Aerial view of the Manara waterfront district near downtown Beirut.
Bilwander | Getty Images
No one really knows what time it is in Lebanon.
On Sunday, the Mediterranean country of around 6 million people was to set its clocks back an hour for daylight saving time, as it does every year with much of the wider region and Europe.
This time, however, there was a last-minute objection.
The holy month of Ramadan, practiced by a large part of the Lebanese population and during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, falls this year between March and April. Daylight saving time would mean that sunset falls around 7 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., forcing devout Muslims to spend an extra hour before they can break their fast and eat and drink again.
Days before the clocks were set back, Lebanese interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri decided that daylight saving time should be postponed until April 21, a decision widely seen as an act of support. Muslims observing Ramadan. The leadership of the country is divided between Sunni and Shia Muslims and Christians.
Lebanon’s powerful Maronite Church, the country’s largest Christian institution, opposed it, saying it had not been consulted and that such a last-minute change would cause chaos in the country and put it in jeopardy. contradiction with international standards.
The result? For the first time, millions of people in a small country suddenly pass through two different time zones.
Importantly, people’s clocks didn’t change automatically; the government expects people to change their own clocks manually. With no unified authority dictating what time it is in the country, Lebanese say they are confused and everyone goes through different time zones.
This has led to chaos and confusion for Lebanon’s airports, businesses and residents.
Even Apple And Google I can’t agree on what time it is in Lebanon — on iPhones and iPads, Apple has Lebanon’s time zone unchanged and not aligned with daylight saving time. But if you ask Google what time it is in Lebanon, it’s an hour behind.
This is all a Dumb and Dumber movie… The decision was stupid, but the bigoted reaction was even dumber (and more dangerous).
At Beirut International Airport, the departing flight schedule board shows two different times for the exact same flight: flight A3 947 to Athens, for example, was listed twice, departing at 3:30 p.m. and at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.
“I’m going to Beirut airport 4 hours before my flight just to make sure this nonsense doesn’t cause me to miss my flight,” media start-up director Peter Sleiman told CNBC.
“Personally, I follow international (summer) time,” Sleiman said. “There’s no way I can manage my meetings and schedule to the time zone they [the prime minister] research.”
A slew of memes have erupted on social media to poke fun at the situation, while some fear too much focus on the religious angle of the decision could stoke sectarian tensions in a country that has long been home to many different religious groups.
“A very sad and common meme now is: ‘Hey guys, let’s meet at 5 p.m.’ ‘What time zone? Christian or Muslim?'” Sleiman described.
Some in Lebanon have suggested that Mikati’s decision is a plot to deepen divisions in the country and threatens its Christian population.
“The issue of daylight saving time is not a trivial matter, but a symptom of a deeper crisis of Christian political representation in Lebanon, and it deserves serious attention,” wrote Mustapha Hamoui, writer and Lebanese blogger, on Twitter.
“By ignoring or downplaying this issue, we risk further alienating and marginalizing the Christian community and it will backfire on everyone,” he said. “It was a grave insult to many Christians to see Berri and Miqati decide on an issue that affects everyone’s life without even asking their opinion.”
Others, meanwhile, reject framing the issue in sectarian terms.
“I think this is all a Dumb and Dumber movie,” Dan Azzi, a Lebanese economist and former CEO of Standard Chartered Bank’s Lebanese branch, wrote on Twitter.
“The decision was stupid, but the sectarian reaction was even dumber (and more dangerous). The reaction should have been to seek unified support across different sectarian, political and media lines to reverse it,” he said. he writes.
It remains to be seen whether the Lebanese government will rectify and unify its time zone, or whether the Lebanese people – already struggling with soaring inflation, a near-collapsed currency, daily power cuts and general state dysfunction – will have to continue to exist in two-time time zones the following month.