For years, Lebanon had a special fondness for airmail stamps. Between 1924 and 1981, more than 800 airmail issues were released, compared with less than 700 regular issues.
Curiously, the country’s focus on airmail stamps has not carried over into the actual safety and efficiency of air travel. In recent years, the ICAO, The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization, has ranked Lebanon’s commercial flights among the world’s most dangerous.
In the early days of stamp collecting, Lebanon was a part of the Ottoman Empire, and governed by the Syrian Province of Turkey.
Following World War I, and all of the diplomatic discussion on how to carve up the Middle East in the aftermath of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Lebanon became a French Mandate in 1924. Things changed just three years later when limited autonomy was granted and then, in 1941, Lebanon was given full independence.
The first series of stamps for the independent republic, released in the Fall of 1942, depicted Emir Beshir Shebab, who ruled Lebanon through most of the first half of the 19th century. The Emir featured what may well be the most magnificent beard ever depicted on a stamp.
The iconic and enduring symbol of Lebanon, the Cedar of Lebanon, (Cedrus Libani) first appeared on the nation’s stamps in 1925. It returned for the definitive series released in 1937, 1946, 1948, 1952, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1974, and 1989.
In the midst of a civil war, invasion, and unrest that ravaged the nation for more than a decade, Lebanon issued an interesting set of stamps in December, 1983 that honored the nation’s most widely-read author and poet.
These stamps featured illustrations from Khalil Gibran’s book, The Prophet. The set is rather hard to find and includes a souvenir sheet. They were released to commemorate the centenary of his birth.
The Prophet was published in 1923, and made Gibran the world’s third best-selling poet most popular author, behind William Shakespeare and Lao Tzu.
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