For most Muslims, Eid Al Fitr, the holiday that celebrates the end the month of Ramadan, begins today. Its purpose is universal, but the many ways in which it is celebrated reflect the diversity of Islam, the world's second largest religion. Some of the traditions are ancient. In Egypt, patisseries are piling up heaps of kahk, a filled biscuit and staple of the country's Eid celebrations. The recipe is said to date back to the Ancient Egyptians. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's second most populous city, residents are finding it easier to hold family fishing trips, an old tradition previously limited by Covid-19 measures in the ancient port.
Other developments are more unique to modern times. For the first time, Edgbaston cricket stadium in the British city of Birmingham will today hold celebrations with 2,000 people in attendance. And on Sunday, Dubai announced that it will be issuing long-term visas and financial rewards to imams, preachers and muezzins who have served in the emirate for more than two decades.
A holiday atmosphere might be descending on much of the Islamic world, but Eid is more than a time to relax. One of the most important religious dates on the calendar, it is also a time for reflection, particularly on the troubles of less fortunate people. For Afghanistan, Eid came a day earlier than in neighbouring states, but after a disastrous year there is little to celebrate. In the past few months, girls have been denied an education and scores of civilians have been killed in bombings, many in mosques and often with a partisan or racist intent, the most recent being a deadly attack on a school attended by members of the country's Hazara minority.
Palestinians are another oppressed group under fire this Ramadan. Violent tensions are running dangerously high in Israel, raising the worrying prospect of more bloodshed between Palestinians and Israelis as intense as last Ramadan's. Violence from both sides should be condemned, but so should a longstanding yearly cycle of provocation by Israeli forces, particularly at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site, during the holiest time of the Islamic year.
For the poorest Muslims there is also increasingly little to celebrate with. Rising food prices mean meals, a central part of both Ramadan and Eid, are a significant financial strain. Egyptian mother of five Azza, who has been making kahk since she was a child, told The National that rising prices, particularly for sugar and flour, are making the tradition more costly than ever. For many Afghans, Saturday's attack on two power transmission towers means that the act of cooking itself will be a great deal harder, as well as lighting homes for evening celebrations. Some service has been resumed, but a full repair will take two weeks. It is a sign of the vulnerability and uncertainty people will face in the months, probably years ahead.
In the face of all these challenges, there is one concrete place to look for hope. While far from over, much of the world has emerged from the worst of Covid-19. For Muslims this means that, at least in terms of being with family, friends and community, Eid 2022 is one of notable progress. But for an unlucky number of faithful, sacrifice, which is at the heart of Ramadan, did not end today.