Saudi Arabia announces Ramadan 2023 to begin on Thursday

Holy month will begin this week after observers failed to spot crescent moon

A man looks for the first crescent moon in the Saudi city of Taif, in April 2022. AFP
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Ramadan 2023 will start on Thursday, Saudi Arabia's state media has announced.

Observers were unable to spot the new moon on Tuesday, the sighting committee reported, meaning the holy month will not commence until Thursday.

Wednesday will be the last day of the month of Shabaan, which precedes Ramadan, the Supreme Court later confirmed in a statement.

Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic — or Hijri — calendar. It is also believed to be the month the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

It is observed by more than 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide.

Observing Ramadan is one of the five holy pillars of Islam and is mandatory for all Muslims in good health.

The Muslim world typically looks to Saudi Arabia to determine the start of Ramadan and other religious holidays, although each country has their own sighting committee.

The kingdom's supreme court called on people to look for the crescent moon on Tuesday, requesting observers to report any sighting to the nearest court.

The UAE's moon-sighting committee also searched the skies, meeting in Abu Dhabi after the maghrib prayer.

Officials announced Ramadan would begin on Thursday after meeting at the judicial department, where reported sightings from across the country are collated.

Several other countries followed suit, including Qatar, Bahrain, Tunisia and Iraq.

It is the first Ramadan in three years without any Covid-19 restrictions in the UAE, after an indoor mask mandate was dropped in September.

This year, much of the region will be fasting for almost 14 hours a day.

Saudi officials have said they expect as many as three million pilgrims to visit the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah during Ramadan.

Communal iftars and long prayers will resume for the first time since the pandemic.

Updated: March 22, 2023, 6:37 AM