10 Facts You Probably Don’t Know About Lebanon

Casino Bridge

Casino bridge is temporary, built by the French as a substitute for the coastal road that passes through Maameltein and was subject to many floods and unsafe for travellers. The bridge turned out to be as strong as a permanent one, resisting heavy loads, one civil war and airstrikes from Israeli army in 2006.

Ethiopian Airlines wreck is open for divers, the infamous flight that crashed in 2010 due to faulty pilots manoeuvre became a destination for technical divers looking to explore the wreckage. Located few kilometers from the Lebanese coast of Na’ameh, the site can be visited after getting a permit from Lebanese Army Command.

Lebanon trades with two currencies, in instance the Lebanese Lira (L.L.) and the US Dollar ($). Lebanon is among the rare or maybe the only country to have two currencies widely exchanged on a local level.  This includes establishments like banks that offer accounts, cards and loans in both currencies, to the grocery store in a remote village that accepts US dollars when buying a chewing-gum.

Lebanon is naturally self-sufficient and can accommodate all Lebanese citizens without the need for imported goods. That directly involves respect to the environment while taking advantage of the natural resources without pollution or waste.  

Bekaa Kafra is the highest inhabited village in the Middle East Culminating at an altitude of 1650m, it is the only village whose inhabitants live all year round, they learned to become self-sufficient during hard winters with very low temperatures and closed roads.

Lebanon had a large Jewish community that was mainly located in Beirut, Tripoli, Baalbeck and Sidon. Upon the declaration of the state of Israel in 1947, the community of 5,000 was persecuted and forced to leave Tripoli, many left the country while others grouped in Beirut. Families like Safra, Azar, Tager, Attiyeh, Shreim, Emmanuel, Zeitouny, Shams, and others are from Jewish descendent, many converted to Christianity or Islam to hide their true identity and blend in other Lebanese communities.

Lebanese are not Phoenicians, believing the opposite is like describing all the French people as Gauls. Throughout centuries, people migrated to Lebanon from different regions of the Levant, Mediterranean and Middle East like Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Iran, Egypt, Palestine and Italy. While others came with the early conquests of the Crusaders, Arabs, Mamluks and remained there. Lately, researchers have sequenced the first complete mitochondrial genome of an ancient 2,500 year old Phoenician with DNA linked to ancient european ancestry (Source)

Central Bank gold reserve is estimated at 287 tons making Lebanon’s rank at 18 position in the World Gold Council’s ranking. This high classification is due to the “Zero Risk” strategy conducted since 1994 by the governor of Lebanon’s central bank Riad Salameh. It implies decreasing the number of risky investments that could jeopardize the economy in case of any security instability. This double-edged strategy proved to be efficient  after the numerous events that shook Lebanon since 2005; the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, Israel 2006 War, Nahr El Bared battle, Beirut clashes and world financial crash in 2008 and other crises that were unable to shake the internal economy.   

Railway employees are still being paid by Lebanese government. Although no train is in service since 1990 and most rails were looted, covered by asphalt or turned into private gardens; with more than 6,000 individuals and their direct beneficiaries are still receiving monthly wages. Classified under corruption, this long time negligence is being adjourned by successive governments in fear of protests and income deprivation for these families.

Cannabis hemp is originated from the Bekaa valley, and unlike other countries this plant was not imported from Asian territories into Lebanon. It was grown for centuries for its fiber used in producing ropes, textile and paper. Its usage was deemed illegal in 1937 by the United States, which saw its production decrease radically with the coincidental rise of artificial fiber in the world market of textile.

++Bonus: Lebanon is not 10452 km2 and never was. In fact, this size was adopted since the creation of the republic of Lebanon without ever having real borders with Syria and Israel/Palestine. Following years of invasions, occupations and beach dredging, Lebanon currently have a size fluctuating around 10310 km2.

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