Beirut church and mosque - Creative Commons Via Wikimedia
Walking in the hilly streets of Beirut, you will find small shrines devoted to Virgin Mary, but you will also walk past several women in colorful hijabs. Because about 40 percent of the population are Christians, Lebanon is one of the few Arab countries where you can enjoy the festive spirit of Ramadan but still be able to get decent meals throughout the day without judging looks being passed your way. Because of the mixed religious background of society, Lebanese Ramadan is business as usual for many, and the holiest of months for others. So whether you’re fasting or not, Lebanon is a good choice for Ramadan travels to get the best of the two worlds.
Although the beginning Ramadan is officially announced annually and most often predicted months in advance, many Lebanese Muslims still follow the tradition of taking to the streets and parks at night to watch the waning moon. The tradition is often accompanied by a festive mood and storytelling to get into the Holy month’s spirit.
The tradition of fasting is not as common in Lebanon as it is in other countries with Muslim-majority populations. This is both due to the fact that Lebanon has a large Christian community, but also because many Muslims do not fast during Ramadan. So unlike many other countries in the region where not fasting during the month is socially shunned, fasting in Lebanon is viewed more as a personal choice than a collective tradition. This means that if you take a stroll through Beirut during Ramadan, you will be able to get a meal from most restaurants and cafés as they do not close down during the day.
Ramadan is not celebrated only by Muslims, several organisations, businesses and charities host iftar dinners. It is also tradition that the president hosts a formal iftar dinner for a large number of politicians, religious figureheads, community leaders and diplomats—regardless of their religions.
5 Things to do in Beirut this Ramadan
Beirut is warm and humid during Ramadan, so stay out of the sun while keeping yourself entertained with these five activities.
1. Visit the Sursock Museum
The beautiful museum building is almost a work of art itself. Located in one of the older neighbourhoods of Beirut, the modern art museum showcases pieces from prominent Lebanese artists. The entrance is free, so make sure to enjoy the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the museum if you find yourself in Beirut this Ramadan.
Sursock Museum - Creative Commons Via Wikimedia
2. Watch Lebanese Ramadan TV
Although Lebanon does not produce as many Ramadan shows as Egypt, there is still plenty to watch on TV. This year MTV Lebanon is broadcasting a quiz show, several historic soaps and a show revolving around a car driving through Lebanon collecting interesting stories.
3. Worship in Beirut’s largest mosque
The beautiful Mohammad Al-Amin mosque in downtown is definitely worth a visit whether you are Muslim or not. Inside, the intricate decorations on the ceiling and the five-ton heavy chandelier will take your breath away. With its azure domes, the mosque is also referred to as the Blue Mosque.
4. Eat delicious iftar and sohour
After a long day of not eating or drinking, the fast must be broken properly and where else to do that if not in the home of one of the world’s most cherished cuisines?. Beirut is overflowing with restaurants serving delicious food, but the neighbourhoods around Hamra Street and Armenia Street will provide you with plenty of options. We recomment the T Marbouta restaurant on Hamra Street for iftar and the Falafel M. Sahyoun on Damascus Road for delicious falfel sohour.
5. Take a stroll on Zaitunay Bay
Help your digestion after iftar by taking a walk on the completely modernised Zaitunay Bay. The lights from the buildings and the impressive yachts will keep your eyes busy as you walk beside the water. There are also plenty of cafés on the waterfront if you are in need for coffee or ice cream.
Zaitouna Bay - cerative commons