The area including modern Lebanon has been home to various civilisations and cultures for thousands of years. Originally home to the Phoenicians, and then subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Ottoman Turks and most recently the French, Lebanese culture has over the millennia evolved by borrowing from all of these groups. Lebanon's diverse population, composed of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country's lively festivals, highly successful musical styles and literature as well as their rich cuisine, and numerous violent clashes amongst different religious and ethnic groups. When compared to the rest of the Western Asia, Lebanese society as a whole is well educated, and as of 2003, 87.4% of the population was literate. Lebanese society is very modern and similar to certain cultures of Mediterranean Europe. It is often considered to serve as Europe's gateway to Western Asia as well as the Asian gateway to the Western World.
Arts & Literature
Lebanon's contribution to the Arab Rennaissance during the middle of the 19th century is immense. This flowering allowed for the modernisation of the Arabic language moving it away from its Koranic classical dictums, and allowing for the creation and adaptation of previously unknown terms/ words as Al-Watan (the nation), Al-Watania (Nationalism).
The first theatre production in the Arab world was performed at the Al-Kahzen household in 1862, a Lebanese aristocratic family who were also representatives of France.
By the turn of the 20th century, Beirut was vying with Cairo as the major centre for modern Arab thought, with untold number of newspapers, magazines and literary societies.
In literature, Gibran Khalil Gibran is known to be one of the world's famous writers, particularly known for his book The Prophet, which has been translated into more than twenty different languages.
Several contemporary Lebanese writers have achieved international success; including Elias Khoury, Amin Maalouf and Hanan al-Shaykh.
In art, Moustafa Farroukh and Alfred Bassbouss are very famous. Mustafa Farroukh (1901-1957) was one of Lebanon's most prominent painters of the 20th century. Formally trained in Rome and Paris, he exhibited in venues from Paris to New York to Beirut over his career. His work was applauded for its representation of real life in Lebanon in pictures of the country, its people and its customs. Farroukh became highly regarded as a Lebanese nationalist painter at a time when Lebanon was asserting its political independence. His art captured the spirit and character of the Lebanese people and he became recognised as the outstanding Lebanese painter of his generation. His total paintings were more than 2000 sold to collectors inside and outside of Lebanon. He also wrote five books and taught art at the American University of Beirut.
Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, has long been known, especially in a period immediately following World War II, for its art and intellectualism. Several singers emerged in this period, most famously including Fairuz, Sabah, Wadih El Safi, Majida El Roumi, Nasri Shamseddine and Marcel Khalife an activist folk singer and oud player. During the fifteen-year civil war, most of the Lebanese music stars moved to Cairo or Paris, with a large music scene in Beirut only returning after 1992.
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