Omanis stock up at markets on the first day of Ramadan

Narrow streets make social distancing difficult in some areas of Muscat

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Omanis thronged markets on Wednesday to stock up on the first day of Ramadan despite rapidly rising cases of Covid-19.

A queue of cars lined up outside Muscat’s souqs, with some drivers honking impatiently trying to get into overcrowded car parks.

Shoppers wore masks but shopkeepers remained cautious.

“We cannot complain too much about the lack of social distancing as long as we are making money,” said Khalid Al Haddabi, 62, a fruit seller in the Seeb area of Muscat.

“It is not my place to police the crowd of shoppers. If they can show their money, I am happy to serve them. They should show more responsibility than the people who serve them.”

Different ways to greet someone during Ramadan

Different ways to greet someone during Ramadan

Social distancing is difficult in some narrow, shop-lined streets of the capital, and hand sanitiser scarce in stores, but few seemed put off.

“What can we do? They don’t have online shopping in the traditional souqs. Besides, even if they had online ordering, I would not have done it. The fun of Ramadan’s food shopping is to be physically here among the crowd," said Mohammed Al Falahi, 46, a shopper in Mawaleh Market.

"Not even Covid-19 can stop us being here,” he added.

Some woke up early in the morning to rush to the food stalls to get the freshest fruits and vegetables, and beat the crowds.

"Last year, I came late in the midafternoon and all the fresh fruit and vegetables were gone," Salah Al Hadidi, 32, told The National.

“This time, I arrived here at nine in the morning when the stalls were opening up before the big crowd got in. Another advantage of being here in the morning is to beat the evening lockdown.”

The 9pm to 4am lockdown starts on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims across the world fast from sunrise to sunset.

Oman has reported on Wednesday 1,269 new infection cases with nine deaths. The total number of deaths is 1,807 while a total of 175,633 people are infected.

On Wednesday, 105 people were admitted to the hospitals with the virus, bringing the total number of inpatients in hospitals to 759, including 250 in intensive care units.

Earlier this week, the Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Al Saeedi blamed new variants and lack of compliance with safety measures for the rise in cases in Oman.

Oman has banned iftar meals in mosques and taraweeh prayers, which are offered just after the sunset prayers.

Hotels and restaurants are also barred from serving iftar, but charity food distribution is allowed.