With Ramadan approaching, people in Oman are preparing once again to observe the holy month during the coronavirus pandemic.
Authorities are attempting restore a level of normality across all sectors after the number of daily Covid-19 cases dwindled in the sultanate following a small spike at the start of the year.
The gulf nation has so far approved the use of 11 Covid-19 vaccines.
Omani authorities have encouraged people to receive their second and third shots of the vaccine. About 96 per cent of those admitted to intensive care units since the start of the pandemic were either unvaccinated or had received only one dose, Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Al Saeedi said.
Only the first and second Covid-19 shots are mandatory in Oman.
The country began its vaccination drive in December 2020. In early April 2021, the Ministry of Health urged all Omanis and Muslim expatriates to take their coronavirus vaccinations during the holy month.
Last Ramadan, an overnight lockdown was imposed in Oman, limiting movement from 9pm to 4am every day.
Here is everything you need to know about Ramadan 2022 in Oman, with a new set of restrictions for congregational prayers and communal meals.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar and comes after the month of Shaban.
Muslims believe that during this month, the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
It is a time for Muslims to strengthen their faith through fasting and prayer and through increased reciting of the Quran.
Fasting from sunrise to sunset throughout the holy month is an obligation for every able Muslim who has reached the age of maturity.
When does Ramadan begin?
Ramadan will most likely start on April 2, but the final date will be confirmed closer to the time by the Moon-sighting committee, part of Oman's Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs.
The committee, made up of astronomers, court officials and advisers from the country's Islamic authority, typically convenes after the maghrib, or sunset prayers, on the 29th day of Shaban to look for the new crescent moon.
What are the Covid-19 rules in Oman during Ramadan?
On March 29, Omani authorities announced that Ramadan's mass taraweeh prayers will be open in mosques to fully vaccinated people only. Others, including children, will not be allowed.
Mass gatherings for iftar and suhoor will again be prohibited, including the charity-led communal iftar gatherings, which are usually held in public for those in need.
“Charity teams and private establishments concerned, including civil society institutions, may distribute the meals to target beneficiaries, but without organising gatherings,” state news agency ONA reported.
Before the pandemic, large groups gathered for taraweeh every night during the holy month and large iftar meals were offered in mosques throughout Oman so Muslims could gather and break the day-long fast together.
Masks and social distancing will continue to be required in indoor areas as wedding and conference halls remain limited to 70 per cent capacity.
Ramadan working hours will be reduced from seven to five hours a day for civil servants.
For the private sector, working hours will be cut from eight to six hours a day.
Are charity drives operational this year?
All charity work will continue as usual, including the distribution of food packages.
What etiquette should I follow if I am not fasting this Ramadan?
Non-Muslims are advised to dress conservatively, not to eat in public during the daytime and to refrain from swearing.