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During the next 50 years, the people of Lebanon became increasingly interested in Western culture, independence from the Ottomans, and a revival of the Arabic language.

With the fall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, England and France divided the area into English and French protectorates.

Famous as sailors and traders, the Phoenicians lived along the Lebanese coast in the port cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Biblos.

Lebanon's land mass is 4,015 square miles (10,400 square kilometers), and its population is estimated at between 3 and 3.5 million.

The capital, Beirut, was often referred to as the "Paris of the Middle East." Beirut was also considered the commercial center of the Middle East before the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s.

These efforts are ongoing at the end of the twentieth century.

From 1516 until 1916, when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered by the victors of World War I, the area that is now Lebanon was part of the Ottoman province of Greater Syria.

For 16 years, Lebanon was torn apart by fighting between Christians and Muslims.

Although a tentative peace agreement in 1991 ended the war, many problems remain.

Arabic is the official language of the country, and is even spoken by the minority population of Lebanese Jews.

The Armenian population speaks mostly Armenian or Turkish, while Assyrians speak Syriac. A land of varied terrain, Lebanon encompasses coastline, mountain, and fertile growing regions such as the Bekáa Valley, which is a primary cereal-producing region.

The population of the country is made up of ethnic groups from every Middle Eastern country, which is reflective of Lebanon's long history. Both Muslims and Christians have many sectarian subdivisions, 17 in all.

Among the Muslim population, the Shi'a are the most numerous with about 35 percent, the Sunni number around 23 percent, and the Druze comprise 6 percent.

Christians, who account for under two-fifths of the total Lebanese population, include the Maronites (the most numerous and the most powerful) at 22 percent, the Eastern Orthodox at 10 percent; Melkites (Greek Catholics) and Armenians, each at 6 percent, and Protestants at 2.5 percent.

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