Lebanon’s severe crisis robs people of joyful Eid al-Adha celebrations

People line up to buy bread at a bakery during the Eid al-Adha holiday in Tripoli, Lebanon, July 10, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Celebrating Eid al-Adha this year in the traditional way has become a vain hope for many Muslims in Lebanon, where the financial crisis and the collapse of the local currency have plunged the majority of the population into poverty.

Families used to celebrate the three-day holiday through home gatherings, restaurant visits, gift exchanges and relaxing on the beaches.

Many have also maintained the tradition of serving visitors Arabic sweets either homemade or purchased from popular shops.

A woman walks past closed shops during the Eid al-Adha holiday in Tripoli, Lebanon, July 10, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

A woman walks past closed shops during the Eid al-Adha holiday in Tripoli, Lebanon, July 10, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

However, as many residents this year are barely able to meet their basic needs, the celebration becomes almost a luxury.

“Before, we used to take our children to restaurants or resorts, but now our salaries can barely cover a few kinds of food and necessary medicine,” Mehieddine Dirani, who runs a supermarket in Beirut, told Xinhua.

“Instead of going out, we cook a humble dish at home with bulgur, lentils and vegetables and watch TV,” he added.

As for Majida el-Hajj, a resident of Dahieh, a southern suburb of Beirut, she is sad that she cannot buy Eid clothes for her three children.

Children spend time in a neighborhood during the Eid al-Adha holiday in Tripoli, Lebanon, July 10, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Children spend time in a neighborhood during the Eid al-Adha holiday in Tripoli, Lebanon, July 10, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

“There is nothing I can do to make my children feel the spirit of this occasion,” the young mother told Xinhua.

Lebanon suffered from an unprecedented financial crisis that led to the collapse of the local currency, which devalued people’s salaries by more than 90%. Hit by intertwined political, economic and health crises, Lebanon’s poverty rate now stands at more than 74%, according to the World Bank.

Moreover, the economy has yet to recover from the mass business closures and laid off staff due to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent Beirut port explosions in August 2020.

Hassan al-Saghir, a salesman at Ghazi Hallab, a famous confectionery in Beirut, told Xinhua that demand for Arabic sweets has fallen by more than 50 percent compared to last year.

His shop sold a kilo of Ma’amoul, a filled butter biscuit traditionally served during the Eid holidays, at 35,000 pounds before the crisis. Now it costs 320,000 pounds.

“People call me to ask for prices rather than walk in to make a purchase,” he said, adding that “most of those who shop at our stores are expats or residents who have a income in US dollars”.

Aida el-Ahdab, a resident of Basta, a working-class district of Beirut, told Xinhua that her inability to access her dollar savings account had forced her to rely on a monthly retirement salary in pounds equivalent to 86 dollars on the parallel market.

“I can’t afford a kilo of homemade Ma’amoul, so I decided to buy two liters of milk and cook some pudding that would cost me 130,000 pounds instead,” said- she declared.

Many Muslims have also abandoned the Islamic tradition of the Eid sacrifice, in which a family would slaughter a sheep to give at least a third of the meat to vulnerable people.

Tarek Tahhan, a shepherd in Beirut, told Xinhua that the smallest sheep costs $150 while salaries in the public sector have fallen to less than $100.

The Lebanese government last year launched two cash assistance programs for families in need, namely the emergency social safety net and the ration card policy, both funded by the World Bank.

Lebanon said in January that about 50% of its population had registered for social assistance through the World Bank-funded social safety net financing scheme, under a $246 million loan from the latter.

Lebanon was also hoping to secure another loan from the World Bank to support its ration card policy which aims to provide $556 million in cash to the most vulnerable population.

Interim Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar told local reporters on Monday that the loan was conditional and that Lebanon had not yet met all the conditions.

About Francis Harris

Check Also

Customers apparently aren’t discounting Starbucks

Starbucks sales increased in the third quarter thanks to loyal customers and cold drinks Starbucks’ …