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A Lebanese diaspora with a strong presence in West Africa

posted on: Jul 18, 2020

By: Yasmina Hage / Arab America Contributing Writer

It is often not well known, but many Lebanese have lived in West Africa for generations. This phenomenon leads to a beautiful cultural mix among the Lebanese in Africa.

The Historical Facts

Lebanese and Ivorian flags

The violence of the Druze community prompted a third of the Christian community to flee the future Lebanese state. In the aftermath of the Second World War, it is estimated that foreigners of Lebanese origin amounted to 17,000

At the beginning of the 1970s, when the number of Lebanese expatriates stagnated or even regressed, an event occurred that lastingly and profoundly disrupted the young Lebanese state. It was the civil war (1975-1990) that led to mass exile. Most of the Lebanese leaving the country are young people. They go in particular to Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Guinea. This brain drain from a country where the grey matter is undoubtedly the primary resource will be a tragedy at the time of reconstruction.

Except for Lebanon, no country in the world has more nationals outside its borders than inside. The Lebanese diaspora is estimated at 12 million people, out of a population of only 5.5 million.

How the Lebanese adapt to African culture and spread their own

The Lebanese are best known for their adaptability, which impresses many. In the land of the Cedars, it is not the subsoil that is rich, as in other Arab states, but the human element.

Restaurant Zawat Abidjan

At present, in West Africa, there are a lot of Lebanese. As stated above, these Lebanese have been there for years. As a result, some of the generations that followed have never set foot in Lebanon, do not speak Arabic and therefore feel more African. However, this is not the case for all of them. The majority of Lebanese living in Africa return to Lebanon to see their families during the summer. Parents also teach their children to speak Arabic. There are Lebanese restaurants in Africa, Lebanese supermarkets, Lebanese churches… Moreover, the Lebanese community being very festive; they often organize parties among themselves with Lebanese food and music. They even sometimes bring famous singers from Lebanon to these parties. It should be noted that Lebanese food is also popular and very appreciated in Africa.

Thanks to these practices, their culture is not lost.

Although they are spreading their culture in Africa, it should be pointed out that they too, take a lot from African culture. In fact, in Dakar, for example, many Lebanese speak Wolof, the language of Senegal, perfectly. Throughout West Africa, the houses of the Lebanese contain a lot of local artwork. Moreover, in the Lebanese culture, people love to cook and discover new things. As a result, the Lebanese start trying to cook some of the local dishes that they enjoy very much. Even when they return to Lebanon, they take a lot of local fruits and food to make their families taste these dishes.

Let’s come to the young Lebanese

A young Lebanese girl holding a Beninese flag.

These young people go to schools that are generally American or French and manage to spread their culture by their numbers and their ties. In fact, if there is another cliché that is quite revealing of the Lebanese, it is that they all know each other! They all know each other in some way, so they often hang out together and speak Arabic among themselves in the school corridors. As a result, their classmates also start to use certain Arabic words to laugh together and build relationships.

These young people adapt much better to the local culture than adults because they have lived almost all their lives in Africa. As a result, they listen to African music, speak with an African accent, have local expressions, and above all, these Lebanese youngsters love African culture and African countries.

This cultural mix appears in Lebanon

Waribana: Parties in Lebanon to discover Africa and its culture.

This mix of culture is spreading more and more in Lebanon. There are now a lot of African art sellers in Lebanon, for example. Moreover, the most popular African element there is music. Today, in the nightclubs in Lebanon, you can hear more and more African music, and there are even parties that are very popular with just African music.

These phenomena lead to diversification and globalization of Lebanese culture.



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