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Lebanon is named for the major mountain range that runs north to south through the middle of the country.The Cedars of Lebanon, famous since Biblical times, are now protected in a few mountain groves.Arabic is the official language of the country, and is even spoken by the minority population of Lebanese Jews.

A sense of national identity did not begin to form among the Greater Syrians until the 1920s, when Lebanon became a separate French protectorate.After the Ottoman Empire gained general control of the area in 1516, Lebanon continued to maintain a feudal system of rule by local chieftains.After 1860, the year many Christians were massacred by the Druze in Lebanon and Damascus, the French, who had economic and strategic interests in Lebanon since the Crusades, created a protectorate.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.

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