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Muslims celebrate three-day holiday to mark end of fasting month of Ramadan
By Maamoun Youssef, Associated Press, 12/6/2002 07:50
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) Muslims across the Middle East marked the end of the Ramadan holy month with fireworks and gift-giving, celebrating this year's holiday against a backdrop of economic troubles, Israeli-Palestinian violence and a brewing conflict in Iraq.
Like Christmas is to Christians, the three-day Eid el-Fitr holiday is associated with family gatherings over lavish meals and gifts for children, especially clothes.
But while typical celebrations filled with the bangs of firecrackers and homemade cookies covered with powdered sugar are being held Friday, many Muslims have been asking what there is to celebrate.
''Disasters are falling on us from everywhere,'' said 36-year-old Cairo restaurateur Harb Hassan Mohammed, alluding to the U.S.-Iraqi standoff and Egypt's economic plight.
An economic slowdown in parts of the region brought on in part by more than two years of Israeli-Palestinian violence and uncertainty over the future of Iraq has forced many in the Middle East to scrimp this year.
''I used to get my children two pieces of clothes every Eid this year only one,'' he said.
In the embattled Gaza Strip, scores of Palestinians sat all day Thursday at the Erez border crossing waiting for Israeli soldiers to allow them into the Gaza Strip to spend the holiday with their families.
''It is very humiliating,'' said Salah Khamis, who had arrived from Jerusalem. ''This has nothing to do with security. This is just collective punishment against Palestinians.''
The mood in Jordan's Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp was also downbeat, with the only sign of celebrations the children playing outside their homes.
''It's a day just like any other,'' said Abu-Nasser, a camp resident who would only give one name. ''How you do you expect us to celebrate the Eid when our families in the West Bank and Gaza are suffering and facing the atrocities of the Israeli army?''
Eid el-Fitr began on Thursday to mark the end of Ramadan, a holy month in which observant Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and other worldly pleasures from dawn to dusk.
Muslims usher in the holiday with special early morning prayers in mosques or trips to movie theaters most of which are closed during Ramadan to see new releases.
Across the region, millions went on last-minute shopping sprees for clothes and sweets.
In Cairo, hundreds of thousands crowded the banks of the Nile wearing new shoes, shirts and jeans to take a boat ride or just a leisurely stroll.
In Beirut, families thronged amusement parks, while the well-to-do sat out the occasion at the city's chic street cafes.
The leaders of Egypt, Iran and the United Arab Emirates each pardoned hundreds of prisoners in goodwill gestures to mark the holiday.
Even with possible war brewing in Iraq, thousands of people in neighboring Kuwait welcomed in Eid by flying to the Arab world's fun destinations like Cairo, Dubai and Beirut. Women throughout the Gulf flocked to beauty salons to decorate their hands with henna, a reddish-brown dye.
In Bahrain, a small Gulf island nation and a close U.S. ally, Eid began Thursday with the firing of a cannon. In the Jordanian capital Amman, there were fireworks.
-- Anonymous, December 06, 2002