Lebanon is a country in the East Mediterranean. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich history, and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than 7,000 years—predating recorded history. Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for nearly 2,500 years. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that comprise modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronite Catholics and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and established a unique political system, known as confessionalism, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities. French troops withdrew from Lebanon in 1946. Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, and banking. Because of its financial power and diversity, Lebanon was known in its heyday as the "Switzerland of the East". It attracted large numbers of tourists, such that the capital Beirut was referred to as "Paris of the Middle East." At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.
Lebanon Cedar is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region. Reaches over 40m height and occurs most abundantly at altitudes of 1,000-2,000 m. It was important to various ancient civilizations. The trees were used by the Phoenicians for building commercial and military ships, as well as houses, palaces, and temples. The ancient Egyptians used its resin in mummification, and its sawdust has been found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh designates the cedar groves of Lebanon as the dwelling of the gods to which Gilgamesh, the hero, ventured. The Lebanon Cedar is the national emblem of Lebanon, and is displayed on the Lebanese flag and coat of arms. It is also the logo of Middle East Airlines, which is Lebanon's national carrier. Beyond that, it is also the main symbol of Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution", along with many Lebanese political parties and movements. Lebanon is sometimes metonymically referred to as the Land of the Cedars.
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