Egyptian Muslims perform first Eid prayers at mosques in pandemic era

Mohamed Soliman , Thursday 13 May 2021

Only large-sized mosques were allowed to receive congregants to observe Eid Al-Fitr prayers, which marks the end of Ramadan month

Egypt Eid prayers
Egyptian Muslims performed the Eid Al-Fitr's mass prayers this year amid fresh-introduced gatherings-limiting curbs meant to subdue the pandemic's third wave. PHOTO by Ali Nada

Egyptian Muslims performed the Eid Al-Fitr's mass prayers on Thursday at 5:28am Cairo time (GMT+2) into several mosques nationwide amid fresh-introduced gatherings-limiting curbs meant to subdue the pandemic's third wave.

Only large-sized mosques across Egypt were allowed to open their doors for the congregants nearly 10 minutes before the prayers time.

The worshippers were given seven minutes to utter the Takbeerat, a set of religious supplications that are usually repeated in the minutes leading up to the Eid Prayers, and then listened to a 10-minute sermon.

All mosques closed their doors 10 minutes after the termination of the prayers and the brief sermon under the recent anti-coronavirus safety measures.

Larger numbers of families, unlike last year, were allowed to observe the prayers of the breaking-fast Eid, which runs through Saturday, albeit just into big mosques that have been previously authorised to host Friday mass prayers.

Last year, the prayers of both Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, the other religious holidays in Islam, were restricted to a few major mosques nationwide; with only nearly a dozen of worshippers from each mosque's staffers had been allowed to attend over the then mounting concern of the pandemic's first wave.

Allowing this year’s Eid prayers is part of the country’s plan to live with the pandemic — that surfaced in Egypt in February last year — and restore normalcy.

All congregants were demanded to wear facemasks before entering the mosques, adhere to the 1.5-metre distancing rule, and using personal prayers rugs.

Though children were not allowed to attend the prayer under the announced precautions, many families accompanied theirs into mosques.

The mosques' outer courtyards, which had once been buzzing with activities and jubilant children in celebration of the feast, were ordered shut today under the new precautionary measures.

The curbs on Eid prayers come as part of a wider two-week long restrictive measures rolled out by the government last week amid mounting fears over a current spike in coronavirus infections and deaths pushed by a third wave of the pandemic.

As of late April, Egypt’s single-day toll of coronavirus infections has been on an upward curve, with more than 1,000 cases recorded a day.

Until hours before the beginning of the feast, the country has registered a total of 240,927 Covid-19 infections, including 178,805 recoveries and 14,091 deaths.

Amid the rising coronavirus infections and deaths, many Egyptian Muslims preferred to perform the Eid prayers at home alone or with family based on a religious opinion released by Egypt's Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s top religious institution, and Dar Al Iftaa, the country's body responsible for issuing religious edicts.

Both Egyptian religious bodies' opinion was mentioned in a statement released on Wednesday by the World Health Organization's Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO), in which it advised Muslims in the region and beyond to pray at homes, avoid physical greetings and social gatherings during the occasion.

The EMRO warned that the total tally of coronavirus infections in the Middle East is expected to reach 10 million in a few weeks.

"Let us make sure that this Eid al-Fitr, no one is infected or dies as a result of their own complacent behaviour, or that of others," the statement added.

The Egyptian government's new measures, in place from 6 till 21 May, to confront the new wave include the closure of all public parks and beaches, and disallowing trip and group buses between governorates, with the exclusion of private cars.

Nevertheless, no restrictions are imposed on the movement of citizens within or between governorates all day long.

All public gatherings, festive events, conferences, and mass activities have been banned nationwide through the two-week duration.Also, the closing hours of entertainment and commercial venues, under the new measures, has been brought forward two hours earlier to be at 9pm instead of 11pm.

However, pharmacies, bakeries, and supermarkets are allowed to open around the clock, with restaurants allowed to make home deliveries past 9pm.

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