Al-Khat al ‘arabî, Arabic calligraphy was introduced in Lebanon during the 19th century. The first calligraphers acquired this art form from the Ottoman masters who were present in the Bilad Al-Shâm.

In Lebanon, calligraphy can be found on all kinds of supports: holy books, places of worship and burial, memorial sites, signs, banners, vehicles, gold and silver jewelry, invitation cards, and objects made from various materials. More recently, it has gained prominence in public spaces through artistic and political graffiti drawn on urban furniture.

Calligraphers use a variety of Arabic writing styles. Some are renowned for their mastery of a single style, while others use several. The most widely used styles are Thuluth, Riq’ah, Diwani, Kufic, Naskhi, Farsi, Chekesté, and, more recently, Moalla. Younger artists who opted for graffiti, calligraffiti, or art, have introduced more stylized Arabic calligraphy or elements of pseudo-calligraphy into their work.

Traditional materials used in calligraphy include calames (reed or bamboo stems) cut and split to different sizes, beaked calames, steel nibs, calligraphy ink, silk threads for inkpots, and special paper made using traditional methods. Additionally, new materials such as oblique-bevel markers, oblique brushes, industrial paint, smooth white paper, cotton fabric, and plastic plates are also utilized. Calligraphers sometimes make their own tools, such as reed calames. Otherwise, they buy them from the local market.

Calligraphy is an art and a craft practiced by men and women from all the Lebanese ethnic and religious communities. These calligraphers are masters of the art, although their numbers are dwindling, and also craftsmen, artists, academics, researchers, and designers. Their workshops are concentrated mainly in urban centers (Beirut and its suburbs, Tripoli, Saida, Tyre, Zahleh, and Baalbek), but also in a few rural localities.

This know-how is held mainly by men of all ages. A lesser number of women under the age of forty also practice the craft. A gender division of roles seems to be emerging, even if it does not conform to tradition or implicitly transmitted social norms. Men are involved in all kinds of arts and crafts related to Arabic calligraphy, such as painting on paper, canvas, or mural, including graffiti, making signs, banners, books, or newspaper covers. Women, who entered the field of Arabic calligraphy later than men, concentrate mainly on the artistic and creative trades of Arabic calligraphy.

Arabic calligraphy is a highly regulated art form. Mastering it requires an in-depth knowledge of its history and development process. Learning its rigorous techniques can occur through both formal and informal means. The transmission of this ICH element from generation to generation within the same family became rare. However, some nationally or internationally renowned calligraphers and/or painters received training from their fathers. The personal effort to acquire the techniques of this art of writing crosses generations and genres, in which self-taught calligraphers are numerous.

In Lebanon, transmission from master to pupil is more frequent among older generations. Young people acquire their know-how through formal education in art, graphic design, or architecture faculties in Lebanese universities. To a lesser extent, they attend Arabic calligraphy training centers outside Lebanon (such as in Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia…), which offer certificates for the completion of their programs.