In Photos: Worshippers flock to Egypt's mosques for return of Friday prayers with joy 'like Eid'

Menna Alaa El-Din , Friday 28 Aug 2020

The authorities have allowed Friday prayers to resume at major mosques with an accredited imam from the religious endowments ministry leading the prayers, with strict anti-COVID-19 measures in place

Friday prayers at Azhar Mosque

Jubilant worshippers returned to Egypt’s major mosques for Friday prayers this week for the first time after an unprecedented five-month hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Major mosques nationwide opened for the weekly prayers in the wake of lower numbers of daily coronavirus cases under strict preventives measures, with worshippers describing the return of the ceremony as feeling “like Eid,” according to Ahram Online correspondents.

A similar joy is set to follow for Christians; Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has said will resume masses on Friday starting 11 September with reduced numbers of congregants and other precautionary measures, after a five-month suspension on the back of coronavirus-related restrictions. Masses had resumed earlier this month on every day except for Friday.

"Many thanks to Allah for allowing us return to the mosques again,” one worshipper said as they congratulated another following the conclusion of prayers at a mosque in Downtown Cairo.

The authorities have allowed Friday prayers to resume at major mosques with an accredited imam from the religious endowments ministry leading the prayers, with the weekly sermon set at only ten minutes, under strict measures similar to restrictions applied since the reopening of mosques for daily prayers at the end of June.

The preventive measures include worshippers wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and using personal prayer rugs. Mosques will be open only 10 minutes ahead of prayers and will be closed immediately afterwards.

Several worshippers at the downtown mosque were prevented from entering for not wearing masks and not having their own prayer rugs.

"It's not my own decision, it's the decision of the government and I am responsible for enforcing it," said a mosque official who was preventing people from entering.

Inside the mosque, worshippers adhered to the precautionary measures, wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing by following new signs.

Others had to perform the prayers outside when the mosque reached full capacity inside, with thongs of worshippers.

An Ahram Online correspondent attending prayers at a Maadi mosque in another part of Cairo said some worshippers also had to pray outside after the mosque reached full capacity.

Despite the joy, congregants were upset that only a few mosques were currently open, questioning the logic as mosques would be crowded even if less people attended, due to the limited number of open mosques.

In another Maadi mosque, the numbers of worshippers was similar to the numbers before the coronavirus, a correspondent said, with throngs of worshippers praying outside in the open air. Social distancing rules were strictly observed inside the mosque.

Ninety percent of the people at the mosque were wearing masks and following social distancing rules outside.

“I came to pray because I have really missed the Friday prayer and missed meeting God at the mosque, and because it is an obligation," Ahmed Saeed, 37, told Ahram Online from behind his mask after he finished praying at a mosque in Maadi.

He said he was not concerned about the risk of the virus and that people should adapt.

"We go out and go to malls and to work; praying is no less important. The virus is going to be part of our daily lives that we should learn to come to terms with,” Saeed said.

At a mosque in the Haram neighbourhood of Cairo, another Ahram Online correspondent attended prayers that were so packed worshippers spilled out into surrounding streets.

“The preventive measures are really good. I was keen on joining the prayers today, despite being a bit worried. I was encouraged [to join] after I saw worshippers flocking to the mosque,” Sabet Saqr told Ahram Online after the prayers concluded.

Mohamed Ahmed, who prayed outside the mosque due to the huge turnout, expressed his enthusiasm about the return of the weekly service.

“I’m full of joy for the return of prayers. However, people need to be more careful, mainly those praying outside, because people didn’t really adhere to social distancing,” said Ahmed.

Friday prayers at Azhar Mosque

Friday prayers at Azhar Mosque

Friday prayers in Haram

Friday prayers in Haram

*Additional reporting by Mahmoud Elassal, Karim Farouk, Yasser Sediq and Ayat Al-Tawy.

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