CAIRO: For the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, the smell of freshly baked orange cookies and cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar usually fills the air at Mona Abubakr’s home. But due to rising prices, the Egyptian housewife has been making smaller quantities of treats this year, some of which she gives as gifts to relatives and neighbors.
The mother-of-three also tweaked another tradition this Eid, which began Monday in Egypt and many countries and marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. She bought fewer outfits for her sons to wear during the three-day party.
“I told them we had to compromise on some things so we could afford other things,” she said.
This year, Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr – usually marked by communal prayers, festive gatherings over festive meals and new clothes – in the shadow of an exacerbated spike in global food prices. by the war in Ukraine. Against this backdrop, many are still determined to enjoy the holidays amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions in their countries while, for others, the festivities are being held back by conflict and economic hardship.
At Southeast Asia’s largest mosque, tens of thousands of Muslims attended Monday morning prayers. The Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, was closed when Islam’s holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and was closed to communal prayers last year.
“Words cannot describe how happy I am today after two years of being separated by the pandemic. Today we can once again pray Eid prayers together,” Epi Tanjung said afterward. that he and his wife worshiped in another mosque in Jakarta. “Hopefully this will make us more faithful.”
The mood was festive at Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque where people gathered for Eid prayers on Monday. A man threw lollipops in the air for the children to catch in celebration, before the start of the prayer, while other children played with balloons.
“I was really happy to see the gathering and the joy of people for Eid,” said devotee Marwan Taher. “The atmosphere here really made me feel like it was Eid.”
The war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia disrupted grain and fertilizer supplies, pushing up food prices at a time when inflation was already raging. A number of Muslim-majority countries rely heavily on Russia and Ukraine for much of their wheat imports, for example.
Even before the Russian invasion, a surprisingly strong global recovery from the 2020 coronavirus recession had created bottlenecks in the supply chain, causing shipping delays and driving up the prices of food and other basic products.
In some countries, the fallout from the war in Ukraine is only adding to the woes of those already suffering from unrest, displacement or poverty.
In the rebel-held province of Idlib in northwestern Syria, Ramadan this year has been tougher than past Ramadans. Abed Yassin said he, his wife and three children now receive half the quantities of produce – including chickpeas, lentils, rice and cooking oil – that they received last year from a support group. It made life more difficult.
Syria’s economy has been hammered by war, Western sanctions, corruption and an economic collapse in neighboring Lebanon where Syrians have billions of dollars stuck in Lebanese banks.
In the Gaza Strip, although the streets and markets are bustling, many say they can’t afford much.
“The situation is difficult,” said Umme Musab, a mother of five, as she visited a traditional market in Gaza City. “Employees barely earn a living but the rest of the population is crushed.”
Mahmoud Al-Madhoun, who bought date paste, flour and oil to make Eid cookies, said financial conditions were going from bad to worse. “However, we are determined to rejoice,” he added.
The Palestinian enclave, which relies heavily on imports, was already vulnerable before the war in Ukraine as it was subjected to a strict Israeli-Egyptian blockade intended to isolate Hamas, its militant leaders.
Afghans are celebrating the first Eid since the Taliban took power amid security and difficult economic conditions. Many were cautious but headed to Kabul’s biggest mosques for prayers on Sunday when the holidays began there amid tight security.
Frequent explosions marked the period leading up to Eid. These included deadly bombings, most claimed by a Daesh affiliate, known as Daesh in Khorasan province, targeting predominantly Shia ethnic Hazaras, leaving many to asking if it was safe to attend Eid prayers in mosques.
“We want to show our resilience, that they cannot push us away,” community leader Dr. Bakr Saeed said ahead of Eid. “We will move forward.”
Violence was not the only source of concern. Since the Taliban takeover in August, the Afghan economy has been in freefall with skyrocketing food prices and inflation.
At a charity food distribution center in Kabul on Saturday, Din Mohammad, a father of 10, said he expected this Eid to be his worst.
“With poverty, no one can celebrate Eid like in the past,” he said. “I wish we had jobs and work so we could buy something for ourselves, without having to wait for people to feed us.”
Muslims follow a lunar calendar and methodologies, including moon-sighting, can cause different countries – or Muslim communities – to declare the start of Eid on different days.
In Iraq, security concerns are also plaguing celebrations, with security forces on high alert from Sunday to Thursday to avert possible attacks after a suicide bombing in Baghdad last year ahead of another major Islamic holiday which killed dozens of people.
In India, the country’s Muslim minority is reeling from the vilification of hardline Hindu nationalists who have long taken anti-Muslim stances, with some incitement against Muslims. Tensions escalated into violence during Ramadan, including stone-throwing between Hindu and Muslim groups. Muslim preachers have warned worshipers to remain vigilant during Eid, which will be celebrated there on Tuesday.
Indian Muslims are “proactively preparing for the worst,” said Ovais Sultan Khan, a rights activist. “Nothing is the same for Muslims in India, including Eid.”
Still, many Muslims elsewhere have rejoiced in reviving rituals disrupted by pandemic restrictions.
Millions of Indonesians crammed into trains, ferries and buses ahead of Eid as they emerged from major cities to celebrate with their families in villages in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. The return of the homecoming tradition has caused great excitement after two years of subdued festivities due to pandemic restrictions.
“The desire for (the) celebration of Eid in a normal way was finally relieved today, although the pandemic is not over yet,” said Jakarta resident Hadiyul Umam.
Many residents of the capital flocked to malls to buy clothes, shoes and sweets ahead of the holidays despite pandemic warnings and soaring food prices.
Muslims in Malaysia were also in a celebratory mood after their country’s borders fully reopened and COVID-19 measures eased. Ramadan bazaars and malls were packed with shoppers ahead of Eid and many traveled to their hometowns.
“It is a blessing that we can now return to celebrate,” said sales manager Fairuz Mohamad Talib, who works in Kuala Lumpur. His family will celebrate in his wife’s village, where they had planned to visit neighbors.
“It’s not about celebrating, it’s about coming together,” he said ahead of the holidays. With COVID-19 still on their minds, the family will take precautions such as wearing masks when visiting. “There will be no handshakes, just fist bumps.”