"As if we needed that!"
Nayla, 37, bursted out laughing at the news Friday morning, which she said she initially thought was a joke. Lebanon has declared four days of national mourning to honor Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away Thursday night at the age of 96.
Baabda announced a period of national mourning to last from Sept. 9 to 11, as well as the day of the queen's funeral, Sept. 18, ten days after her death.
The announcement caused strong reactions on social media, with some Lebanese saying they consider the official decision "ridiculous," "shameful" or "really unwelcome in the context of the current crisis."
"The families of the victims of Aug. 4 are currently demonstrating for justice for this criminal explosion that killed more than 200 people, and our leaders say that we must mourn a queen who died peacefully," said one commentator.
Like most countries in the region, Lebanon follows a loose protocol when monarchs or heads of state pass away. This seems to tied to the depth of relations between the two countries. King Abdullah II of Jordan, who is of British descent through his mother, announced seven days of national mourning on Thursday. The Hashemite Kingdom and the United Kingdom have a very close relationship dating back to the First World War.
But if this decision seems understandable from a country like Jordan, it is less so for Lebanon. A source in Baabda assured L'Orient Le Jour that "the protocol of three days of mourning for each death of a sitting head of state" is strictly followed, to which "one day for the funeral" was added.
Yet deviations from the protocol have been made in the past. Following the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in 2000, Lebanon decreed a week of national mourning. Lebanon decreed the same following the death of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970. In contrast, only two days of mourning were decreed for the death of Jordan's King Hussein in 1999.
Following the death of former French President Jacques Chirac in 2019, only one day of mourning was scheduled by the Lebanese authorities.
What does this period of national mourning entail? Concretely, not much. Flags were lowered to half-mast at the presidential palace and in all municipalities and public administrations. The Grand Serail indicated that "the programs of radio and television channels will be modified following this painful event."
President Michel Aoun sent a message of condolence to the new King Charles III, in which he expressed regret for the loss of a "world reference, an example of work and respect for human and moral values, national duty, support for the unity of Lebanon and the peace of its territory."
"The passing of Queen Elizabeth has saddened the soul of the Lebanese, who knew her for many decades throughout her reign," Aoun said in remarks reported by Baabda on Twitter. "She was always by their side, especially in the difficult circumstances Lebanon is facing."
On Aug. 5, 2020, one day after the Beirut port explosion, the queen sent condolences to the Lebanese president.
"Prince Philip and I were deeply saddened by the news," said the message issued by Buckingham Palace. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives, and with all those whose homes and livelihoods have been affected."