Lebanon and Syria have long been a refuge for political and religious groups. This hospitality has attracted many foreigners and has resulted in the wearing of a wide variety of costumes within this small area. Christians, Moslems and Druzes have kept their own styles of dress while living regionally apart.
The Maronite Christians have lived mainly in North Lebanon from Tripoli to The Cedars, spreading south to Dog River. The Metoualis (the Shiite Moslems) inhabited the east side of the Lebanon mountains. The Druzes held the territory in the center of the country and fanned out over the area bound by Mount Hermon, the B'kaa Valley, Damascus and the Jebel Druze.
Minority groups such as the Armenians and the Kurds came fairly recently into this area. The former wear European dress but the Kurds stand out vividly among the local population in their colorful everyday costumes.
Outside influence has modified Lebanese and Syrian costumes. Strongest single influence was exercised by the Turks who ruled the area for many years. The governing Turkish Pasha, representing the Sultan, effected local dress by his own costume and that of this retinue, and by the rich garments of Turkish design which he bestowed as gifts upon the local emirs. After 1850 when feudalism ended in Leba non and when commerce with Europe took on an increasing importance, Turkish and European styles exerted an even stronger effect on local dress.
Today traditional costumes are mixed with European dress. In some cases western styles have entirely supplanted local dress.
With the one exception of the costume of the Lebanese princess, all of the clothes illustrated in this collection may be seen being worn today.