Status: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 5296,814 (2022 est.)
Area: 4015 sq. miles
Currency: 100 Piastres = 1 Pound (LL). 1507LL = US$1 (official rate); 35,000LL = US$1 (unofficial rate)
Lebanon is a small nation – about the size of Connecticut – but its location on the eastern Mediterranean – has given it a central role in the development of the western world. Situated in the heart of the Fertile Crescent, it saw the earliest development of human agriculture. Four thousand years ago, its merchants were shipping its highly prized cedar logs to the Upper Nile for use in Egyptian temples.
Left: Scott 1, an overprint from France, issued in 1924. Right: Scott 74, with new inscription, issued in 1927.
For four centuries, Lebanese ports were home to the Phoenicians, masters of a great maritime empire and creators of the first alphabet. A succession of conquerors left Lebanon with a disparate population, including Maronite Christians, the Druze, Sunni and Shia Muslims and numerous smaller groups, each with their own identity and aspirations.
In 1516, Lebanon became part of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mahmut II created a public postal service in 1839, but implementation was slow, hampered by poor infrastructure. By 1843, only three post offices had been opened. Postage stamps were first issued in 1863.
Postal services came slowly to Lebanon. One Ottoman post office was open in Beirut in the 1870s. But the Ottoman post had competition. Foreign post offices abounded in the empire and by 1914, Austria, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and the Khedivate of Egypt operated post offices in Beirut.
After World War I, the French occupied the Levant, which it divided into Lebanon and Syria. In 1919, France released stamps overprinted “T.E.O.” (“Enemy Occupied Territory”) for use in both regions. In 1920, this overprint was changed to “O.M.F.” (French Military Occupation). Scott catalog lists these under Syria.
The French administered Lebanon after a League of Nations mandate in 1924. Administratively, they doubled its size by claiming and adding traditionally Muslim territories in the south and east to the Christian areas of the north. They called this expanded state “Greater Lebanon.” Consequently, the name “Grand Liban” appeared on Lebanese stamps from 1924 until 1927.
The Muslim and Druze communities felt disadvantaged in the new nation. Sectarian conflicts arose almost immediately. The French attempted to reduce the unrest by a new constitution in 1926, which made Lebanon a republic. Starting in 1927, stamps reflected this new status with the inscription “Republique Libanese.”
Lebanon effectively gained its independence in 1946 with the withdrawal of all French troops. Most stamps since that time have been inscribed simply “Liban.”
Left: Scott 192, an independence stamp from 1946. Right: Scott 399, from the 1962 Fruits set.
Disruption of traditional population ratios, an enormous influx of refugees and foreign intervention led to a devastating 15-year civil war that ended with a Saudi-brokered peace agreement in 1989.
During the civil war, government services were virtually non-existent. In 1998, a private corporation, Liban Post, was established to restore Lebanon’s postal services. Today, it runs 94 post offices providing a wide variety of services, such as issuing residency permits and accepting parking ticket payments. The demand for postage stamps is not great. Most commercial mail uses postage-paid handstamps. Liban Post seems to be efficient and has a moderate stamp-issuing policy, though it is challenged to issue stamps fast enough to keep up with rampant inflation.