After the Ramadan month of fasting, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr with feasts and family visits. The start of the holiday is traditionally based on sightings of the new moon, which vary according to geographic location.
In Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, staccato blasts of gunfire marked the early hours of the feast day. A deadly conflict in the vast African country that erupted in the past week has forced many people to shelter indoors ahead of the holiday, even as water and food for civilians runs low.
“Instead of waking up to the call to prayer, people in Khartoum again woke up to heavy fighting,” said Norway’s ambassador to Sudan, Endre Stiansen. “Can any hell be more horrible than this?”
In Jerusalem, thousands of faithful gathered at Islam's third holiest shrine, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where tensions with Israeli authorities have seethed in the past month. The compound also hosts Judaism's holiest site.
The streets of Arab capitals Damascus, Baghdad and Beirut were crowded with worshippers heading to mosques and cemeteries. Many Muslims visit the graves of their loved ones after the early morning prayer on the first day of Eid al-Fitr. Visitors toted bouquets of flowers, jugs of water for plants, and brooms to clean gravestones.
“After the Eid prayer we always visit our dead … to pray and pay our respects, may God have mercy and forgive them on this blessed day,” said Atheer Mohamed in Baghdad’s Azamiya cemetery.'
In Egypt, people are struggling with a failing national currency coupled with rampant inflation, the latter true in many nations in the region. While normally, people would be shopping and spending money on Eid to celebrate, the economic situation there has dampened observance of the holiday.
In Turkey and Syria, many are still mourning loved ones lost in the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the two countries on Feb. 6, killing more than 50,000 people.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday performed morning Eid prayers at Hagia Sophia, the 6th century Byzantine church in Istanbul that was reconverted into a mosque three years ago.