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Read Around the World: Lebanon


July 2019 we visit Lebanon a country steeped in history and if you believe the hype blessed by God.

Fun facts about Lebanon with thanks to this website.

  • The name of the country ‘Lebanon’ originated from the Semitic root ‘lbn’ which means ‘white’.
  • Lebanon is the oldest nation/country name in the world, existing for nearly 4,000 years.
  • Lebanon shares its borders with Syria and Israel.
  • Lebanon became an independent nation in 1943 and adopted unique political system called confessionalism, which aimed at sharing of power on the basis of religious groups.
  • The maritime culture of Phoenicians developed in Lebanon nearly 2,500 years ago, where they built and sailed the first boat of the world. So we know who to thank for our cruise holidays.
  • Lebanon does not have desert regions. It is the only country with such an exception in the entire Asian and African continents. I did not know this…fascinating.
  • Its capital, Beirut, is often compared with phoenix as it was destroyed and built as much as 7 times. One of the books I chose to read mentions this destruction and rebirth.
  • The name of Lebanon’s famous trees ‘Cedar’ appears 75 times in the Old Testament. It is believed that these trees were planted by God Himself and thus called as ‘The Cedars of God’.
  • The Lebanon Cedar is recognised as its national emblem and can be seen on the national flag of Lebanon and on the coat of arms.
  • Lebanon is known as ‘God’s Country on Earth’.
  • One of the cities of Lebanon, Byblos, is the oldest existing city in the world. Wow!
  • The name of holy book ‘Bible’ is said to be derived from Byblos, the oldest city of Lebanon.
  • In the same city, Byblos, Cadmus created the first alphabet. Thank you Cadmus for giving us books.
  • The only temple of the main Greek God, Jupiter, is located at Baalbek, a city in Lebanon which is also known as the ‘City of Sun’.
  • The diverse population of Lebanon comes from nearly 18 religions. Around 39% of which is Christians, which is the highest proportion of Christians in an Arab Country.
  • Compared to the health care conditions in Europe and America where doctor to patient ration is 1:100, Lebanon has a fair ratio of 1:10. That is there is 1 doctor available per 10 patients. Can I emigrate?
  • The first law college in the world is believed to have been established in Beirut
  • Lebanon is known to have the highest gold reserve in the Middle East.

I chose to visit Lebanon via The Tiller of the Waters by Hoda Barakat. This read will not be for everyone due to the surreal nature of the narrative and the lack of a cohesive narrative. What the summary tells us is “This spellbinding novel narrates the many-layered recollections of a hallucinating man in devastated Beirut.” Once you accept that the story is one of hallucinations it is easier to let yourself go with the flow without trying to work out what is real and what isn’t.

I enjoyed the descriptions of various materials especially the final section about Silk and how it should have never been used to make clothing for religious/moral reasons which were fascinating.

I rated this 3 stars but I think if you know the geography of Beirut you would get a lot more from this as a lot of the narrative focusses on descriptions of the city layout and various Souks and Temples as well as the destruction caused by the civil war.

Very unusually I also visited Lebanon via An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine for this I am totally blaming RachelO from Litsy. This was a 4 star read the book is infinitely quotable, touching, amusing and features strong female relationships with no hidden agenda.

Other books Litsy readers read for this trip include:

The Gardens of Light by Amin Maalouf read by Currey rated as a pick.
The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh read by Simona rated as So-So

Did you join us for our visit to Lebanon? Which books did you use to visit vicariously?

Who will be joining us for a little hop over the Mediterranean Sea as we spend August in Cyprus? What books do you plan to read for this trip?



2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Diana #

    Fascinating facts. I have always been intrigued by this country. I mostly “know” it by following Nadine Labaki films, she is a very talented filmmaker.


    August 14, 2019
  2. this is great! i’m doing a 2020 read through the middle east reading challenge (you can find it on my blog) so this is a great list to stumble across.


    January 9, 2020

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