Attempts by government to make partial clock change causes confusion in Lebanon

Clock tower in Lebanon (file picture)

People in Lebanon have woken up in two rival time zones, amid a row between political and religious authorities over when clocks should go forward.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced that daylight saving would begin at the end of Ramadan next month, allowing Muslims to break their daily fast earlier.

But Christian authorities said they would change the clocks on the last Sunday in March, as happens most years.

Many businesses have followed suit.

The dispute illustrates deep divisions in a country where Christian and Muslim factions waged a civil war in the late 1970s and 1980s, and where political positions are shared between religious groups.

On Thursday Mr Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, announced his decision to delay the start of daylight saving until midnight on 20 April.

He did not give a reason for the move, but many commentators regard it as a way to boost his popularity during Ramadan. The Muslim holy month began on 22 March and ends on 21 April.

If the time remains unchanged, Muslims will be able to break their fast an hour earlier, at around 18:00 instead of 19:00, the time the sun sets.

But Lebanon’s influential Christian Maronite Church said it would disregard the decision, calling it “surprising”.

Several major Lebanese organisations have also decided to ignore it. Two news channels, LBCI and MTV, moved their clocks forward early on Sunday.

Middle East Airlines, the national carrier, decided on a compromise. It said its clocks and other devices would stay in winter time but its flight times would be adjusted to avoid disrupting international schedules.

There was also confusion for users of mobile phones and other electronic devices that automatically switch to daylight saving time, as many operators were not notified of the delay in time.

Beirut-based author and regional expert Kim Ghattas tweeted that the government’s abrupt move “throws travel plans, zoom calls and automatic phone times updates into utter disarray”.


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