The Arab Culture of Lebanon
The Arab culture blossomed in Lebanon at the beginning of the 19th century. The educated such as professors, poets, journalists, writers and historians grouped together in Lebanese or Western cultural institutions of the capital to bring back to memory ancient Arab culture and disclose to their fellow citizens the value of modern culture. Their activities sped up the liberation of the Arab world, and improved its cultural awareness. Several Lebanese authors and poets have gained international recognition for their highly acclaimed works. Perhaps Gibran Khalil Gibran, who lived at the turn of the 20th century embodies the unique creativity which a number of Lebanese literary figures had.
The Education Center of the Middle East
Teaching institutions in Lebanon increased dramatically, some founded by Lebanese, others by foreign missions. The American University of Beirut (AUB), founded in 1866, offers a high standard of education that has trained many of the Arab world’s leaders, educators and scientists.
The St. Joseph University (USJ), established in 1881 and maintained by the Jesuit Fathers, has for over a century and a quarter, contributed to the Lebanese and Arab educational advancement. The general educational spirit of Lebanon draws from eastern and western civilizations. Many Lebanese students continue their higher education in European, American and Arab universities.
In 1953, a Lebanese State University was founded comprising faculties of law, medicine, engineering, arts and sciences, and a teachers’ training college. In 1961 the Arab University of Beirut, with faculties of arts, law, commerce and engineering was opened.
The notable Lebanese American University (formerly Beirut University College) founded in 1924 has also been an important influence. In recent years, numerous new universities have sprung up throughout the country, notably Holy Spirit University (Kaslik) and Notre-Dame University (Louwayze), both north of Beirut and Balamand University south of Tripoli.
Most people in Lebanon speak French or English in addition to the native language, Arabic, and often other languages besides. Foreign newspapers and magazines are available and the prolific local press publishes in Arabic, French and English. Armenian is also spoken in Lebanon by the considerably large Armenian community.
Folklore & Entertainment
There is always something entertaining to do in Lebanon. Traditional dances such as the Dabke are popular in villages and they bring to life costumes of the distant past. Both in night clubs and at private parties and celebrations, oriental or “belly dancing” is always a great attraction. Beirut, which was once known for its nightlife before the war, continues to be the place to go for excellent night clubs, discotheques and cabarets. The Casino du Liban at Maameltein, once famous for its top international shows and luxurious gaming facilities, is again open to the public.
Shopping in Lebanon
Shopping Mall in BeirutLebanon’s shopping centers and main streets are filled with shops selling every necessity and luxury, both local and imported. Visitors to Lebanon appreciate its handicrafts, either in the old style or tasteful modern adaptations of traditional designs. There is pottery of all sorts, glassware and cutlery. Brass and copper goods of every kinds have attractive hand-worked designs. Gold and silver prices are especially good and skillful local jewelers charge reasonable prices for their work. As for clothing, everything is available from the top Paris designers to jeans and leisure wear.
The Lebanese Kitchen
In Lebanon you will immediately be invited to taste the delicacies of the local cuisine. The Mezza, delectable hors-d’oeuvres of appetizers, includes Hommos and Tabboule, both now internationally renowned. With the Mezza, an anise flavored alcohol better known as Arak is served in small glasses and mixed with ice and water.
Local wines, some of which match in quality imported renown wine, go very well with these dishes. One of the various main dishes you might be offered is Kebbe, which is mutton carefully pounded and cooked with crushed wheat. Chawarma, lamb grilled on a vertical spit is another typical plate.