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Today, all Lebanese speak Arabic; most of them, especially the upper and middle classes, speak French; recently, English has become increasingly important. The cedar in the center of the Lebanese flag is the symbol of six thousand years of history: the cedar was Lebanon's chief export in ancient times.
Most of Lebanon's population lives in the main cities of Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon which are densely populated. Apartments are usually decorated in western style: couches are placed against the walls, end tables are common, and walls are often adorned with framed paintings and tapestries.Lebanon has seen many invasions, which introduced new cultures and languages.The Canaanites, the first known settlers in the country, spoke a Semitic language.and absorbed aspects of the many other cultures around them.The Phoenicians are celebrated today in the government-supervised history books as the inventors of the alphabet and as the symbol of Lebanon's golden past.Estimates in the 1990s reveal a population composed of nearly 70 percent Muslims and 30 percent Christians. Languages spoken include Arabic, French, English, and Armenian. The Beirut accent is the mellowest and most highly regarded, while country accents are harsher.
Accents are a much higher indicator of social status than they are in the United States.
The average life expectancy for those born at the end of the twentieth century was 69.35 years.
Whereas at independence, gained in 1943, the population was one-half Christian and one-half Muslim, a higher birth rate among Shiite Muslims upset this balance and was one of the causes of the civil war.
Later, France gave Lebanon a parliamentary system and, for the first time in the Middle East, created a nation where Christians had a strong political presence: each government office was apportioned to a representative of the country's main sects, with the presidency reserved for the Maronite Christians.
The privileging of Christians in governmental positions was one of the main reasons for the civil war, when the population percentage shifted in favor of the Muslims. Although the various communities in Lebanon share a similar ethnic background, the fact that they are of different religions and they define their cultural and often geographical boundaries through religious affiliation has always been a source of discord.
These ties persisted and grew stronger, especially in the eighteenth century, and were a major factor in the creation of the modern Lebanon.