Arab world welcomes Ramadan on longest days of the year
BEIRUT - The world’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims, including those in the Arab world, are preparing to mark the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan. The holy month, the ninth in the lunar-based Islamic calendar, is when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad and it is considered a time for reflection, worship and showing charity to others.
It may be an occasion for contemplation but Ramadan is also a joyful season. In the Arab world, the cradle of Islam, it is a time for families and friends to gather for the sunset fast-breaking meal, or iftar, enjoy night outings until the early morning hours and revive old traditions of religious celebrations.
The season’s spirit is apparent in many Arab countries but years of war and conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen have put a damper on the holy month there.
Colourful Ramadan lanterns, a custom handed down from the time of the Fatimids, decorate the streets of Cairo, lining balconies and hanging from trees.
Egyptians are looking forward to Ramadan despite the rising price of food. “I will have to stick to the basics this year because of high prices,” said Samia Sayed, a housewife, pointing out that the prices of dried nuts and fruits — usually must-buy items during Ramadan — have risen almost 30%.
In Beirut, depictions of the stages of the moon cycle are posted on street corners and intersections. Ramadan specialties for iftar and suhour, the pre-dawn meal before the day’s fasting starts, are advertised on big signs, while giant screens set up in restaurants and cafes with one ad reading: “enjoy iftar, suhour and Euro Cup matches.”
Jordanian businesses are pinning hopes on Ramadan to attract visitors taking advantage of the country’s relative stability in the volatile Middle East.
“We have high hopes that business will pick up especially as Ramadan starts at the beginning of the summer, right at the start of schools’ summer break,” said Amman coffee shop owner Ala Shaban Shaban.
For war-weary Syrians, however, Ramadan will be like any other month. “We have been fasting before Ramadan and we will continue fasting afterward. Anyway, we can only afford one meal a day,” said Mohamad Abdel Razzak from rural Damascus.