A different kind of Beirut

I mentioned in an earlier post that during Ramadan, Beirut feels like a different city.  Thought I’d expand on that a bit… A few of the ways Beirut changes during this holy month:

– The perpetually traffic-jammed streets are eerily quiet starting at about 6pm as people are all home preparing for their Iftar feasts.

– In many other Muslim countries, it is actually illegal to eat in public during Ramadan.  That’s not the case here, but the cafes and restaurants are much quieter than normal during the day (at least on this side of Beirut where we live).  There are a actually a few places that we don’t go to anymore because they are so smoky, but during Ramadan, less people = less smoke!

– Stores close and then re-open late into the night after the Iftar meal.  It’s tradition to get new clothes for the Eid (the final day of Ramadan – the biggest feast), so a lot of places have great sales right now!  And the shopping streets are packed with people late into the night.

– A big part of celebrating Ramadan is giving to the poor.  There are little booths set up all around town where you can give.  There are also lots more beggars on the street, calling out, “A blessed feast day!  God save you!  God keep you safe!  Oh, Lord, give her long life!”

– At least in Beirut, eating is a huge part of Ramadan (not during daylight hours, but at night), and the food prices are much higher than normal.  There are also some special desserts and drinks that are Ramadan specialties.

Ramadan ends this weekend with a big feast (depending on which sect of Islam one follows, the Eid starts either tomorrow or Friday)… and then it’s back to normal life on the streets of Beirut.

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