May 24, 2024


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Lebanon is in two different time zones as the government disagreed about daylight saving time

Lebanon is in two different time zones as the government disagreed about daylight saving time

  • For the first time ever, millions of people in a small country are suddenly transported to two different time zones, due to a rift between Lebanon’s political and religious authorities.
  • This has led to chaos and confusion at airports, businesses and people across Lebanon.
  • “This is all a stupid and stupid movie,” said a Lebanese economist.

An aerial view of the waterfront of the Manara district near downtown Beirut.

Bellander | Getty Images

Nobody knows the exact time in Lebanon.

On Sunday, the Mediterranean country of about 6 million people was set to turn its clocks back an hour to save on daylight saving time, as it does every year along with much of the wider region and Europe.

But this time, there was a last-minute interception.

The holy month of Ramadan, which is practiced by a large proportion of the Lebanese population, and in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, falls during the months of March and April of this year. Daylight saving time means sunset falls around 7pm instead of 6pm, which causes devout Muslims to go an extra hour before they can break their fast, eat and drink again.

A few days before the clock turns back, Lebanon’s interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri decided to push back daylight savings time until April 21, a move widely seen as a boost to Muslims observing Ramadan. The country’s leadership is divided between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Christians.

Lebanon’s powerful Maronite Church, the country’s largest Christian institution, objected, saying they had not been consulted and that such a last-minute change would cause chaos in the country and break it with international standards.

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Results? For the first time ever, millions of people in a small country are suddenly going through two different time zones.

But more importantly, people’s hours didn’t change automatically; The government expects people to manually change their watches. With no unified authority dictating time in the country, the Lebanese say they are confused as everyone goes through different time zones.

This has led to chaos and confusion at airports, businesses and people across Lebanon.

Even Apple and Google don’t seem to agree on the time zone in Lebanon – on iPhones and iPads, Apple has the time zone in Lebanon unchanged and doesn’t align with daylight saving time. But if you ask Google what time it is in Lebanon, it will be one hour late.

This whole movie is dumber and dumber… The decision was dumb, but the sectarian backlash was dumber (and more dangerous).

Dan Azzi

Lebanese economist

At Beirut International Airport, the departure schedule board shows two different times for the exact same flight: Flight A3 947 to Athens, for example, is listed twice, and shown as departing at both 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“I’m going to Beirut airport 4 hours before my flight just to make sure I don’t miss my flight,” Peter Sleiman, a manager at a media startup, told CNBC.

“Personally, I follow International Time (Daylight Savings Time),” Suleiman said. “There is no way I can handle my meetings and schedule in their timezone [the prime minister] required.”

A stream of memes has broken out on social media mocking the situation, while some fear an overemphasis on the religious angle of the decision could inflame sectarian tensions in a country that has long been home to many different religious groups.

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Solomon described “A very sad meme that’s now popular: ‘Guys, let’s meet at 5 p.m.’ What’s the time zone? Christian or Muslim?”

Some in Lebanon see Mikati’s move as a plot to deepen divisions in the country and threaten its Christian population.

Mustafa Hamwi, a Lebanese writer and blogger, wrote on Twitter, “The issue of daylight savings time is not a trivial matter, but it is a symptom of a deeper crisis of Christian political representation in Lebanon, and it deserves serious attention.”

“By ignoring or downplaying this issue, we risk further alienating and marginalizing the Christian community and it will be counterproductive for everyone,” he said. “It was a great insult to many Christians to witness Berri and Mikati take a decision on a matter affecting everyone’s life without even asking for their opinion,” he added.

Others, meanwhile, refuse to frame the issue in sectarian terms.

Dan Azzi, a Lebanese economist and former chief executive of the Lebanese branch of Standard Chartered Bank, wrote on Twitter: “My point is that this whole movie is a dumber, dumber movie.”

“The decision was stupid, but the sectarian reaction was even more stupid (and more dangerous). The reaction should have been to seek unified support across sectarian, political and media lines to reverse it,” he wrote.

It remains to be seen if the Lebanese government will correct and standardize its time zone, or if the Lebanese people – already dealing with spiraling inflation, a nearly collapsing currency, daily power outages and general state dysfunction – will be forced to continue to exist in two simultaneous time zones. for the next month.

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