The Lebanese Culture
Lebanon's rich history has been shaped by many cultural traditions, including Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Islamic (including Mamluk), Crusader, Ottoman Turkish, French, and recently American. The resulting culture is distinctively Lebanese, a combination of East and West, past and present. Folk music and dancing have a long tradition and are very popular. Influential Lebanese writers emerged in the early 20th century and greatly influenced the Arabic language. Painters, sculptors, and performers and producers in theater, film, and television have recently distinguished themselves.
In the mid-1800s Lebanese writer Nasif al-Yaziji pioneered the simplification of written Arabic. Jurji Zaydan, also a writer of the mid-1800s, is celebrated for historical novels that romanticized the Arab past. The most distinguished Lebanese or Lebanese-American writer is Kahlil Gibran, who in 1923 published The Prophet, in English. Gibran became known for his style of mystical poetry. Mr. Said Akl who invented the Lebanese alphabet for the Lebanese language and and wrote many books about phoenicians many other books and researches. Other prominent writers of the 20th century include political writers Charles Malek, Antoine Najim, Michel Chiha, and Clovis Maksoud; novelists Layla Ba'labakki and Khalil Taki ed-Din; and poets Charles Corm, Hector Klat, Georges Shehadeh, Michel Chiha, and Adonis (Ali Ahmad Sa'id). These authors write variously in Lebanese, Syriac, Arabic, French, and English.
Art and Architecture
Painting became significant in Lebanon in the late 20th century. Most Lebanese painting is experimental and vibrant. Among contemporary painters, Samir Abi Rashed paints photographic surrealism; and Soulema Zod creates abstract landscapes. Other artists often exhibited are Hrair, George Akl, and Hassan Jouni. Alfred Basbous is among the country's most outstanding sculptors.
Music and Dance
Lebanese vocal and instrumental music is varied and extremely popular. It characteristically blends traditional Syriac classical and folk modes with European styles. French and American influences are especially strong in radio and popular music. In the mid-1990s Lebanese female vocalist Fairouz was among the most popular singers in the Middle East and was well known elsewhere. Folk dancing is widely practiced and before the war was emphasized at an annual folk dance festival and the professionally performed Baalbek International Festival. The debkeh, a rural group dance from Lebanon, has influenced many European and American folk dances.
Theater and Film
Theater became important in Lebanon with increasing French influence after 1920. One of the most distinguished Lebanese playwrights is Georges Shehadeh, internationally renowned for his drama and poetry. Shehadeh writes in French. Plays in Lebanon are produced in Lebanese, French, English, and Armenian languages. The 1975 war deeply influenced all performing arts in Lebanon.
Libraries and Museums
The National Museum in Beirut was badly damaged during the 1975 war. The museum's famous Phoenician treasures were protected during the war, however, and many are again on display. During the reconstruction of central Beirut, many artifacts were found and added to the museum's collection. The Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut attracts many visitors and scholars, and the well-known Sursock Museum of Art, housed in a mansion in Beirut, reopened after the war's end.