Flashy Holy month of Ramzan for Beirut's rich and beautiful | world | Hindustan Times
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Flashy Holy month of Ramzan for Beirut's rich and beautiful

world Updated: Sep 04, 2010 10:26 IST

"A more beautiful Ramzan," promises an advertisement for one Beirut clinic offering discounts to image-conscious Lebanese during the Muslim holy month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.

Though traditionally a time of frugality and prayer, the month of Ramzan has become an occasion for extravagant spending on everything from lavish evening meals to crystal bowls to cosmetic surgery in Lebanon, a country famed for its "see and be seen" attitude.

"You don't keep track of your spending during Ramzan," said Rami Shuman, manager of a boutique in Beirut's chic Downtown. "I've paid $120 for an iftar meal," the 27-year-old said.

Devout Muslims observe Ramzan by abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex from dawn until dusk, and across the Middle East, offices in August have been opening later than usual and closing earlier to allow people to get home on time for the iftar meal after sunset.

In other Middle Eastern countries, particularly in the Gulf, iftar gives the wealthy an opportunity to show hospitality on a grand scale, and Lebanon is no exception.

"Reservations have been skyrocketing since the beginning of the month," said Joanna Kharma, public relations officer at a five-star hotel in the capital. "Some customers have even reserved the entire restaurant for an iftar and racked up a bill of $8,000."

Prominent Beirut families and socialites compete over who can host the most lavish iftars, and night-long feasts are not uncommon, often landing on the pages of glossy magazines.

Sociologist Michel Abs, of the Saint Joseph University in Beirut, says the extreme consumerism is not limited to the holy month but is part of the national culture. "Ramzan or not, the Lebanese have a tendency to overspend. Simplicity is a lost virtue," Abs said.