Lebanon Cedars on the slopes of Mount Lebanon. Note the thawing winter snow cover. Photo April 2004.
|Elevation||3,088 m (10,131 ft)|
Mount Lebanon (Arabic: جبل لبنان; Jabal Lubnān, Syriac: ܛܘܪ ܠܒܢܢ; ṭūr lébnon), as a geographic designation, is a Lebanese mountain range, averaging above 2,200 meters in height and receiving a substantial amount of precipitation, including snow, which averages around four meters deep. It extends across the whole country along about 170 km (110 mi), parallel to the Mediterranean coast with the highest peak, Qurnat as Sawda', at 3,088 m (10,131 ft). Lebanon has historically been defined by these mountains, which provided protection for the local population. In Lebanon the changes in scenery are not connected to geographical distances, but to altitudes. The mountains were known for their oak and pine forests. In the high slopes of Mount Lebanon are the last remaining groves of the famous Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). The Phoenicians used the forests from Mount Lebanon to build their ship fleet and to trade with their Levantine neighbors. The Phoenicians and successor rulers consistently replanted and restocked the range so that even as late as the 16th century, its forested area was considerable.
The name Mount Lebanon traces back to the Semitic root lbn, meaning "white", likely a reference to the snow-covered mountains.
History of Mount Lebanon
Mount Lebanon is mentioned in the Old Testament several times. King Hiram I of Tyre sent engineers with Cedar wood which was abundant in Mount Lebanon, to build the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. Since then the Cedar species known scientifically as Cedrus libani is often associated with Mount Lebanon. The Phoenicians used cedar to build ships in which they sailed the Mediterranean, thus they were the first to establish villages in Mount Lebanon and would live from cutting down Cedars and sending them to the coast.
After the 5th century, Christian monks who were followers of a hermit named Maron, arrived from the Orontes valley in Northern Syria and began preaching their religion to the inhabitants of the northernmost parts of the mountain range. In the late 8th century a group known as the Mardaites (also Jarajima) settled in North Lebanon following the order of the Byzantine Emperor; their mission was to raid Islamic territories in Syria. They merged with the local population, refusing to leave after the emperor struck a deal with the Muslim Caliph of Damascus; thus, they became part of the Maronite society. In 1291 AD after the fall of Acre, the last crusader outpost in the Levant, the remnants of the European settlers who succeeded in escaping capture by the Mamelukes, settled in the Northern part of Lebanon and become part of the Maronite society.
In the 9th century, tribes from the "Jabal el Summaq" area north of Aleppo in Syria began settling the southern half of the mountain range. These tribes were known as the Tanoukhiyoun and in the 11th century they converted to the Druze faith and ruled the areas of Mount Lebanon stretching from Metn in the north to Jezzine in the south. This entire area became known as the ‘Jabal ad-Duruz’. In the early 17th century, Emir Fakhreddine the 2nd ascended the throne in the Druze part of the mountains known as the Chouf. In an effort to unify Mount Lebanon, Emir Fakhreddine opened the door to Christians and in particular the Maronite settlement of the Chouf and Metn.
Throughout the 18th century and into the 19th century more and more Maronites settled in the Druze regions of the Mount. The Druze viewed these Maronite settlements as a threat to their power in Mount Lebanon and in a series of clashes in the 1840s and 1860s, a miniature civil war erupted in the area resulting in the massacre of thousands of Christians. The Druze won militarily, but not politically, because European powers (mainly France and Britain) intervened on behalf of the Maronites and divided Mount Lebanon into two areas; Druze and Maronite. Seeing their authority decline in Mount Lebanon, a few Lebanese Druze began migrating to the new Jabal ad-Duruz in southern Syria. In 1861, the "Mount Lebanon" autonomous district was established within the Ottoman system, under an international guarantee.
Mount Lebanon as a political name
Mount Lebanon also lent its name to two political designations: a semi-autonomous province in Ottoman Syria that existed since A.D. 1516 and the central Governorate of modern Lebanon (see Mount Lebanon Governorate). The Mount Lebanon administrative region emerged in a time of rise of nationalism after the civil war of 1860: France intervened on behalf of the local Christian population and Britain on behalf of the Druze after the 1860 massacres, when 10,000 Christians were killed in clashes with the Druze. In 1861 the "Mount Lebanon" autonomous district was established within the Ottoman system, under an international guarantee. It was ruled by a non-Lebanese Christian subject of the Ottoman Empire known locally as the "Mutasarrıf", (one who rules the district Mutasarrifiyya). Christians formed the majority of the population of Mount Lebanon, with a significant number of Druze.
For decades the Christians pressured the European powers, to award them self determination by extending their small Lebanese territory to what they dubbed "Greater Lebanon", referring to a geographic unit comprising Mount Lebanon and its coast, and the Beqaa Valley to its east. After the First World War, France took hold of the formerly Ottoman holdings in the northern Levant, and expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon in 1920 to form Greater Lebanon which was to be populated by remnants of the Middle Eastern Christian community. While the Christians ended up gaining territorially the new borders merely ended the demographic dominance of Christians in the newly created territory of Lebanon.
- Jin and Krothe. Hydrogeology: Proceedings of the 30th International Geological Congress, page 170
- An Occasion for War, Civil Conflict in Lebanon and Damascus in 1860, Leila Tarazi Fawaz. ISBN 0-520-20086-1
- Room, Adrian (2006). Placenames of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for 6,600 Countries, Cities, Territories, Natural Features and Historic Sites (2nd ed.). McFarland. pp. 214–215. ISBN 978-0-7864-2248-7.
- United Nations Decade on Human Rights Education, 1995-2005