Lebanon has few natural resources, and trade and services
have long been the dominant industries. Prior to the
outbreak of the civil war in 1975, Lebanon was an important
center of trade and finance for the Middle East, with many
important ports and a developed tourism industry. However,
the prolonged war has seriously damaged the economy and led
to great material destruction.
After the end of the civil war and the 1992 parliamentary
elections, capital flows increased both from foreign lenders
and from private interests. Growth slowed again in 1996
following Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon. During the
1990s, the country implemented economic reforms to stem the
economic downturn. These have had some success, but the
country still has a very large government debt. Recurring
disputes have helped to curb foreign investment and reduce
important tourist income. The country is very import
dependent and world market prices of the important import
products have a major impact on the country's economy.
More than half of the country's area consists of
mountains, marshland and desert, and 8 percent is covered by
forest. About 35 percent of the area is considered suitable
for agriculture, but only half of this area is used.
Agriculture consists largely of small farms with a low
degree of mechanization. About 30 percent of the cultivated
area is irrigated.
COUNTRYAAH, the most important cultivation areas are the coastal
plain and Bekadalen. Primarily grown olives, citrus fruits,
grapes, bananas, vegetables and cotton, tobacco and wheat.
The country has some fruit exports but must import 70
percent of its food needs, mainly meat and cereals.
Agricultural employment has declined sharply since the
The industry employs about 25 percent of Lebanon's
workforce. Before the outbreak of the civil war, Lebanon was
considered the most industrialized country in the Middle
East. The industry consisted mainly of small companies in
the textile and food industries and was supported by a
developed domestic market. But the country also had oil
refineries. The war and extensive smuggling traffic and the
influx of subsidized Israeli goods have seriously damaged
After the end of the civil war, the construction industry
experienced a sharp upswing, and it is estimated to employ
10 percent of the country's workforce. Incidentally, most
food, shoes, textiles and chemical products are now
Lebanon has long had a significant trade deficit. Prior
to 1975, the value of Lebanon's traditional export products
(fruits, vegetables, jewels and textiles) was only 1/3 of
the import value. This was offset by an extensive transit
trade equivalent to 2/3 of the trading volume as well as by
revenues from the tourism industry and the large financial
market. The civil war hit the foreign trade hard, mainly
because many banks moved from Beirut to other Arab
metropolises but also through the significant smuggling
traffic that took place in small ports controlled by
different militia groups.
Exports, mainly jewelry, clothing, food and wine, mainly
go to China, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.
Imports consist primarily of machinery, vehicles,
semi-finished products, food and oil. The main importing
countries are China, Italy and Greece.
Tourism and gastronomy
Lebanon was a popular tourist country before the Civil
War. The potential for tourism is great when the
infrastructure works, but recurring wars and political
unrest during the 2000s have meant that tourist flows to the
country have varied greatly. In 2012, the country was
visited by 1.4 million, which was a decline of just over
800,000 since 2010.
In Lebanon, there are beautiful landscapes with many
historical sites and a sunny Mediterranean climate. No less
than five places are classified as World Heritage Sites. Of
these, four are the ruins of Anjar, Baalbek, Byblos and
Tyros. Anjar is a walled city from the 7th century, located
in the Beka Valley, 58 km east of Beirut. There are ruins of
temples and palaces. Baalbek's Acropolis holds one of the
largest and best-preserved collections of ruins from Roman
times. The temples, dedicated to Jupiter and Atargatis, were
built during the first and second centuries AD. Just north
of Beirut lies the Roman stone arch bridge Nahr Kalb. On the
rock sides of the bronze mounts are inscriptions of Egyptian
Pharaohs, Assyrian kings and Roman generals. Lebanon's
biggest attraction, perhaps, is the famous Lebanese cedar,
which is the country's national symbol. Originally the
entire country was covered with cedar forests, but today
only 400 trees remain. Other popular tourist destinations
are the cities of Sayda, Zahle, Bsharre and Tripoli.
With its roots in both European and Arabic and Oriental
cuisine, Lebanon's food attitude is both sophisticated and
tasty. Distinctive features are an unbridled delight in nuts
(pine and pistachio nuts, almonds and walnuts) and sweet
desserts, the many yogurt products and the use of bulgur
wheat (crushed wheat).
A meal is often started with meze (small
dishes), for example, dough-covered patties (sambousek
or fatayeer, with meat, spinach, cheese), chickpea
puree (hummus), vine leaf dolm, eggplant
puree (baba ganoj), marinated fish,
salads, eggs and nuts. The main course is often meat (mainly
sheep or lamb meat and chicken), preferably in the form of
skewers or meatballs (kibbeh) with the addition of
nuts or spices and bulgur wheat. Moghrabi谷 is
couscous with chicken, chawurma lamb skewer
reminiscent of kebab. Orange flower water is used
extensively in cooking, but mainly in the many desserts
(including baklava andhalf), which is
pronounced sweet and is based on fruit (dates) and nuts
baked into dough.