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Preface Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:33 AM

Lebanon is approximately 120 miles long and 35 miles wide — half the size of the state of New Jersey. It is bounded by the Mediterranean on the west, Syria on the north and east, and Israel to the south. Rugged mountains separate the narrow coastal strip from the Bekaa Valley. Geographically, Lebanon is a natural cultural and commercial link between East and West. Historically, it has provided refuge for many minorities but has also been ruled by successive waves of foreigners, including the French, Ottomans, Crusaders, Byzantines, Romans, Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. Today, the commercial legacy of the Phoenicians and the cultural heritage of the many empires that have claimed Lebanon are much in evidence. So, too, is the damage inflicted during Lebanon’s 1975–1990 civil war, although great progress has been made in repairing much of the destruction to infrastructure and central Beirut.

Lebanese immigrants have settled throughout the world, particularly in North and South America, Australia, West Africa, and France. Ties between Lebanon and the U.S. are strong with more than 1–1/2 million U.S. citizens of Lebanese/Syrian descent and another 200,000 Lebanese passport-holders studying, working, or visiting in the U.S.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:34 AM

Lebanon is renowned for its scenic beauty, although uncontrolled development and exploitation mar many areas. Along the Mediterranean there is a narrow coastal strip, with cities, suburbs, and some banana, citrus, and olive groves. A dramatic mountain chain rises to over 10,000 feet within 20 miles of the coast, with impressive terracing and cultivation. Although pine forests abound, the famed Cedars of Lebanon now exist only in a few small groves preserved in the north and central regions. Distances are short in Lebanon, and travel from the seashore to mountain areas can be done easily in an hour by car.

The climate can best be compared to that of southern California. From May through October, sunny weather prevails and rain is infrequent. Temperatures rarely go above 90°F in the summer, and humidity is the same or less than that experienced in Washington, D.C.

Fall and spring are relatively short. Winters are mild (in the city, winter temperatures rarely drop below 40°F and damp. Most of the country's annual rainfall (about 36 inches) occurs from December through March. Winter storms frequently are accompanied by high winds, lightning, and thunder.

Beirut has no great dust problem compared with other Middle-Eastern cities, but Beirut city and adjacent coastline areas suffer from frequent severe “California-style” air pollution. No particular problems arise from the climate that do not exist in many American cities.

Population Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:36 AM

The population of Lebanon is estimated at approximately 4 million, with the principal urban concentrations in Beirut (1.3 million); Tripoli (500,000); Sidon (150,000); Tyre (30,000); and Zahle (60,000).

Although almost half of Lebanon’s population is found in greater Beirut, the Lebanese retain strong family ties with their villages of origin. The Lebanese people are a mixture of many ethnic and religious groups, and a distribution of governmental and parliamentary offices among Lebanon’s 18 officially recognized religious communities is enshrined in the Constitution. Because of Lebanon’s geography and history of trade, its culture is a mixture of Middle-Eastern and European influences.

Arabic is the native language, but English and French are widely spoken. Although French cultural influence is strong, considerable American influence is evident. American Protestant missionaries have worked in Lebanon since the early 19th century. They founded the American University of Beirut in 1866. And use of English is widespread.

Many Lebanese are trilingual and speak to each other in a mixture of colloquial Arabic, French, and English.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:37 AM

Most aspects of public life in Lebanon are based on a confessional distribution of power, position, and privileges. Reforms agreed in 1990 through the Taif accord, and at the end of the civil war, rebalanced that distribution on a 50:50 basis among Muslims and Christians. Those communities are further divided. There are Shi’a and Sunni Muslims as well as Druze. The largest Christian communities include the Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Armenian (Orthodox and Catholic), and Greek Catholics. The President is designated to be Maronite, the Speaker of Parliament a Shi'a Muslim, and the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim. Seats in the elected parliament and cabinet and many civil service posts are distributed on a rigid formula of proportional religious representation.

The civil, commercial and criminal codes of Lebanon are a mix of French and Ottoman law. Personal law, including matters related to property, inheritance, marriage, and family relations come under the jurisdiction of each religious community.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:39 AM

Fifteen years of civil war deprived Beirut of its traditional place as a major intellectual, cultural, and commercial center in the eastern Mediterranean world. However, Lebanon has regained some ground. Lebanon continues to “export” trained professionals throughout the Middle East, especially in the fields of medicine, public health, and engineering.

The country has the highest literacy rate, 75%, in the Arab world. It has six universities, many founded in the 19th and early 20th centuries: American University of Beirut (AUB); St. Joseph University; Lebanese-American University, the Lebanese University; the Arab University; and Haigazian. There is a lively press, including dailies written in English, French and Arabic, and an active scene of art exhibits and theatrical performances. The Baalbek and Beiteddine Festivals attract a wide range of internationally renowned performers during summer. The National Museum reopened in 1999, and there are several other small museums, palaces, and ancient ruins to view. Lebanon has become a major center for Arabic-language TV production, broadcast by satellite throughout the world.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:40 AM

Lebanon is traditionally a country of merchants and traders. The reactions and attitudes of the people are strongly conditioned by their centuries-old preeminence as middlemen. Before the Lebanese civil war, Beirut was a modern “trading post” for the Arab world. It has not regained that lost role.

Lebanon has a small agricultural sector that produces wheat, fruit, olives, bananas, and subsidized tobacco. Good wines, some now comparable in quality to the best Californian and European products, and beer also are produced locally. There is a small light industrial sector. Services, including banking, insurance, and tourism, are the most important elements of Lebanon’s economy. There is flourishing restaurant trade, with many American franchises opened since the late 1990s. Lebanon’s once-famed hotel sector has begun reconstruction, and several luxury hotels have opened.


Automobiles Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:41 AM

Driving in Beirut is hazardous. Roads are fair to poor; driving practices are erratic; and vehicle servicing is spotty. Currently, all official and unofficial travel is conducted in Embassy-provided Fully Armored Vehicles (FAV’s). Therefore, personnel are not permitted to import or purchase cars for use at post.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:43 AM

Fixed-line telephone service has improved greatly since the end of the civil war, and international connections are readily available. Most Lebanese favor cell phones, even when placing long-distance calls. Lebanon is 7 hours ahead of Eastern U.S. time. Lebanon observes daylight savings time on the dates as the U.S. All official Embassy residences are tied into post’s telephone exchange and billings for international calls are made on a twice-monthly basis. International Voice Gateway (IVG) phone lines have been installed but it often takes several attempts to connect. These phone lines provide employees the opportunity to phone U.S. locations at stateside prices.

Internet Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:44 AM

There are numerous Internet Service Providers located throughout Beirut. The current cost is about $20 monthly for “Unlimited Connection Time.” This cost does not include the 1.23¢ per minute the local telephone company charges each user for the use of telephone lines. Some Internet service providers (ISPs) are planning to provide DSL/ADSL or satellite Internet service, but these services are not currently available. Currently, a maximum 33.6 KBS connection speed is available. There are no cable or ISDN services. Computer hardware and software are available, but the incidence of pirated products is very high.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:45 AM

Embassy Beirut receives 1–2 unclassified pouches per week. Letter mail takes 10 days to two weeks to arrive at post.

Commercial courier service is good but expensive. Letters and packages to Beirut sent via the pouch cannot be insured or registered, except from the addressee to the Department of State. U.S. stamps and postage meters are not available at post. All personnel should bring adequate postage to cover personal mail and packages. The address for official mail is:

Name of Employee
Department of State
6070 Beirut Place
Washington, DC 20521–6070

Personal mail and packages may be directed to:

Name of Employee
6070 Beirut Place
Dulles, VA 20189–6070

Note: Do not include Department of State or American Embassy indicators on mail directed to ZIP Code 20189.

International mail service through Liban Post works well for personal letters but is not recommended for packages or important documents. Personal international letters arrive in a week to 10 days from the east coast of the U.S. The international address is:

American Embassy Beirut
P.O. Box 7080

Radio and TV Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:46 AM

Numerous mediumwave and FM radio stations broadcast in Arabic, French and English and include programs of Western, popular, and classical music. The BBC from Cyprus is heard on AM.

Four TV channels of Armed Forces Radio and Television Service are provided to all homes located on the Mission compound. Along with this service post also provides eight local TV stations, plus CNN, BBC, WorldNet, Discovery and a movie channel. Post currently provides a stereo, TV and VCR for each employee while at post. The Recreation Association also provides VHS tapes for viewing at no cost.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:47 AM

American, British, French, and German periodicals and newspapers are readily available. Current European editions of Time and Newsweek appear on the newsstands weekly. There are numerous local Arabic language newspapers, and a French and an English daily.

There are a few bookstores with a limited supply of English-language books. There is a greater variety of current publications available in French.

Virgin Mega Store recently opened beside the many CD stores that offer a wide selection of Western, classical and Arabic music.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:48 AM

The practice of medicine and surgery in Beirut is conducted on a highly professional level. The number of physicians in practice is sufficient to allow a wide range of choice in the major specialties and subspecialties, all of which are represented. Fees are reasonable. Emergency service in most hospitals is similar to that obtainable in the U.S. and operates 24 hours daily.

Beirut has numerous well-equipped hospitals, with intensive care units, radiology, MRI, CT scan, ultra-sound, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and full-scale laboratories.

Many competent dentists practice general dentistry and specialties such as orthodontics, oral surgery, endodontics, temporomandibular disorders, restorative dentistry and periodontology.

The Embassy has a full-time nurse, who provides U.S. Government employees with out-patient care for minor medical problems, inoculations, and counseling. Emergencies and cases requiring consultation are referred to the hospitals and its staffs.

Post’s regional medical officer is resident in Amman, Jordan and visits post quarterly. Post also receives frequent visits from other RMOs around the Mediterranean.

Community Health Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:49 AM

Beirut has heavy air pollution resulting from burning garbage, incompletely burned petroleum products (automobile and aircraft), manufacturing plants, and dust. Sinus and other problems associated with “hay fever” and sensitivities to weather changes are common.

Since the local water supply may be contaminated, Embassy personnel drink bottled water provided by GSO.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:50 AM

Gastroenteritis occurs frequently, particularly with newly arrived personnel in Beirut. Although enteric diseases such as infectious hepatitis, typhoid and paratyphoid fever, amoebiasis, and giardia lamblia are present in Lebanon, incidence among U.S. personnel serving in Beirut is extremely rare. Upper respiratory infections are common. Bronchitis and pneumonia occur less frequently. Due to the hot, humid summer, skin rashes, prickly heat, and fungal infections are common.

Although in general the level of sanitation in food production and preparation is much higher in Lebanon than in most of the region, care in handling food is essential in preventing gastrointestinal problems. Please note that fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly and soaked in a disinfecting agent before use. Tablets specifically for disinfecting fruits and vegetables are available locally. It is recommended that only pasteurized dairy products be used. Pasteurized and homogenized milk is available. Long-life milk from Europe is available, as is imported and domestic ice cream.

Immunizations that should be kept current include poliomyelitis, hepatitis A and B, and tetanus vaccines. Malaria suppressives are not needed in Lebanon but are required in a number of surrounding countries to which Beirut personnel may travel.

American Embassy - Beirut

Post City Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:53 AM

Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, is situated on a partially elevated headland projecting into the Mediterranean. The city lies just below the 34th parallel north latitude—slightly south of Los Angeles and about on line with Atlanta. It covers an area of some three square miles. Beirut’s strategic position, heterogeneous population, and attractive climate and geography combined to make the city a regional hub during the 1950s and ’60s. Many foreign companies maintained regional headquarters there, and the airport was one of the busiest in the Middle East. The city became a popular R&R point for residents of nearby Arab countries, and its nightlife became world famous.

All this came to an abrupt end following the onset of the Civil War in early 1975, and much of the city was reduced to rubble and most foreigners left. Since 1990, Beirut has made progress in repairing its infrastructure of roads and communications, and central Beirut has witnessed a significant transformation through a public/private partnership for reconstruction.

A Special Note on Post Security

Beirut is a fascinating and enjoyable assignment. As the security environment in Lebanon has improved, Embassy operations have expanded dramatically over the past 10 years. Although life for Embassy staff has become more normal, continuing unique security requirements involve numerous restrictions and conditions not found at most other posts. This must be taken into consideration before assignment here. The Department has approved the establishment of a pilot program in the summer of 2002, that permits a limited number of adult dependents to accompany their spouses. However, they must agree to adhere to current security practices, which means living inside the guarded compound. Adult family members and friends can visit employees and stay with them on the compound for a short period with DCM approval. Travel off compound is conducted in fully armored vehicles accompanied by armed bodyguards and must be scheduled 20 hours in advance. There is a curfew in effect. Post has hopes to move toward further normalization in 2004, but the ability to implement decisions in this regard will depend upon how regional issues affect the security situation in Lebanon.

Security Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:54 AM

A Special Note on Post Security

Beirut is a fascinating and enjoyable assignment. As the security environment in Lebanon has improved, Embassy operations have expanded dramatically over the past 10 years. Although life for Embassy staff has become more normal, continuing unique security requirements involve numerous restrictions and conditions not found at most other posts. This must be taken into consideration before assignment here. The Department has approved the establishment of a pilot program in the summer of 2002, that permits a limited number of adult dependents to accompany their spouses. However, they must agree to adhere to current security practices, which means living inside the guarded compound. Adult family members and friends can visit employees and stay with them on the compound for a short period with DCM approval. Travel off compound is conducted in fully armored vehicles accompanied by armed bodyguards and must be scheduled 20 hours in advance. There is a curfew in effect. Post has hopes to move toward further normalization in 2004, but the ability to implement decisions in this regard will depend upon how regional issues affect the security situation in Lebanon.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:55 AM

U.S. Government personnel in the Embassy include State Department staff, representatives of USAID, the Department of Commerce, the Defense Attaché, and the Office of Defense Cooperation.

American Government offices are located in Awkar, a northern suburb a half-hour drive from Beirut city center. These offices include a villa reconfigured as office space for the executive and other offices. Many offices, including those for Foreign Service Nationals, are in reinforced steel trailers spread across a 22-acre compound, and are below State Department standards.

All U.S. personnel 1ive on the compound, in a mix of villas and apartments. The compound encompasses a number of levels, with many stairs to be negotiated going from level to level. TDY housing is provided in the former Marine House. A Welcome Kit is permanently provided. The Kit includes but is not limited to the following items:

Dinner service for 8, serving pieces
Stainless Utensils for 8
Glasses–wine, water, juice for 8
Pots and pans
Kitchen equipment-colander, peeler, knives, knife sharpener, measuring spoons, etc.
Mixing bowls
Tea kettle
Bath towels and bath mats
Sheets, bedspread
Iron and Ironing Board


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:56 AM

Beirut has leased, government-furnished apartments all located on compound. The Ambassador occupies a private villa, also located on the Embassy grounds.

Furnishings Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:57 AM

The post provides fully furnished quarters including living room, dining room, and bedroom furniture, lamps, drapes, rugs, and major appliances, including a bottled-gas stove, refrigerator, automatic washer, dryer, microwave, TV, stereo, and VCR. Some apartments are centrally air-conditioned and others have individual room air-conditioners provided where required. Contemporary furniture is provided. Most master bedrooms have a queen-sized bed; twin beds are standard in guestrooms. The post will provide specific information upon request.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:58 AM

Electric power is 220v, 50 cycle. Most outlets require a continental plug-in fixture, but adapters can be bought cheaply in Beirut. New equipment has built-in converters that allow them to be quickly switched from one standard voltage cycle to another. UPS units may be purchased locally for all sensitive electrical equipment, especially computers. Commercial electric power is not reliable and electrical surges occur when the compound is switched over to generator power.

Food Last Updated: 9/29/2003 9:59 AM

An exceptional variety of food, fresh and prepared, is available in Beirut. An abundant supply of fresh and frozen meat, vegetables, and fruits is usually available, though sometimes expensive.

Beirut, like most Mediterranean Sea ports, has a variety of fresh fish available in the markets. Lebanon produces a wide variety of excellent fruits and vegetables. Apples, citrus fruits, melons, apricots, peaches, plums, grapes, strawberries, and mangoes are available in season. Dates, figs, olives, walnuts, almonds, and peanuts are also available. Vegetables are plentiful. Fresh string beans, peas, beets, carrots, eggplants, cabbage, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers are available almost year-round.

Beirut has several supermarkets offering a range of items comparable to those available in the U.S. or Western Europe. The many pastry and bakery shops in Beirut offer Lebanese pastries, French and Middle-Eastern bread as well as continental pastries and American-type cookies. Although cake and frosting mixes are widely available, local cakes and pastries are not prepared to American taste.

Lebanese cuisine is known throughout the world. A meal begins traditionally with the “mezza” which is a variety of several small dishes, hot or cold, set out for all to share. The main meal follows. Then fruit and a variety of Lebanese desserts are served followed by Arabic coffee, espresso, or “white coffee” a hot orange blossom drink.

The Embassy snackbar, open to all Mission personnel, offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Clothing Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:07 AM

Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate. Clothing worn in the Middle Atlantic States year round is also suitable for Beirut. The climate is hot and humid for 3 to 6 months of the year, so bring a large wardrobe of washable summer clothes. Bring plenty of short-sleeved shirts and blouses. Beachwear and sneakers are also useful. Winters are wet and often chilly. Since apartment houses are not built for cold weather comfort, warm clothing is important. Heavy overcoats are rarely needed. Bring light topcoats, rubber boots, and other rain apparel.

Beirut is a relatively informal post and most staff dress casually unless they have appointments with Lebanese counterparts. This is a very cosmopolitan and fashionable city, and the Lebanese tend to follow European fashions. Practically everything is available in Beirut if you have the time to look for it. It is advisable, however, for all employees to bring sufficient clothing with them to last their entire tour. Clothing is very expensive locally, so shop before you come or plan on Internet or catalogue shopping.


Civilian clothing is worn in the offices and on social occasions. Attachés, assistant attachés, and members of the ODC are required to wear uniforms to certain official functions. Both summer and winter dress and semidress uniforms are required. Dress and service aiguillette are required. Further service wardrobe information may be obtained from the Office of the Defense Attaché or from ODC.

Men Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:03 AM

Although open-neck shirts are predominant among many Lebanese men in the summer, most professional men continue to wear ties to their offices. Topcoats, raincoats, and medium-weight suits are sufficient for winter. A dark business suit is necessary for formal occasions. Suits are routinely worn to most official events. In addition to sports clothes, sports jackets and/or blazers are especially useful for men year round.

Women Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:04 AM

Dress in Lebanon is casual for some occasions, but Lebanese like to dress up when they go out. You will need the same kind of dressier clothing worn in the U.S. for dinner parties, receptions, concerts, and other social events. Long “evening”-style dresses can be worn for most representational events, but are not necessary. For everyday wear in summer, women wear casual dresses, slacks, skirts, casual tops, and blouses. Usually, Lebanese women like to dress up for work. Winter clothing is needed for colder weather-lined raincoats, heavier coats, jackets and sweaters as well as heavy skirts and blouses. Lebanon is an ideal climate for wool and lightweight suits year‑round.

Children Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:05 AM

Children under 21 are not permitted at post. Children 21 and over may visit with prior approval of post management.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:13 AM

All major brands of toiletries, cosmetics, personal hygiene items, household and entertainment accessories, and household maintenance items are obtainable. Local pharmacies are reliable and well stocked, but do not expect U.S. brands. Bring your favorite cosmetics and medicines.

Greeting cards are available in most stores, but the choice is limited and most are in French or Arabic. A Hallmark store has just opened near the Embassy with prices higher than in the U.S. Employees should bring U.S. postage stamps with them, or bring a mail order form to order stamps from a U.S. postmaster.

Basic Services Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:13 AM

Drycleaning establishments are considered adequate to good but are expensive. There are numerous tailoring and dressmaking establishments and individuals. Opinion regarding their talent varies greatly.

Moderately priced shoe repair is available, and complete resoles are cheaper in Beirut than in the U.S. Many good, moderately priced beauty salons and barbershops are available. Hairdressers and manicurists will come to the Embassy for house calls.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:15 AM

The Human Resources Office can help you find a good household helper and will also guide you in correct hiring practices for occasional help.

There are not only health and security issues to be addressed but also the suitability of services performed. Although English-speaking servants are increasing, many servants still speak only Arabic and/or French. Most employees do without a servant or hire only a part-time, all-purpose servant for heavy cleaning and/or laundry. Quarters for full-time servants are not available. Uniforms, when worn, are supplied by the employer. Employees may not bring their personal servants with them to post.

It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that their household staff undergoes a pre-employment physical examination and a security clearance. Should an American employee hire a non-Lebanese household staff member, the employer should be aware that the renewal of the Residence and Work Permits must be authorized and paid for either by the employer or the employee. Local medical insurance coverage can be arranged, with the employer or employee accepting responsibility for premium payment.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:16 AM

The following churches hold services in English: First Baptist Bible Church, Makhoul St., Ras Beirut; All Saints Church, every Sunday at 11 a.m.; Maison Saint Francis, Mtaileb; and Saint Francis Convent, Bayada, every Sunday at 11:30 a.m.; Saint Francis Church, Hamra Street, every Sunday at 12:00 a.m. In French: Maison Saint Francis, Mtaileb, every Saturday at 6:00 p.m.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:17 AM

Currently no family members are allowed at post.

Once post is opened to families, it may be useful to note that there is an American Community School, founded in 1905—with pre-school to grade 12. Information about the school is available from the Office of Overseas Schools. A wide range of English-language K–12 schools, many offering American-style programs, are also present.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:18 AM

Private lessons in nearly all fields are available in Beirut, including music, art, and ballet. The Embassy conducts classes in both French and Arabic for employees under its language-training program.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:19 AM

The Embassy has a medium-sized pool that has recently been renovated. There is also a combination tennis/volleyball/basketball court, a gym with limited equipment and an indoor firing range on the compound.

Beirut has many beaches and resorts all along its coast. For some beaches you must have a membership; others are public. Beach season starts the end of May and lasts until mid-October.

Water sports are popular. Scuba diving, for instance, has gained great popularity, though the variety of marine life is limited and no living reefs exist. Water skiing and wind surfing are accessible.

Alpine skiing on numerous mountain slopes can be enjoyable, with the ski season beginning in January and lasting only until March. Hotels and lodges offer ski instruction and offer overnight accommodations, though Embassy employees may not remain off the Embassy compound overnight.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:20 AM

Travel to the Bekaa Valley, southern Lebanon, Tripoli and some parts of Beirut’s suburbs is restricted. Travel to all areas of Lebanon, indeed all travel off the compound, requires permission from the front office and scheduling an armored car with bodyguards.

Lebanon has some outstanding archeological sites within an easy drive of Beirut, including ancient ruins at Byblos and several well-preserved Crusader castles. Faqra, near the ski resort of Faraya, has a temple dating to Roman times.

There are world-famous Roman ruins at Baalbek and Tyre, and an Umayyad site at Anjar. There are limestone caverns near the Embassy, a water park, and opportunities for climbing, hiking, swimming, biking, camping, hunting and fishing.

Embassy personnel find it easy and inexpensive to travel to nearby tourist places on long weekends. Damascus, Aleppo, Amman, Cyprus and Istanbul are popular spots.

Entertainment Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:21 AM

There are about 15 modern movie theaters in Lebanon showing the latest American, French and Arabic movies. English subtitles usually accompany the latter.

Lebanon has some of the best restaurants, cafes and nightclubs in the region. Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai, French, Vietnamese, Continental, American, Italian, Japanese, Moroccan, Polynesian, seafood, South American, Mexican, and traditional Lebanese cuisine is available. Several “theme” restaurants — Chili’s, Hard Rock, Johnny Rockets, etc. — also have branches here.

There are annual world-class arts festivals in Baalbek, Beiteddine, and Byblos attracting large audiences from Lebanon and the region. In past years, artists have included Jessye Norman, Joe Cocker, the Merce Cunningham dancers, Placido Domingo, Sting, and others. Plays and operas are staged at these festivals. Besides these festivals, concerts of traditional Lebanese music; shows by Caracalla, a Lebanese dance theatre group; and presentations by visiting African, European, and Oriental performing artists are also available.

There are wine tastings and beer fests, lectures from world-class rug merchants and a very vibrant art gallery scene.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:22 AM

Most U.S.-held representational activities consist of cocktail parties, small luncheons and dinner parties.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:23 AM

Calling cards are recommended as follows: at least 500 a year for senior officers (heads of sections, attachés), about 200 for other officers. The largest number of cards is needed shortly after arrival.

Good engraving and printing facilities exist in Beirut.

Lebanese are very social and hospitable people. It is easy to develop contacts and friendships in the local community. However, the strict security requirements for visitors to the compound make entertaining at home difficult.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:24 AM

Travel to Lebanon is usually by air to the Beirut International Airport. The most direct route from the U.S. to Lebanon is via Paris, London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. There are non-stop flights to Beirut on most days of the week from London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris. The major airlines serving Lebanon are KLM, Lufthansa, British Mediterranean, Air France, Alitalia, Emirates, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Egypt Air, Saudia Olympic Airways, and Middle East Airlines.

All diplomatic personnel need country clearance from post (or transfer orders) before they can begin their travel to Lebanon. At the airport, they will be met on arrival/departure by an expediter and Embassy security personnel and taken directly by armored vehicle to the Embassy compound. The Embassy sponsor or the duty officer must be informed in advance of changes to your itinerary regardless of the hour or circumstances.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:26 AM

All diplomatic personnel have duty-free privileges during their entire tour of duty in Lebanon. No special restrictions are placed on importing UAB/HHE. POVs are not approved for importation to post. UAB and HHE shipments should be forwarded directly to Beirut International Airport.

Beirut, as an unaccompanied post, permits shipment of 250 lbs gross UAB and 450 lbs net of HHE by air. Employees assigned to post under the pilot program for adult EFMs should contact post for shipping allowances details.

To facilitate Government of Lebanon clearance prior to the arrival of any shipment, please send the airway bill number (for air freight) and bill of lading number (for HHE) by telegram, fax or e-mail to GSO, including the name of the carrier and estimated arrival. To ensure prompt forwarding of the goods include a copy of the itemized packing list addressed to:

General Services Officer
Department of State
6070 Beirut Place
Washington, DC 20521–6070

Permanent arrivals should remember to bring with them in their hand luggage a copy of the itemized packing list for their air freight.

Markings for air freight and HHE, should read as follows:

American Embassy
Employee’s name in full
Awkar, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: 961 (04) 542600, 543600

The Embassy cannot over-emphasize the need for accurate information on shipping documents.

Shipping lines entering Lebanon use containers for vehicles and other bulky goods. No limitation is placed on the size of the lift vans that can be handled in Lebanon. Before you start packing and making arrangements for shipping, e-mail the Embassy for shipping instructions since Government of Lebanon customs regulations change periodically.

All diplomatic personnel arriving in Lebanon should have Lebanese visas. If, however, you do not have time to request one prior to arrival, one can be issued upon arrival by Lebanese immigration at the airport and/or any border. After arrival, the Embassy will obtain a residence permit for you.

Pets Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:28 AM

Only birds and indoor cats may be brought to post at present. Post is developing guidelines for dogs with plans to implement a new policy in the summer of 2003. Contact the administrative officer for more information. Tropical fish are available at pet stores in country. You should obtain a veterinarian’s certificate of good health and a valid identification card before the animal is shipped to post, if shipping is required. You should have these papers with you when you pick up the pet. If you plan to bring a pet, please notify the Embassy in advance. “Supermarket brand” pet foods are readily available locally, but “veterinarian quality” and specialty diet/light foods are not. Veterinarians can provide identification and health documents when the owner wishes to take the pet out of Lebanon. Veterinary care meets minimal standards, but is not equivalent to that available in the U.S. or Europe.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:29 AM

The monetary unit is the Lebanese Lira or Lebanese pound. The notes are the following: 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000. The coins are: 50, 100, 250, 500. Over the last several years, there has been a relatively stable rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and the pound of $1= 1,500 pounds. For most transactions the dollar and pound may be used interchangeably. The previous day’s exchange rates will be published in daily newspapers.

The Embassy cashier handles all normal accommodation exchange for post personnel.

Local banks are also open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Currency exchange locations and ATM machines are conveniently located near hotels, banks, and shopping areas throughout the city. The only American bank in Beirut is Citibank. Western Union has an office here providing money transfer services. Credit cards can be used locally.

Value Added Tax

The Lebanese Government recently added a VAT of 10%. For purchases of individual items over $200, a VAT refund may be requested. For ordinary purchases VAT is not reimbursed.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:30 AM


When an automobile which has entered the country duty free is sold to a person without duty-free entry privileges, customs duty must be paid. This is now applicable to government-owned vehicles but will apply equally to POVs when they are allowed.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:32 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Ajami, Fouad. The Vanished Imam: Musa al-Sadr and the Shi’a of Lebanon. Ithaca, 1986.

Fisk, Robert. Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War. Oxford, 1992.

Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem. Various editions.

Harris, William W. Faces of Lebanon, Sects, Wars and Global Extensions. Princeton: 1996.

Kerr, Ann Zwicker. Come with Me from Lebanon: An American Family Odyssey. Syracuse, 1994.

Mackay, Sandra. Lebanon: Death of a Nation. NY, 1991.

Norton, Augustus Richard. Amal and the Shi’a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon. Austin, 1987.

Picard, Elizabeth. Lebanon: A Shattered Country: Myths and Realities of the Wars in Lebanon. NY, 1996.

Randall, Jonathan C. Going All the Way: Christian Warlords, Israeli Adventurers, and the War in Lebanon. NY, 1984.

Salibi, Kamal. A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered. Berkeley, 1988.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 9/29/2003 10:32 AM

The Embassy observes the following Lebanese holidays, in addition to the ten American holidays observed worldwide. Although some local facilities are closed on these days, taxis operate, hotels and restaurants remain open.

*Feast of Al Adha Tuesday, February 11
Moslem New Year (Al-Hejra) *Tuesday, March 4
Good Friday Friday, April 18 & 25
Lebanese Labor Day Wednesday, May 1
Martyr’s Day Tuesday, May 6
Prophet’s Birthday Tuesday, May 13
Assumption Day Friday, August 15
*Feast of Ramadan Tuesday, November 25

*Date varies from year to year. Dates above are for 2003.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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