Lebanon lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, north of Israel and west of Syria. It is four-fifths the size of Connecticut. The Lebanon Mountains, which run parallel to the western coast, cover most of the country, while on the eastern border is the Anti-Lebanon range. Lebanon’s economy follows a laissez-faire model. Most of the economy is dollarized, and the country has no restrictions on the movement of capital across its borders. The Lebanese government’s intervention in foreign trade is minimal.
Picturesque Lebanon is surrounded on the north and east by Syria and Israel to its south. The Mediterranean Sea forms the country’s western border. This strategic location has made Lebanon and important gateway between Africa, Asia, and Europe since pre-historic times.
Cultural diversity throughout the ages has left its mark on modern-day Lebanon. Evident everywhere is the link to ancient Phoencia, Assyria, Persia, the Greek and Roman Empires, the Arab conquer of the Mediterranean shoreline and Northern Africa, the Christian Crusaders, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and, in more recent times, France.
With its location comes power and wealth, the reasons Lebanon was once known as the Switzerland of the East. Tourists flocked to its capitol city, Beirut, in such great numbers it was called the Paris of the Middle East. Civil war between 1975 and 1990 left lasting instability from which the nation is still recovering today.
The Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran, left a lasting legacy of his own, most notably the inspirational book, “The Prophet,” published in 1923. Gibran is considered the #3 top-selling poet of all time, with Shakespeare and Lao-tzu topping the list.
The famed Cedars of Lebanon, depicted on the national flag and coat of arms, grace the nation’s forests and are the subject of global conservation efforts that include the US Forest Service.
Lebanon’s geographic features represent four distinct areas - coastal plain to the west, a western mountain range (the Lebanon mountains), a fertile central valley (Beqaa), and an eastern mountain range (the Anti-Lebanon mountains). It’s quite possible to spend the morning enjoying a ski resort in the mountains and swim in the Mediterranean the same afternoon.
The Mediterranean Sea buffers the heat on the western border, creating a highly desirable temperate climate that’s pleasant year-round. The Lebanese mountains block moist sea air from spreading inland, however, where the climate is drier and warmer than at the coast.
The CIA World Factbook describes Lebanon as the most religiously diverse of the Middle East nations. The population is about 60% Muslim, 39% Christian, and a mixture of other religions practiced by the remainder of the population. The government recognizes 17 official religions, with each one governing itself with respect to religious and family law. This confessionalist parliamentary republic form of government makes census-taking an uncertain endeavor and, as a result, no official census has been conducted since 1932. The population estimate for 2010 is 4,125,247, with approximately half living in Beirut on the Mediterranean shore.
The blending of many different cultures over the millennia creates a lively joy of living celebrated in the nation’s many festivals and its traditional music, literature, and culinary delights. This dynamic blend of peoples and customs draws tourists from around the world to such a degree the New York Times ranked Beirut the #1 worldwide travel destination for its Unique Nightlife and Hospitality in 2009. In spite of its vibrant tourist trade, many of the citizens of Lebanon are still suffering hardship on an almost universal level following the brutal Lebanese Civil War.
Cost of Living
The Lebanese government places almost no restrictions on moving money across Lebanese borders. This laissez-faire attitude toward foreign trade is thought to be instrumental to the impressive economic growth the nation enjoyed in the midst of global economic crisis although a slowing has begun as of 2010, when public debt was listed as #4 highest in the world by the International Monetary Fund.
The services sector, including banking and tourism, makes up about 65% of the workforce; industry 26%; and agriculture 12%.
Study in Lebanon
Higher Education in Lebanon
Lebanon holds the #5 spot for education in math and science, according to the 2013 Global Information Technology Report, a list compiled by the World Economic Forum. Other notable distinctions include #10 for best overall quality in education and #13 for quality in management of its school system.
Under- and post-graduate studies in history, the arts, and humanities is centered in a living laboratory when studying in Lebanon. The country’s location and history make the study of language, culture, world religions, foreign relations, and international trade ideal pursuits here.
Lebanon sits at the northern end of the Great Rift Valley, offering a no-other-place-on-Earth opportunity to study geology, tectonic plates, and the birth of new continents as it’s happening. Oil and natural gas have recently been discovered inland and under the Lebanese seabed; students interested in engineering and exploration of these natural resources can learn about them from the ground up, literally, in Lebanon.
Universities in Lebanon
Of the 41 universities with national accreditation in Lebanon, three of them earn a spot in the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities:
- American University of Beirut (AUB) in 250th place
- Universite Saint Joseph de Beyrouth, #2,332
- Lebanese American University, #2,630
The Academic Year
The university school year starts in October. The spring semester follows in February with a summer session after that. The Lebanese curriculum and other regulations of the school system are governed by the Ministry of Education, which requires eight years of education for every Lebanese child.
Top-ranked AUB requires tuition payments for each credit hour up to 15 per semester. Any additional credit hours can be taken free of charge. Tuition costs vary according to study subject and degree program. Additional student expenses include application, registration, housing, internet, health insurance, and student activity fees.
Students enrolled in Lebanon’s universities pay a health insurance premium, with rates that vary according to the number of semesters a student takes.
To study in Lebanon, foreign students must have a current passport that won’t expire until six months after return to the student’s home country. A student residence permit is required of all foreign students, regardless of homeland.
Any student who has ever been to Israel will be denied entry privileges to Lebanon. Visa stamps from Egypt and Jordan are indication enough to deny a student access to the country.
Good to Know
Arabic is the official national language but legal provisions make French permissible in some official circumstances. University courses are taught in Arabic and French but English is gaining popularity, especially in studies of the sciences and international business.