinian refugees are not granted citizenship and are located in large camps outside Beirut and Sayda. The refugees have few rights in Lebanese society, and many suffer from lack of access to health care, education and other public services. Unemployment is very high and many depend entirely on contributions from the UN.
The official language is Arabic, the mother tongue of the majority of the population, but French and English are also widely used. Traditionally, Anglo-Saxon language culture is prevalent among Sunni Muslims, Greek Orthodox and Druze, while French is prevalent among Maronites and Catholics. Among Shi’ites, who are today the largest political and religious group in Lebanon, it is more common to speak only Arabic. Minority language is Armenian.