Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, will begin the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on Friday along with most of the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.
The announcement in Cairo was made by Shaikh Ali Juma, the mufti of Egypt, during a ceremony broadcast on state television on Wednesday.
Similar announcements were made by the authorities and religious bodies throughout the Middle East and other parts of the world.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar, during which Muslims fast from before sunrise to after sunset.
Nothing is consumed during daylight hours in this period.
Self-discipline is one of the primary objectives of the fast in which all physical contact between husband and wife is also abandoned in daylight hours for the duration of Ramadan.
After sunset the fast is ended with modest meals followed by devotional exercises until sunrise. This routine is maintained for 29 or 30 consecutive days.
Muslims consider Ramadan an opportunity for self-purification and spiritual upliftment.
Ramadan provides the means for
self-discipline and introspection
It is also the month in which they are expected to empathise with the poor and downtrodden by not only remaining hungry but by purifying their hearts and minds.
Ramadan is also period of individual and collective introspection and an ideal opportunity for believers to put the true message of Islam into practice.
Many Muslim countries operate a reduced working week to allow the faithful time to perform the extra religious rituals associated with the Islamic holy text, the Quran.
The Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago during the month of Ramadan.
Every evening during the month its verses are recited from memory in congregational prayers by huffadh (people who have memorised the Quran).
This is one of the ways Muslims have ensured that the revelation has remained unchanged over the centuries.
Recitation of the Quran and additional prayers during this month re-enforces the basic tenets of faith for Muslims around the world.