Muslims around the world are preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr – one of the holiest occasions in the Islamic calendar – while coping with coronavirus restrictions.
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, declared Wednesday as the final day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and Thursday as the start of the three-day holiday. The beginning and end of Islamic months are determined by the sighting of the new moon.
Other countries that will celebrate on Thursday include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. Oman has yet to announce if it will mark Eid on Thursday or Friday.
Some countries have imposed new restrictions during the holiday to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Authorities in Iraq, where daily infection rates remain high and the vaccination drive is slow, have announced a 10-day lockdown starting Wednesday.
Egypt meanwhile ordered shops to close by 9pm until May 21 in an attempt to limit crowds and social gatherings, while Tunisia imposed a curfew and movement restrictions until May 16.
However, other countries will ease restrictions as reported daily infections decline. Those include Jordan, which will shorten the night-time curfew starting Thursday.
Eid al-Fitr is usually marked with special prayers, while families exchange visits and share cookies filled with dates or nuts.
However, it will be a different picture in the besieged Gaza Strip where Israeli forces in recent days have launched intensive air raids on various locations across the coastal territory.
“This was supposed to be a moment to buy goods, food and needs,” Al Jazeera’s Safwat al-Kahlout, reporting from Gaza City, said. “But because of the recent escalation, people in Gaza have remained indoors because there is no infrastructure or shelters to hide,” he added.
Residential buildings have also been hit, al-Kahlout said, leaving many families homeless.
“We are in the [final] days in Ramadan; families usually gather around the table [to break fast]; now, they are suddenly homeless,” he added.