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Power Crisis, Rising Prices Deprive Lebanese of Suhoor Ambiance

Power Crisis, Rising Prices Deprive Lebanese of Suhoor Ambiance

Friday, 15 April, 2022 - 06:45
Men fill a private generator, which provides electricity with diesel oil in Beirut, Lebanon January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Ramadan is known for its special Suhoor time, during which friends and family gather for fun. It’s also an unmissable time for prayer and rest after a long day for many fasters. But today, with the absence of electricity in Lebanon, Suhoor ambiance and preparations are not the same, as private generators owners cut the power off before midnight, forcing many Lebanese to return home early.

Abu Nabil, a man we met in a supermarket in the Lebanese capital, says he uses candles during Suhoor. “I buy a 500-gram pack of candles for 40,000 LBP (1$=25,000 LBP). Our days and traditions have significantly changed. It’s sad and nobody hears us or tries to understand our struggle,” he adds.

The prices of most ingredients including cheese, grains, and flour have skyrocketed, so the families that can enjoy a decent Suhoor are now far fewer.

These products are Suhoor table essentials, as they are healthy and can be used in making pastries and plates fasters need.

In a quick tour of restaurants and cafes in Lebanon, you would notice they’re fully booked at Iftar time, but empty during Suhoor due to the electricity crisis controlled by private generator owners in the capital’s neighborhoods.

“Streets of Beirut are empty as of 10:30 pm. People return home before the generators go off, and the state-run power grid rarely provides us with one or two hours of power during Suhoor time. We have decided to close early, because visitors who come after 10:00 are few,” Ismail, who works in a restaurant in the Sodeko region, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The power crisis in Lebanon has heavily affected the holy month, causing people to skip many traditions and compromise much of their daily lifestyle.

Jana, a mother of three who lives in the Beirut Mazraa area, states that the power crisis prevented her from freezing food like she used to do. “In the past, we used to find whatever we wanted to cook for Iftar and Suhoor in our freezers. Today, however, our freezers have turned into empty cupboards that we rarely open. The lack of power and the increase of meat and vegetable prices have turned our refrigerators into an obsolete accessory,” she explains.

“The generators’ owners are manipulating our life. I struggle to deliver many orders everyday because the power hours differ from one region to another,” Mohammed, a delivery driver, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“When I finish my work, I take a hookah break and a light Suhoor with my friends, then I prepare myself to climb the stairs to my house on the sixth floor because the generator owner in Mar Elias, where I live, turns it off at 10:00 pm,” he adds.

Suhoor plates include cooked beans, chickpeas, pastries like cheese rolls and vegetable pies.

Samira Hammoud, who works as a salesperson, says she’s unable to prepare beans with some chickpeas for Suhoor like she used to do because she cannot afford to buy vegetables, grains, and cheese anymore. “It’s a main course on the Suhoor table. To enjoy it, it should be served with veggies like parsley, radish, spring onion, and tomatoes,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“But today, I eat it without veggies. I can barely eat a cucumber; one kilogram of cucumber costs 40,000 LBP. I totally forgot the cheese rolls, the frozen packs of those are unattainable,” she added.

In some Beirut neighborhoods, some coffeeshop owners insist on opening their doors for Suhoor, serving thyme, cheese, and Kishik manakish, and meat pies alongside some juices and Ramadan desserts like Kallaj and cheese kunefe.

Samer, who works in a coffee shop, says most of their customers come after Iftar and right before Suhoor to enjoy a cup of tea with a ‘kaake’ or a thyme mankoushe because that’s what they can afford.

“The Lebanese used to celebrate Suhoor, enjoying a hookah and chit chatting around a table full of local popular plates including meat, cheese, and veggies. However, today, we miss this scene due to the power crisis and the skyrocketing prices,” he added.

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