By Isaac J. Martin and Shady Roshdy
Cairo, Apr 13 (EFE).- Crowds of people flowed the streets of Islamic Cairo to prepare for Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which started on Tuesday, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
In the neighborhood al-Moski, people with face masks on push each other through alleys full of shops to buy clothes and food for the holy month that see observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from dawn to sunset.
“People are enjoying their life because there are celebrations,” tells Efe Asmaa Asser, a 27-year-old woman waiting on a sidewalk for her sister, who is trying to buy goods.
This Ramadan, the Egyptian authorities have been more lax with Covid-19 measures compared to last year, when they imposed a curfew and banned the month’s evening “taraweeh” prayers.
“People are not afraid of the coronavirus, it is the coronavirus that is afraid of us,” 34-year-old Mai Gamal says while shopping.
Gamal, who runs an online business, is very happy to be able to go out shopping this year with her family and hang the traditional Ramadan decorations in her house, unlike last year, when she was locked down in fear of the spread of the virus.
However, coronavirus cases have been trending upwards in Egypt in recent weeks. More than 800 new infections have been registered daily this week.
The government has urged citizens to be cautious during Ramadan, which Muslims usually celebrate with large social and religious gatherings.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s rollout of vaccination against Covid-19 is considered slow as less than 300,000 doses have been administered so far, according to the World Health Organization.
Nearby al-Moski, in the country’s ancient bazaar of Khan al-Khalili, shops are empty and only a handful of tourists are seen strolling the streets but restaurants owners look forward to the increase in demand during the holy month.
This well-known touristy area gets full of Egyptians during Ramadan nights, according Radi Ismael, an employee at a famous restaurant.
“Last year there was no work and all the workers stayed at home for three months,” the 48-year-old says. The Egyptian authorities declared the strictest measures last year, imposing a curfew and closing non-essential businesses.
Momen Khalaf, who owns a clothing shop in al-Moski, tells Efe that there were no sales last year, “but this year is better than the previous one.” EFE