Lebanon officially known as the Lebanese Republic is a sovereign state in Western Asia. Lebanon’s location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland facilitated its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. At just 10,452 km2 (4,036 sq. mi.), it is the smallest recognized country on the entire mainland Asian continent.
During the 7th century AD the Muslim Arabs conquered Syria soon after the death of Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH), establishing a new regime to replace the Romans (or Byzantines as the Eastern Romans are sometimes called). Muslim influence increased greatly in the seventh century, when the Umayyad capital was established at nearby Damascus. The region eventually was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Following the collapse of the empire after World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon came under the French Mandate of Lebanon.
Despite its small size, the country has developed a well-known culture and has been highly influential in the Arab world. In spite of prolonged civil war, Lebanon has the highest Human Development Index and GDP per capita in the Arab world, to the exclusion of the oil-rich economies of the Persian Gulf.
The tourism industry accounts for about 10% of GDP. Lebanon managed to attract around 1,333,000 tourists in 2008, thus placing it as rank 79 out of 191 countries. In 2009, The New York Times ranked Beirut the No. 1 travel destination worldwide due to its nightlife and hospitality.