Cairo: As the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan approaches, Muslims in Egypt have to scale down preparations for the holiest month in the Islamic lunar calendar due to the raging novel coronavirus.
During the month-long Ramadan, which starts on Thursday this year, Muslims usually abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking from sunrise to sunset. It has been a long tradition for Egyptians to flock to the markets to stock up food and buy different kinds of sweets, candies and soft drinks.
However, the business in the markets this year has been slow due to low customer turnout since the Egyptian government started taking strict anti-COVID-19 measures in March, including a nighttime curfew.
"This year is completely different. The coronavirus outbreak impacted our daily routine and locked us in homes, but the joyful tradition of Ramadan could still be maintained," said Ghada, a 32-year-old teacher, while observing her children picking up Ramadan ornaments at a store in Cairo's upscale Maadi district.
After a quick tour inside the store, the middle-aged mother bought traditional Ramadan lanterns for her kids and planned to adorn the house with the colourful decorations to bring happiness to her family amid the tough conditions caused by the spread of the deadly virus.
Like every year, Ghada also bought Ramadan Yamish, traditional nuts and dried fruits, that are usually served during the holy fasting month.
"But I bought packed Yamish to promote the hygiene measures and avoid any possible spread of the virus," she noted.
Mahmoud Azmi, owner of a grocery in Maadi, has focused more on selling canned and packed food to attract clients.
Wearing gloves and a face mask, Azmi said customers started to buy food items usually consumed during Ramadan, especially nuts and drinks.
"I expect more customers will come to buy in the coming two weeks," Azmi said as he sprayed the hands of a customer with alcohol, noting that fewer buyers are showing up this season.
Egypt has so far confirmed 3,490 COVID-19 cases, including 264 deaths and 870 recoveries.
The North African country is currently implementing a nationwide 10-hour curfew for two weeks until April 23 over COVID-19 concerns.
The curfew is expected to extended during Ramadan to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, the Egyptian authorities said all congregational religious activities, including communal prayers in mosques, will continue to be suspended during Ramadan.
Other public activities planned for the month, including charity banquets for the needy have been suspended as well.
Dalal Sobhy, a 45-year-old housewife, preferred to avoid any unnecessary social contacts and tended to make the Ramadan ornaments with very simple home-made items.
She let her kids cut small papers, color and glue them together to make different shapes.
"I used last year's ornaments for the tables and walls of the dining room, and hanged the home-made decorations in the living room," Sobhy told Xinhua.
She noted that her children were very happy making the ornaments, which helped them get rid of their boredom for some time.
"We will miss a lot of happiness and entertainment this year, especially the family banquets," the lady said sadly, hoping the lockdown and curfew will come to an end soon.