Mount Lebanon (Arabic: جبل لبنان, Ǧabal Lubnān; known by several alternative names), as a geographic designation, is the Lebanese mountain range, known as the Western Mountain Range of Lebanon. It extends across the whole country along about 160 km (99 mi), parallel to the Mediterranean coast with the highest peak, Qurnat as Sawda’, at 3,088 m (10,130 ft). Lebanon has historically been defined by these mountains, which provided protection for the local population. In Lebanon the changes in scenery are not connected to geographical distances, but to altitudes. The mountains were known for their oak and pine forests. Also, in the high slopes of Mount Lebanon are the last remaining groves of the famous Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). The Phoenicians used the forests from Mount Lebanon to build their ship fleet and to trade with their Levantine neighbors. However, the Phoenicians and successor rulers replanted and restocked the range so that even as late as the 16th century, its forested area was considerable
The name Mount Lebanon traces back to the Semitic root lbn, meaning “white”, likely a reference to the snow-capped mountains.
Another theory, by among others Lebanese Bishop George Saliba, is that the origin of the word Lebanon is from the Syriac language (Middle Aramaic dialect) Lebnon, “leb” meaning heart, “(a)non” meaning God, which can be translated as “the heart of God”.
The area is called “Tur Lebnon” meaning Mountain of the heart of God (ܛܘܪ ܠܒܢܢ) in various modern dialects of Syriac language. Classical Syriac is the liturgical language of the Maronite Church and the Western Aramaic dialect of Syriac was the original spoken language of the Maronites before it was displaced by Arabic. Western Neo-Aramaic, which is the sole survivor of Western Aramaic, is still spoken by four Aramaean villages in the Anti-Lebanon region. The area is referred to as Mont Liban in French, one of the official languages used during the French Mandate of Lebanon.
For decades the Christians pressured the European powers, to award them self determination by extending their small Lebanese territory to what they dubbed “Greater Lebanon”, referring to a geographic unit comprising Mount Lebanon and its coast, and the Beqaa Valley to its east. France took hold of the formally Ottoman holdings in the northern Levant, and expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon in 1920 to form Greater Lebanon which was to be populated by remnants of the Middle Eastern Christian community. While the Christians ended up gaining territorially the new borders merely ended the demographic dominance of Christians in the newly created territory of Lebanon.