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Lubnān, Republic of Lebanon, Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Lubnāniyyah

Last modified: 2009-05-16 by eugene ipavec
Keywords: lebanon | lubnan | republic of lebanon | al-jumhuriyya al-lubnaniyya | cedar (green) | tree: cedar (green) |
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[Lebanon] 2:3 | stripes 1+2+1 |
image by N.L. and Eugene Ipavec, 20 May 2007

Official Name: الجمهورية اللبنانية [Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Lubnāniyyah], Republic of Lebanon
Short Form: لبنان [Lubnān], Lebanon
Capital: Beirut
Location: Middle East
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Flag Adopted: 7 December 1943
Coat of Arms Adopted: 7 December 1943
ISO Code: LB LBN 422
FIPS 10-4 Code: LB
MARC Code: le
Risk of confusion with: Austria, Latvia, French Polynesia

See also:


The tree is the cedar traditionally connected with Lebanon. In the 18th century the Maronite Christians used a white flag with the cedar tree, with reference to the Bible (Psalms 92:12, "the righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon"). Later, when Lebanon was under French mandate, the French tricolour was used with a cedar tree in the middle. There is a reference in Smith 1982 to the colours, "The red and white colours are those associated, respectively, with the Kayssites and Yemenites, opposing clans that divided Lebanese society between 634 and 1711".

Željko Heimer, 08 Aug 1996

Lebanese friends told me that red might represent martyrs' blood and white snow, holiness and eternity. Most Lebanese flags hoisted or depicted in flag charts are not correct. According to the Constitution law of 7 December 1943, the three colours of the flag must be red, white and green. Branches and trunks of the cedar are usually coloured in brown for the sake of realism – or, as some friends told me, in black to celebrate the Syrian-Lebanese "friendship."

Ivan Sache, 12 Aug 1996

The Constitution of Lebanon promulgated on 23rd May 1926 said, "Article 5: The Lebanese flag is blue, white, red with a cedar in the white part". This article was changed on 7th December 1943, "The Lebanese flag is made of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with the cedar in green in the centre of the white stripe". The cedar was and is therefore officially green. As a whole green cedar is quite strange, some flag manufacturers have certainly made it green and brown – which is unconstitutional.

Pascal Vagnat, 22 Apr 1999

Red symbolizes the blood of martyrs who died trying to free the country from outside forces. White is a symbol of purity of course but is here connected with the snow-capped Lebanese mountains.

Hala Abi-Saleh, 13 Sep 1999

The official explanation of the colours' meaning is:

  • White is snow, where cedars are, on snowy mountains, which symbolize purity.
  • Red is the blood of the victims of independance against Ottomans, French and the rest of the colonizers.

Fadi Bassil, 25 Feb 2000

The Lebanese flag is derived from the French tricolor. The cedar was placed in the white of the French flag. When Lebanon pronounced its independence, the men who declared independence drew a color pencil sketch [image here]. They got rid of the blue and made the stripes horizontal. The vertical stripes became horizontal to move away from the French vertical design. In my recollection, the official description of the flag does not mention proportions, something I have always noted curiously. I believe that the proportions were simply taken from the French flag (2:3).

N.L., 25 Sep 2000

According to Nehmé 1995, adapted in Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website [broken link]:

National Flag: White and Red with a cedar in the center. The Cedar consists of two thirds of the size [sic – "one third of the length" probably intended] of the white band.

The Lebanese Flag consists of three horizontal bands, red, white, and red, with a green cedar in the center, i.e. the white band that amounts to the size of both red bands put together. The tip and root of the green Cedar both stretch towards the edge of the red areas. The red bands symbolize the pure blood, shed in the aim of liberation. The white band symbolizes peace. As for the green cedar, it symbolizes immortality. The Lebanese flag was raised in Bashamoun on the 21st of November 1943 at 11:20 pm. It is believed that this same flag is now kept in the National Museum, although it may have been transported to the Governmental Palace in Bteddine.

Santiago Dotor, 26 Sep 2000

[The above mentioned explanations of the colours in the Lebanese flag] used to be taught in schools within "civic instruction courses" before the start of the Lebanese war. About the white snow, the meaning of lubnan (Lebanon in Arabic) is one of the multiple derivatives of "white" (the word comes from "milk") in Arabic and in Aramean. (...) The cedar should be 1/3 of the overall width of the flag.

J.-M. Klat, 09 Sep 2001

I found on this personal website [broken link] some new information on the Lebanese national flag (in French):

At independence, Lebanon used as national flag the French national flag (vertically divided blue-white-red) with a cedar in the middle. On 11 November 1943, street demonstrations took place because the French authorities had jailed Presidents Bechara al Khoury and Riad al-Solh as well as other Ministers. Seven Deputees – Henri Pharaon, Maroun Kanaan, Saêb Salam, Sabri Hamadé, Rachid Beydoun, Saadi al-Mounla, and Mohamed al-Fadl – forced an entry into the Lebanese Parliament, where they decided to design a new national flag for Lebanon. The new (and current) national flag was designed by Henri Pharaon.

In 1979, the Minister of National Education, Boutros Harb, decided that 21 November should be the National Flag Day.

The Lebanese Constitution article prescribing the flag says:
Part I – Fundamental Provisions
Chapter I – The State and its Territory
Article 5 – The Lebanese flag is made of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with the cedar in green in the centre of the white stripe. The size of the white stripe is equal to the size of the two red stripes together. The cedar is in the middle, its apex touching the red upper stripe and its base touching the lower red stripe. The size of the cedar shall be equal to one third of the size of the white stripe.
Source: Vagnat and Poels 2000 [vap00].

Ivan Sache, 10 Aug 2002

I notice that Pascal Vagnat gives a quote from the Constitution regarding the flag on our page for the Lebanon, but by giving it fully one also gets full construction details. Part One, Chapter 1, Article 5 as amended on 7 December 1943 reads as follows:

"The Flag of the Lebanon is constructed of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with a green cedar (tree) in the centre of the white stripe. The width of the white stripe is equal to the width of the two red stripes together. The cedar is in the centre, (with) its apex touching the upper red stripe, and its base touching the lower red stripe. The size of the cedar shall be equal to one-third the size (length) of the white stripe."

The translation and (brackets) are mine, but it does not differ fundamentally from that given in Pascal and Jos's magnificent work "Constitutions – What they tell us about National Flags and Coats of Arms" – the relevant translation in which was (I understand from Jos) not official either.

Christopher Southworth, 31 Mar 2004

I will play the role of devil's advocate, noticing that there is no provision nor hint determining that the two red stripes are of the same width. If someone has access to the original wording (and language skills to understand it), I wonder if there is such a hint there – if the flag with, say, top red stripe being half the lower would still be legally acceptable, as long as the white would remain double the size of the two red together...

Željko Heimer, 31 Mar 2004

How about this argument? If the red stripes are unequal, then the tree could not be exactly in the center of the flag and still have its upper and lower points touching the upper and lower edges of the white stripe. It would be either above or below the center. The constitution doesn't say the tree is in the center between hoist and fly, it says it's in the center, which I would take to mean the center of the flag, vertically as well as horizontally.

Joe McMillan, 31 Mar 2004

You are in a mood today Željko (remind not to offend you in the next couple of days or so), and unfortunately for Joe's counter argument the Constitution definitely says "the centre of the white stripe" and not the centre of the flag so the red stripes could (conceivably and by a stretch of the imagination – particularly the imagination of someone in a bad mood) be taken as uneven.

My language skills are only adequate, and I cannot, at this moment in time, lay my hand on the French original, but my translation was checked by Armand du Payrat and found to be accurate (and is almost identical to that of Pascal Vagnat). So I think that we can say with reasonable certainty that the French text holds no hint of any alternative not suggested by the English translations.

Christopher Southworth, 31 Mar 2004

I found [the French original] and Chris is right:

"Article 5 – Le drapeau libanais est composé de trois bandes horizontales: deux rouges encadrant une blanche. La hauteur de la bande blanche est égale au double de chacune des bandes rouges. Au centre de la bande blanche figure un cèdre vert dont la largeur occupe le tiers de celle-ci et qui, par son sommet et par sa base, touche chacune des bandes rouges."

My French skills are, I imagine, less adequate than Chris's, but I make this to say, in relevant part, "At the center of the white stripe is a green cedar, the width of which is one-third that of the stripe and which, at its top and bottom, touches each of the red stripes."

Joe McMillan, 31 Mar 2004

It just occurred to me that the text of the constitution does make clear that the two red stripes are of equal width, or "height" as the text phrases it:

"La hauteur de la bande blanche est égale au double de chacune des bandes rouges:"
"The height of the white stripe is equal to twice that of each red stripe."

Even I can solve this algebraically to prove that the two red stripes must be equal. W is the height of the white stripe, U is the height of the upper red stripe, and L is the height of the lower red stripe:

    W = 2U
    W = 2L
    2U = 2L
    U = L

Joe McMillan, 31 Mar 2004

If I have this correctly [there is] a slightly different interpretative use of the word "chacune."

Christopher Southworth, 31 Mar 2004

Just for the sake of argument, setting of the tree in the middle of the flag (we know that it is in fact set in the middle of the white stripe) would not necessarily require that the two red stripes to be equal – it depends how one defines the center of the tree. Namely, it would indeed be so if one defined the center of the tree as the center of the rectangle "circumscribing" it, just as we are used to do when dealing with cliparts. However, the geometrical center of the tree shape is, if I am not much mistaken, somewhat lower then this point, so if one would match the geometrical center with the cneter of the flag, the top red stripe would necessarily be thinner then the lower stripe.

Now, I do not think that this is the case with Lebanese flag, but I just wanted to point out this ocassionaly (often?) found ambiguity, when the legislators do not say what kind of center they mean. The difference is obvious on flags that include noncircular emblems, for example a (five-pointed) star – when the say it is set in the middle – do they mean that the center of the circle circumscribing is in the middle or it is the rectangle "rectanagle-scribing" it is set in the middle (so there is equal distance from the top of the star to the top of the flag, and the bottom of the star to the bottom of the flag)? I believe that we have had such problem with the new flag of DR Congo, and probably with a few more. Also, this weird effect is gained with the flag of Croatia if someone puts the COA clipart in the middle of the tricolour – the COA is then way too low in the flag.

Željko Heimer, 01 Apr 2004

According to the Der Standard website:

Dass der Libanon für seine Nationalflagge die rot-weiß-roten Farben - mit einer grünen Zeder im weißen Mittelfeld - gewählt hat, geht auf die Initiative des 1993 im Alter von 92 Jahren ermordeten christlichen Politikers Henry Pharaon zurück, der ein begeisterter Freund Österreichs war. Die griechisch-orthodoxe Bankiersfamilie Pharaon, deren im Bürgerkrieg teilweise zerstörtes und später an die saudiarabische Königsfamilie verkauftes Palais eine der Sehenswürdigkeiten Beiruts war, hatte in mehreren Generationen Honorarkonsuln des Kaisertums Österreich und der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie gestellt. Henry Pharaon gehörte zu den Gründern des 1943 souverän gewordenen libanesischen Staates und war mehrmals Außenminister und vier Jahrzehnte lang Parlamentsabgeordneter. Er gründete die libanesisch-österreichische Freundschaftsgesellschaft. Während des 15-jährigen Bürgerkrieges (1975-90) bezog der Milliardär für keine der Konfliktparteien Position. Seine letzten Lebensjahre verbrachte er im Beirut Luxushotel Carlton, wo er zusammen mit einem Leibwächter ermordet wurde. (APA)

Which says that:

The red-white-red Lebanese Flag goes back to an initiative by the (assasinated) christian politician Henri Pharaon (b.1901-d.1993). The wealthy bankers-family Pharaon was christian, and for many generations the honorary-consuls to the imperial court in Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian Empire came from this family. One of their palaces in Beirut was one of the landmarks of that city, and was partly destroyed during the civil-war and later sold to the Saudi royal family. Henri Pharaon was one of the founding fathers of the newly-independent Lebanon in 1943. He was foreign minister many times, and for four decades MP (member of Parliament). He founded the "Austro-Lebanese Association of Friendship". During the 15-year long civil-war (1975-90) he stayed neutral. His last years he spend in the Beirut Carlton luxury hotel , where he was murdered along with his bodyguard.

Jan von Sielecki, 02 Mar 2005

Interesting. I'd assumed that the r-w-r was inspired by some French official flag, and that the same (hypothetical) flag would also have explained French Polynesia's flag.

James Dignan, 02 Mar 2005

Construction Sheet

image by N.L. and Eugene Ipavec, 20 May 2007

Vertical Flag

[Vertical Flag (Lebanon)]
~5:2 | stripes 1+2+1 |
image by N.L. and Eugene Ipavec, 20 May 2007

For special festive occasions, such as Independence Day, a Lebanese flag which is a variant on the horizontal flag is hoisted typically along light and telephone poles. It is a long vertical flag with vertical color fields, red-white-red, with the green cedar in the center, touching both reds. Most probably it is 5:2.

N.L., 25 Sep 2000

I now wonder whether the vertical flag with the cedar shifted to the top of the flag which Ivan Sache saw in a picture might actually be the bottom part of a flag with centred cedar, the top part being hidden because of the flag waving or something similar.

Santiago Dotor, 03 Oct 2000

After looking thoroughly at the picture, I give you the point. The top of the flag seems to be applied on a kind of wooden frame without anything to fix it, so it is probably draped over the frame. The top part might be hidden behind the visible part (as if the flag had been hung out like a bedsheet). About 1/4th of the 5:2 flag might be hidden on the picture.

Ivan Sache, 03 Oct 2000


Unofficial Variants

[Unofficial Variant (Lebanon)]
[Unofficial Variant (Lebanon)]
[Unofficial Variant (Lebanon)]
[Unofficial Variant (Lebanon)]

images by Eugene Ipavec, 12 Aug 2007

There is considerable variation in the depiction of the cedar; these are some of the more unusual renditions spotted. Since the 1943 flag law specifies only the cedar's dimensions and color, not precise shade or artistic style, I suppose any design that is all-green, touches the top and bottom stripes, and stretches over one third of the flag's lenght is technically "valid."

Eugene Ipavec, 12 Aug 2007

Incorrect Variants

Even if the official version of the flag has red-white-red stripes in 1:2:1 proportions and a green cedar touching the red stripes, other combinations are fairly often used. The main variations are of three kinds: the stripes in 1:1:1 proportions, the colouring of the cedar (green-brown or green-black) and its size (smaller or even bigger than the white stripe). I suppose there is the possibility of a fully black cedar, as was previously used on the French tricolour, but I have never seen that on the current flag.

Željko Heimer, 12 Aug 1996

While watching the news on TV, I saw a variant of the Lebanese flag on a report about South Lebanon. It was red-white-red with the cedar on the white stripe, but the stripes were vertical and in something like a 1:1:4 proportion. The overall ratio was 2:3 or 3:5 (it was too brief to measure), so it was not like the vertical variant.

Thanh-Tâm Lê, 27 Feb 1999

It could be two flags [flown] together, one 1:1:1 and one all red.

Ole Andersen, 27 Feb 1999

Between independence and 1982, not many Lebanese paid attention to the words that the fighters for independence wrote in describing the flag that they hastily sketched out: a green tree in the white field that touches the two reds. They never mentioned brown. See this sketch [at the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website]. In the summer of 1982, there was a popular TV show, hosted by Riad Sharara, who put out a challenge: the first person to come to the TV station with a green cedar in the white field that touched both red stripes would win a prize. Very few people showed up with the correct flag. The cedar trees were in brown and green. Some touched the red stripes and others did not. Some brought flags with all-green cedar trees, but the cedars did not touch the reds. Even the flags that the Army had printed were wrong. However, the result of Sharara's challenge was an unprecedented raising of awareness of the actual design and colors of the flag.

Before that summer, the Ministry of Tourism printed the flag on letter-sized paper (but in the correct 2:3 proportions) with a brown and green cedar for local distribution, mostly to schools, especially around independence day (November 22nd). As of 1982, the Ministry started printing flags with all-green trees (ironically and sadly, the Ministry of Tourism website has an incorrect flag). Even the Lebanese Army printed new flags. It was a revolution. When flag day came round, all students were instructed to draw the flag correctly. Sharara's challenge came at a time when Lebanon was under Israeli occupation. Possibly, the challenge stirred up patriotism in the Lebanese at a time when the future was uncertain.

To summarize, all Lebanese flags that depict the cedar tree green and brown are incorrect. All flags in which the cedar tree does not touch the white are incorrect. They are not variants. They are simply wrong. The only acceptable variant is the long vertical banner for special occasions.

N.L., 25 Sep 2000

Last week the New York Times had a story on how flag manufacturers in Lebanon were working at full capacity but could not keep up with demand. One tactic being used to speed production was to simply produce the cedar tree at appropriate intervals on long rolls of red/white/red cloth, and then sell the rolls to other businessmen who would have them cut up and hem the edges. Those who have registered with the NY Times or would care to do so (it's free) can see the story Banner Days for the Lebanese (Ask the Flag Makers)

Perhaps this photo [of a long vertical flag with many cedars] is the result of some manufacturer adopting the technique for vertical hoist variants too – and some demonstrators being too impatient to wait for the roll to be cut up...

BTW, some may recall that a short while ago there was a discussion on the list about using flags manufatured/population as a metric to judge the relative "flag flying" tendencies of nations. Lebanon with one flag produced for c. every 5.3 residents within the short time of 6 weeks has to moved towards the top by that standard :)

Ned Smith, 28 Mar 2005

I've seen others, some with even two cedars on them – although these may have simply been two flags sewn together. I seem to recall two cedars vertically as well.

One note: The problem with incorrect variants noted on FOTW seems to have vanished. That is, the tree is always (as far as I can tell) all-green and touching both red stripes. Whether the tree itself is precisely correct is another story.

Nathan Lamm, 24 Mar 2005

Unfortunately, at least one firm supplying flags to the U.S. government still makes them with the brown trunks. There's one standing downstairs in the lobby here at the National Defense University.

Joseph McMillan, 24 Mar 2005

[Vertical-Stripe Lebanese Flag]
image by N.L. and Eugene Ipavec, 20 May 2007

I saw a Lebanese flag with the stripes vertical instead of horizontal on TV during the Israeli attacks on Lebanon last summer. It was a demonstration of solidarity towards Lebanon, mostly by Lebanese immigrants in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.

Jorge Candeias, 22 Feb 2007

Flags of Neighboring Countries