NE World Desk
Last Tuesday marked the first day of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting among Muslims, celebrated by more than 1 billion people around the world each year.
From Egypt to India and Kenya to Lebanon, Muslims around the globe kicked off the ninth month of the Muslim calendar on Tuesday, beginning a month-long celebration of self-purification and restraint.
Beginning at dawn each day during Ramadan, the Muslim community abstains from food, drink, smoking, and sex until sunset, then break their fast with an Iftar meal, typically shared among friends and family.
But COVID-19 restrictions and the ongoing pandemic have tempered many of the usual customs and traditions.
This is the second consecutive year Muslims have celebrated Ramadan during the COVID-19 pandemic. But for many, this year’s celebrations are closer to normal than last year’s.
In 2020, mosques across the globe were closed during the holy month, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world.
Curfews, meanwhile, hindered the ability of Muslims to break their fast each evening with friends and family in different households, The New York Times reported.
“Last year, I felt depressed and I didn’t know how long the pandemic would last,” Riyad Deis, a co-owner of a spice shop in Jerusalem’s Old City told the newspaper.
Though COVID restrictions remain in many places this year, festive crowds still gathered in mosques and shopping centers to pray and buy food.
Authorities have instructed worshippers to bring their own prayer rugs and wear masks to mosque, while also imposing certain time restrictions on several customs, according to The Times.
But despite varying vaccination rates from country to country, the festivities continued Tuesday, albeit in smaller groups than normal.
India’s celebrations were scaled back as the country faces a deadly second surge of COVID-19 cases.
Earlier this week, India passed Brazil, becoming the nation with the second most total cases, as each day continues to bring a new record number of cases, according to the Guardian.
States have imposed strict lockdowns and New Delhi introduced a night curfew in hopes of slowing the spread.
In Turkey, many were forced to break their fast in small groups or alone, due to restrictions stemming from record-level COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, shop owners in Jerusalem’s Old City told The Times they were worried Israel wouldn’t allow in large groups of Palestinians from the West Bank during the holiday, which would hurt holiday spending prospects.
Before COVID-19, Israel would typically allow tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians into Jerusalem on Fridays during Ramadan, according to The Times.
And though Israel has led the world in vaccinations so far, many Palestinians in the West Bank have yet to be inoculated.
The Israeli government announced Tuesday the country would allow 10,000 Palestinians who have been vaccinated to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, while another 5,000 would be able to visit family in Israel between Sunday and Thursday of next week, The Times reported.
People shared communal meals in Pakistan
Ramadan lasts a month and will end this year on the evening of May 12.