Saudi Arabia, a monarch that is located in the southwestern region of the Asian continent occupies almost the entire Arabian Peninsula. It has vast deserts and receives very little rainfall though it has abundant natural gases and oil beneath its surface. On the other hand, Lebanon is located on the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern coast in the southwestern part of Asia. The country’s peoples, economy and history have greatly been influenced by their country’s coast, climate and mountainous regions (Hammond 9). This paper describes the differences that exist between the two countries in terms of their cultures, religion and political life.
Saudi Arabia is culturally set as an Arab state that follows Wahabi Islam as its major religion. The country’s culture features distinctive elements from their historic rituals along with folk cultures like music or dances (Shaffer 34). The traditional values that are upheld within the country have been adapted into lawful prohibitions even for people from other faiths (Haynes 25). In the Saudi Arabian kingdom, alcohol and pork products have been banned and women should neither drive a car nor ride a bicycle. The women have also been prohibited from selling make-up to other women who reside within the country (Shaffer 46). The Saudi Arabian kingdom has a distinct culture that has greatly helped them in preserving their heritage which is centuries old. However, the country’s government still prohibits certain shows from being held on radio or television while applying censorship measures on the remaining forms of entertainment (Shaffer 66). Most of the censored themes focus on immorality or may be offensive to the country’s government or royal family. The freedom of public expression and free press are not fully realized by the Saudi government. Therefore, this implies that the media cannot delve deeply into issues that may spread dissent amongst the masses (Haynes 63). In addition, any unceremonious discussions of public policies within the country by members of the civil service is not encouraged and can be deemed illegal if it spreads public dissent, disloyalty or immorality (Shaffer 89). Additionally, the country has a national cultural dance (Al Ardha). Both women and men in the Saudi Arabian kingdom are supposed to dress conservatively as dictated by their customs especially in public places. The country’s most excelled-in sport is football while basketball is very popular (Haynes 76).
The official religion for the Saudi Arabian kingdom is Islam and the country’s law requires that all of its citizens should have Muslim faith. This implies that religious freedoms are non-existent in the country (Shaffer 104). In reference to these religious requirements, the country’s government does not legally recognize or offer protection for other religions which are strictly constrained in practice. Consequently, the kingdom lacks diversity in religious expressions, buildings, public events or the annual festivals witnessed in other countries that allow practicing different faiths (Haynes 94). Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, with the king being the head of state and government. The country’s constitution is the Muslim Koran and any regulations or legislations are promulgated through royal or ministerial decrees that are sanctioned by the king. The appointment of cabinet ministers, ambassadors, province governors and any high-ranking military officers is the responsibility of the king (Shaffer 119). Additionally, he is the chief commander of the armed forces and the ultimate power of the appeal court. The king holds the power to pardoning offenders sentenced by the country’s highest court (the appeal court). The government also comprises of the private office of the king, which entails his chief advisors on a range of international, religious or domestic issues amongst other officials (Haynes 85). The country’s main executive organs are the council of ministers that comprises of the king, crown prince, royal ministers and their state ministers, provincial governors and monetary agencies heads (Shaffer 118). Finally, the kingdom has a large civilian service with over 400,000 of the citizens being employed by the government since the early 1990’s. According to investigative reports, there are no political parties in the Saudi Arabian kingdom though their royal family comprises of a large grouping that has significant political influences within the kingdom (Haynes 115).
In contrast, Lebanon is a republic that utilizes parliamentary democracy within the frameworks of confessionalism. In this system, the highest political positions are usually reserved for the representatives from various religious groups (Khalaf 19). In Lebanon, the constitution has granted the population a right to vote for political office bearer though civil wars have recently precluded the people’s ability of exercising their political rights (Hammond 34). The Lebanese constitution provides that elections in the country should be held after every four year period. The last parliamentary elections were held in 2009. The parliament is responsible for electing the country’s president who rules for a six year period though he or she is not eligible to run for re-election after a single term in office (Khalaf 25). After being sworn in, the president and the country’s parliament then elect their prime minister and political parties may now be formed/ founded on their sectarian interests. The country has had a bloody past ravaged with war since Syria disentangled the combatants in Lebanon after the second civil war which started in 1975 (Hammond 47). In 2005, the Lebanese people revolted against the presence of Syrians in their country thereby forcing their withdrawal. Lebanon has been occupied by Israel from 1978 though the Israelis started withdrawing in the year 2000 (Khalaf 28). The newest twist to the country’s politics came through the agreement reached at Doha which allowed opposition parties veto powers in the country’s minister’s council. This agreement also approved critical issues raised through religious confessionalism in distributing political power within the country (Hammond 52). The country’s judicial system is in turn made up of four courts which are the courts of cassation, the constitutional court, supreme council and various military courts (Khalaf 43).
In Lebanon, it is an individual’s religion that determines his social or political status and has been used as the major tool for distributing social powers, influential posts and other politically-influenced posts. There are different secretarial groupings within the country which are charged with the duty of teaching faith and religious practices to these groups (Hammond 73). These religious groupings have different agendas and distinct systems. Lebanon is mainly a Muslim nation with approximately 60% of their population being Muslims whereas the remaining 40% are Christians. There are also different ethnicities and nationalities living in Lebanon among them being Armenians, Jews and Kurds. The religious groups that are found in Lebanon are the Druze, Christians, Muslims, Judaists and atheists (Khalaf 69). Christianity within the country may either be classified as Lebanese monasteries and churches, the Maronite Church along with the Lebanese saints. On the other hand, Muslims in Lebanon fall under distinctive categories such as Sunnis, Shiite, Alawites and the Ismailis (Hammond 85).
The Lebanese culture is a mix of different cultures and dates back to civilizations that lived thousands of years ago. The country was originally home to the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks and the French people and has heavily borrowed from their cultures (Khalaf 87). An integrated and intricate culture has resultantly developed despite the fact that the Lebanese come from different ethnic groups, religions and have denominational diversities. The people of Lebanon speak Lebanese Arabic while their music, literature and foods have deep roots in the norms of the wider Mediterranean along with Levantine regions (Hammond 104).
Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, is a major Arab arts center with major publishing houses being located in the city. Their architectural designs have derived their influence from the renaissance period (Khalaf 99). According to previous reports, Lebanon also boasts of the most open-minded and free media production centers in the entire Arab world (Hammond 164). The country has often been considered as the gateway of Europe to the western part of Asia and the Asian gateway to the west. Lebanese people participate actively in sports like football, running, rugby, winter and various equestrian sports among others (Khalaf 184).
In conclusion, the two countries can be said to have many differences in terms of their cultural, political and religious lifestyles. Whereas Saudi Arabia favors a monarch system of government, Lebanon uses parliamentary democracy. In addition, Lebanon’s culture, system of government and religion indicate that the nation is more tolerant in comparison to Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, in both nations, Islam is the most practiced religion.