What time is it in Lebanon? DST controversy left country with two time zones

The Lebanese government’s last-minute decision to delay DST by a month until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan led to widespread confusion on Sunday.

As some institutions implemented the change and others refused, many Lebanese have found themselves in the position of juggling work and school schedules across different time zones – in a country that is only 88 kilometers at its widest point.

In some cases, the debate became sectarian, and many Christian politicians and institutions, including the largest church in the small country, the Maronite Church, rejected the postponement.

The small Mediterranean country usually sets its clocks forward an hour on the last Sunday in March, which is the same as most European countries.

However, on Thursday, the Lebanese government announced a decision by Acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati to delay the start of daylight saving time until April 21.

The reason for the decision was not given, but a video of a meeting between Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berry leaked to local media showed Berry asking Mikati to delay daylight saving time so that Muslims could break their fast in Ramadan an hour earlier.

Mikati replies that he made a similar suggestion, but continues that the change would be difficult to implement as it would cause problems with airline flight schedules, to which Berry chimes in, “Which flights?”

After the DST postponement was announced, Lebanon’s state-owned airline Middle East Airlines said that the departure time of all flights scheduled to depart Beirut Airport between Sunday and April 21 will be extended by an hour.

While public institutions are theoretically bound by the government’s decision, many private institutions, including TV channels, schools and businesses, have announced that they will ignore the decision and switch to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday as previously planned.

The split led to jokes about “Muslim time” and “Christian time”, while different Internet search engines turned up different results early on Sunday mornings when they were interested in the current time in Lebanon.

Many saw the issue as a distraction from the country’s larger economic and political problems.

Lebanon is experiencing the worst financial crisis in its modern history. Three-quarters of the population lives in poverty, and IMF officials recently warned that the country could face hyperinflation if action is not taken.

Lebanon has been without a president since President Michel Aoun’s term ended at the end of October, as parliament has since failed to elect a replacement.