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LEBANON is a small, troubled republic in the eastern Mediterranean. Throughout its long human history, it has seen the rise and fall of many civil­isations and empires, and its capital, Beirut (Beyrouth), has come to sym­bolise all the intricate troubles of the Middle East.

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A narrow coastal plain runs parallel to its 240-kilometer- or 149-mile-long Mediterranean coast and gradually rises to the spectacular Lebanon Mountains, which are snow-covered in winter. Running parallel to the Lebanon Mountains are the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, which form the border with Syria.

Between the two ranges lies the Beqaa Valley, which flows Lebanon’s only large river, the Litani. The tiny natural forest remains other than isolated stands of trees in the mountains as deforestation has been taking place for thousands of years. The mountains provide a home for Lebanon’s remaining wildlife, including wolves, jackals, gazelles, and wild donkeys.

Lebanon is an agricultural country, whose central regions of production are the Beqaa Valley and the coastal plain, although erosion is a common problem in the uplands.

The main products include olives, grapes, bananas, citrus fruits, apples, cotton, tobacco, and sugar beet. The industry is small scale, and manufactured goods include cement, fertilizers, and jewelry. There are oil refineries at Tripoli (Trablous) and Sidon (Saida). Lebanon’s leading economy based on commercial services such as banking, but civil war, invasion by Israel, and factional fighting have created severe problems for the economy, causing high inflation and unemployment.

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Lebanon is mostly mountainous. Its dominant topographical feature is a central range spanning most of its length and reaching almost to the coast. In addition to this range – called the Lebanon Mountains – there are three other distinct geographical regions: a narrow coastal plain; a second mountain system in the east, on the border with Syria (the Anti-Lebanon and Hermon ranges); and the Bekáa Valley, which separates the coastal and interior mountains. The Bekáa Valley belongs to the same geological rift that continues southward to become the Jordan River Valley and the Great Rift Valley of eastern Africa.

Lebanon is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon has a relatively smooth coastline with no major indentations. It has few good natural harbors but instead has many shallow, curved bays. The northern part of the coast is mostly rocky; south of Beirut, it becomes sandy in places.

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Lebanon’s name comes from the Arabic name for the Lebanon Mountains, Djebel Libnan, which means “milky-white mountains” (a reference to its snow-covered peaks).

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