Muslims in Tunisia are preparing to observe Ramadan for a second time during the coronavirus pandemic.
But unlike last year, when Tunisia was under complete lockdown for the holy month, this year restrictions have been eased and for many Tunisians daily life has almost returned to normal.
Health experts in the country warned, however, that a dangerous third wave of the virus was coming as cases of the UK Covid-19 variant surge. The outbreak may be accelerated by large gatherings for iftars, prayers at mosques, and celebrations.
The country's curfew will remain from 10 pm to 5 am throughout the holy month, as Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi urged Tunisians to be more vigilant about physical distancing and wearing masks.
Here’s everything you need to know about Ramadan 2021:
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar. It is also believed to be the month the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
Many Muslims in Tunisia fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the month. For those who do not fast, Ramadan is still a time for family and enjoying the evening iftar meal together.
As well as abstaining from food and drink, Ramadan is also a time for Muslims to strengthen their faith through prayer and increased recitation of the Quran.
When does Ramadan begin?
Ramadan will most likely start on April 13, but the final date will be confirmed closer to the time.
While many countries follow Saudi Arabia’s lead on marking the start of the holy month, Tunisia relies on local astronomers at the historic Zitouna mosque in the medina, or old city, of Tunis.
The astronomers typically convene after sunset prayers on the 29th day of Sha’ban to look for the new crescent moon. If they spot it, Ramadan begins the following day. If not, Sha'ban will last 30 days and Ramadan will begin thereafter.
What are the Covid-19 rules in Tunisia during Ramadan?
Tunisia’s government has yet to outline specific restrictions around Ramadan but, with a third wave of Covid-19 infections looming, new restrictions could be put in place.
Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said a complete lockdown was unlikely, as it would do little to stem the spread of infection.
Mosques are open, with no limit on capacity for worshippers.
The government has not put restrictions on gathering for group iftars speficially during Ramadan this year, but private and public gatherings remain banned.
Will restaurants in Tunisia be open during Ramadan?
Tunisia’s Ministry of Interior prohibits cafes from operating during fasting hours, but many operate clandestinely.
In areas popular with tourists or expats, more shops and restaurants are open during the day, though many close in the afternoon so people can prepare their iftar meals.
It is illegal to sell liquor during Ramadan in Tunisia, so many bars close for the month and grocery stores cordon off their alcohol selection.
What are the working hours in Tunisia during Ramadan?
Government offices operate from morning until noon during the month of Ramadan, and many businesses shift their working hours to be open late in the evening.