A disagreement between political and religious authorities in Lebanon has resulted in people waking up to two different time zones. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati had announced that daylight saving would commence at the end of Ramadan next month, allowing Muslims to break their daily fast earlier. However, Christian authorities had said they would change the clocks on the last Sunday in March, as has been the norm for most years, and many businesses have followed their lead.
The disagreement highlights the deep-seated divisions in Lebanon, where political power is divided among religious groups and a civil war between Christian and Muslim factions took place in the late 1970s and 1980s. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is Sunni Muslim, recently declared that daylight saving would begin at midnight on 20 April, postponing it until the end of Ramadan, allowing Muslims to break their fast earlier. Some analysts believe that Mr Mikati’s decision was an attempt to increase his popularity during the holy month, which started on 22 March and will end 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”.