Ramadan 2021 in Egypt: Covid-19 rules and all you need to know

What will be different this year?

Egyptians have begun to descend on markets nationwide to stock up on foodstuffs for Ramadan, which starts next week.

Social distancing and isolation are not synonymous with the holy month, during which many people visit loved ones and attend large gatherings each night to engage in the ritualistic practice of iftar, or breaking the fast.

As the country grapples with the third wave of Covid-19, the government announced last week a number of new health and safety regulations to mitigate the pandemic this Ramadan.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a fasting month and a time when Muslims strengthen their faith through prayer and increased recitation of the Quran. Muslims believe that during this month the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed. It is also the ninth and holiest month in the Islamic – or Hijri – calendar.

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 13, but the final date will be confirmed by the Moon-sighting committee at Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa, closer to the time.

The Moon-sighting committee – a group of astronomers, court officials and advisers from the country's Islamic authority – typically convenes after maghrib, or sunset, prayers on the 29th day of Sha’ban to, look for the new crescent moon from Cairo’s Mokattam Hill.

What are the Covid-19 rules in Egypt during Ramadan?

Regulations are markedly more lenient this year compared with last Ramadan, with restaurants allowed to remain open and host limited Ramadan events. Ramadan last year coincided with the first month of a lockdown, when the country’s health and safety guidelines were at their strictest.

But authorities will be particularly strict with anyone not wearing a face mask or adhering to social-distancing protocols particularly on public transport, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, who heads the Supreme Committee for Coronavirus Crisis Management, said last week.

Similarly, any mosque that does not enforce health and safety regulations will be closed down and fined, he said.

The popular Ramadan sports tournaments played at clubs, youth centres or on the streets well into the night, are banned throughout the holy month.

Are mosques open during Ramadan in Egypt?

Unlike last year, Egypt’s Muslims can offer prayers at mosques this Ramadan, including the night-time prayers known as taraweeh (performed only during the holy month and one of its most important rituals), provided precautionary measures such as social distancing and wearing face masks are observed.

The Health Ministry is counselling the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases, two groups most vulnerable to the coronavirus, to pray at home.

Muslims will not be allowed to go into “spiritual seclusion” or l'tikaf at mosques during the final 10 days of the month, considered to be the holiest time of Ramadan.

Mosques will be open only 10 minutes before each prayer and close immediately after.

The mosques' ablution rooms, where ritual cleansing before prayers is performed, will be closed during the month, according to the Ministry of Awqaf, or religious endowments. Worshippers should also bring their own prayer rugs, it said.

Are group iftars and Ramadan tents allowed in Egypt during Ramadan?

While the government is strongly encouraging people to limit crowding and engage in their ritual celebrations at home this year as the country goes through the third wave of Covid-19, restaurants, cafes and malls will be open to receive people, unlike last year.

Hotels, which often host upmarket meals during Ramadan, will also be restarting this tradition this year. Hotels are exempt from operating under the mandated working hours and will remain open to receive visitors around the clock.

Are charity drives in Egypt operational this year?

Also banned this Ramadan are street charity banquets that offer iftar to Egypt’s less fortunate free of charge.

However, the government is currently hosting its sixth annual Ramadan supplies fair, which provides traditional Ramadan foods at reduced cost, to make sure as many people as possible can celebrate the holy month.

Furthermore, the nation’s most prominent charities have begun distributing Ramadan packages to the poor free of charge.

Will malls and restaurants be open for Ramadan?

Malls and retail stores will close their doors at 11pm to discourage crowding, which often increases in Ramadan when many people stay up late to have suhoor, a meal eaten before the fajr prayer at dawn, when practising Muslims start their daytime fast.

Cafes, restaurants and Ramadan bazaars will be allowed to open from 5am to 1am each day. Takeaway and delivery services will be allowed to operate around the clock to make up for lost business as they normally operate much later during Ramadan.

Essential businesses such as supermarkets, bakeries and pharmacies are exempt from the mandated operating hours and can operate around the clock.

What are the working hours in Egypt during Ramadan?

The government announced in the summer of 2020, following the easing of a 4-month lockdown, that until the pandemic is under control, there will be fixed operating hours for all businesses, with one set of timings for winter period and another for the summer.

In winter, malls and retail stores are allowed to operate from 7am to 10pm on weekdays, and 7am to 11pm at weekends and on official holidays. In summer, their closing times are extended to 11pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends and official holidays.

Under the winter timings, restaurants, cafes and bazaars can open from 5am and must close by midnight on weekdays and 1am on weekends and official holidays. In the summer period, closing hours are extended till 1am on both weekdays and weekends.

The summer working hours will go into effect on April 17 this year, Mr Madbouly said.

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Updated: April 13, 2021 10:48 AM

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