Egypt to hold Ramadan charity meals for first time in two years

Taraweeh prayers will be allowed and restrictions on weddings and celebrations eased

Poor Egyptians enjoy a free iftar on a street in the Zamalek district of Cairo August 14, 2010. During Ramadan, wealthy individuals, charitable organizations and mosques traditionally distribute food to the poor. (Photo by Scott Nelson, for the National)

Egypt's charity communal meals will be back for the first time in two years this Ramadan as the government removed or eased many Covid-19 restrictions ahead of the holy month, state media reported.

The events, known as Mawa'ed Al Rahman, or the Tables of [Allah] the Merciful, are aimed at feeding the less fortunate in society, giving devout Muslims an opportunity to offer homemade hot meals as a form of charity during the month.

The government also announced that congregational nightly prayers, known as taraweeh, would be allowed during Ramadan, although the cabinet had said last week that the prayers will be kept at under 30 minutes and social-distancing measures will remain in place.

Mosques will close to worshippers after taraweeh and will not accommodate the late-night tahajjud prayers, the Information and Decision Support Centre said on Sunday, quoting the High Committee to Manage Pandemics and Endemics.

Egypt's Cabinet said Friday prayers would follow the guidelines on social distancing and shorter hours announced last year.

Egypt has announced Ramadan would begin on April 2.

With most pandemic containment measures eased or removed for Ramadan, cafes and restaurants will be able to remain open until 2am as of April. Weddings and celebrations will be allowed at indoor hotel halls, although with some precautions, the committee said.

Acting Health Minister and Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said Covid-related deaths had declined over the past five weeks with the latest figures from Saturday showing an average of eight fatalities due to the virus over the past week. On March 19, the average number of deaths in one week stood at 12, while on March 6, that figure was at 25. On February 27, that figure stood at 35 deaths.

Almost 33 million people have been fully vaccinated against the virus, the equivalent of 52 per cent of the "targeted groups", Mr Abdel Ghaffar said. Overall, 76.5 million doses of the vaccine and just under two million booster shots have been administered, he said. Egypt's Ministry of Health and Population has also made the vaccine available for free for residents who apply through the ministry's online portal.

Ramadan in Egypt - in pictures

Ukraine war 'acutely felt' in Middle East

Like many other countries in the region, Egypt has been hit hard by a surge in global wheat prices caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Two weeks ago, an Egyptian committee to address this issue met and assured that food prices will remain relatively stable in the run-up to Ramadan.

The government has been clamping down on merchants and vendors accused of hoarding commodities to increase prices.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on a tour of the region, said he would speak to leaders about ways to mitigate the impact of this crisis on "the most vulnerable".

"This impact is acutely felt in this region where most countries import at least half of their wheat — a significant portion of which comes from Ukraine," he said.

"Over the course of this trip, we'll be discussing steps that we can take in co-ordination with partners to mitigate these consequences, to alleviate some of the burden this is placing on people throughout the Middle East."

Updated: March 28, 2022, 9:24 AM
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