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Marie-Josee Hnein

Marie-Josee Hnein

About Lebanon


The Muslim Ayyubids got their claws into Syria, Egypt, western Arabia and parts of Yemen until they were overthrown by the strange soldier-slave kings known as Mamlukes, who ruled Lebanon from the end of the 13th century for the best part of 300 years. The Mamluks faded with the rise of the Ottoman Empire and Lebanon's tribal leaders - the Tanukhid emirs (Druze) of central Lebanon and the Maronites - formed conflicting alliances with various local factions.

The Ottoman Sultan Selim I conquered Lebanon in 1516-17 but was temporarily undermined by Fakhreddine (Fakhr ad-Din II) (1586-1635). Fakhreddine was not only ambitious, he was also wily and politically smart, talents that allowed him to unite, for the first time, the area that became known as modern Lebanon. In fact he was a little too smart for his own good, and his paymasters executed him. Fakhreddine was followed by his nephew Ahmad Maan, who was not quite the talent his uncle was although he did play the game well enough to be 'awarded' an emirate by the Ottomans. When Ahmad Maan died, power passed to the Chehab family, who reigned until 1840, when internal power struggles brought the age of emirs to an end.

In 1842, the Ottomans divided Mount Lebanon into two administrative regions, one Druze and the other Maronite. That they immediately set to squabbling was anticipated and encouraged by the Ottomans, who practiced a 'divide and rule' policy. By 1845, there was open war, not only between Druze and Maronite, but also between peasants and their supposed feudal leaders. The Ottomans, under pressure from Europe, created a single Lebanese administrative unit under an Ottoman Christian governor and the feudal system was abolished. The system worked, producing stability and economic prosperity until WWI, when Lebanon came under Turkish military rule and suffered a serious famine.


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