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.
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 1970s.
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 these industries.
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 produced.
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.
- COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of Lebanon, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.
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.
- According to AllCityPopulation, the capital city of Lebanon is Beirut with a population of 1,900,000 (UN estimate 2010). Other major cities include Tripoli with a population of 238,000, Saida with a population of 170,000, Tyr or Sour with a population of 135,000, Nabatieh with a population of 103,000 (estimate 2007).
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.