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Ramadan begins in much of the Middle East as prices soar

Cairo (AP)

The holy month of Ramadan Muslims-faithful fasting from dawn to dusk-began on Saturday sunrise in much of the Middle East, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused energy and food prices to skyrocket.

Conflicts cast a predicament on Ramadan when large gatherings over food and family celebrations were a tradition. Many of Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country, are scheduled to begin observations on Sunday, and some Shiites in Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq have also marked the start of Ramadan the next day.

According to the lunar calendar, the methodology of witnessing the moon can lead different countries to declare the start of Ramadan a day or two apart.

Muslim-dominated countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates have declared the month to begin on Saturday morning.

Friday’s Saudi Arabian statement was broadcast on Saudi Arabia’s national television, and Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in Ramadan. Blessed.

Jordan, a predominant Sunni country, also said that the first day of Ramadan would be Sunday, with a break from following Saudi Arabia. The kingdom said Muslim religious authorities could not find the crescent moon, which marks the beginning of the month.

Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Islamic group, has more than 60 million members, and according to its astronomical calculations, Ramadan said it would start on Saturday. However, the Minister of Religion of the country announced on Friday that Ramadan would start on Sunday after the country’s Islamic astronomers could not see the new moon.

This is not the first time Muhammadiyah has expressed a different opinion on this issue, but most Indonesians (Muslims make up almost 90% of the country’s 270 million people) are expected to follow official government dates. Has been done.

After the coronavirus pandemic has blocked the world’s 2 billion Muslims from many rituals over the past two years, many have wanted a more cheerful Ramadan.

But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, millions of people in the Middle East are wondering where their next meal will come from. Soaring prices are affecting people who are already disrupted by conflicts, evacuation and poverty from Lebanon, Iraq and Syria to Sudan and Yemen.

Ukraine and Russia account for one-third of the world’s wheat and barley exports, and Middle Eastern countries rely on subsidized bread and barley noodles to feed millions of people living on them. doing. They are also the top exporters of other grains and sunflower seed oils used in cooking.

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, has received most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine in recent years. The currency has also plummeted, adding to other pressures to push prices up.

Shoppers in the capital Cairo stocked up groceries and festive ornaments earlier this week, but prices soared that many had to buy cheaper than last year.

In Ramadan tradition, colorful lanterns and lights are laid around the narrow alleys and mosques of Cairo. Some who have the means to do so will set up a table on the street to prepare a free Iftar meal after a fast for the poor. This practice is known in the Islamic world as a “compassionate table.”

“This can be useful in this situation,” said Rabei Hassan, a muezzin in the Giza mosque, when he bought vegetables and other foods from a nearby market. “People are fed up with the price.”

Worshipers attended the mosque for hours of night prayer, or “Taraweef”. Thousands of people filled the Al-Azhar Mosque on Friday night after being banned from attending for the past two years to stave off a pandemic.

“They were (era) difficult … Ramadan without Taraweef in the mosque is not Ramadan,” said Saeed Abdel-Rahman, a 64-year-old retired teacher, when he entered Al Azhar for prayer. ..

Soaring prices have also exacerbated the predicament of Lebanese, who are already facing a major economic crisis. In the last two years, the currency has collapsed and the country’s middle class has fallen into poverty. The meltdown also led to a serious shortage of electricity, fuel and medicine.

In the Gaza Strip, few people shop on Fridays in the normally crowded markets during this time. Merchants said the Russian war against Ukraine caused prices to skyrocket alongside regular challenges, placing dampers in the festive atmosphere that Ramadan normally creates.

The living conditions of 2.3 million Palestinians in poor coastal areas are harsh, exacerbated by the devastating blockades of Israel and Egypt since 2007.

Towards the end of last year’s Ramadan, a deadly 11-day war between Hamas rulers in Gaza and Israel cast clouds on festivals, including the holiday of Eid al-Fitr following the holy month. This was the fourth bruise war with Israel in more than 10 years.

In Iraq, the start of Ramadan has highlighted widespread frustration with the sharp rise in food prices that was exacerbated by the war in Ukraine last month.

Suhaila Assam, a 62-year-old retired teacher and women’s rights activist, said she and her retired husband had more than doubled the price of cooking oil, flour and other necessities and struggled to survive on a $ 1,000 monthly pension. I said that I am doing it.

“As Iraqis, we use a lot of cooking oil and flour. Almost every meal. So how can a family of five survive?” She asked.

Akeel Sabah, 38, is a flour distributor in the Jamila wholesale market, feeding the entire Rasafa district of Baghdad on the eastern side of the Tigris River. He said flour and almost all other foods were imported. That is, distributors have to pay for them in dollars. A ton of flour cost $ 390. “Today I bought a ton for $ 625,” he said.

“The devaluation of the currency a year ago has already led to higher prices, but the ongoing (Ukraine) crisis has caused prices to skyrocket. Distributors have lost millions,” he said.

In Istanbul, Muslims prayed for Ramadan in Hagia Sophia for the first time in 88 years. This is almost two years after the iconic old cathedral was converted into a mosque.

Worshipers filled the 6th-century buildings and squares outside Friday night and offered the prayers of Tarawih, led by the government’s head of religion, Ali Erbas. It was converted for Islam and renamed the Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque in July 2020, but COVID-19 restrictions restricted worship at this location.

“After the 1988 separation, the Hagia Sophia regained Taraweef’s prayers,” Elbaz said, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

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Ramadan begins in much of the Middle East as prices soar

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