Skip to main content

Ramadan under lockdown: Which Middle East countries are loosening coronavirus measures?

A number of countries across the region are set to loosen lockdown or curfew measures for the Muslim holy month
Palestinians buy food items at supermarket in Gaza City ahead of Muslim holy month of Ramadan (AFP)

This year, millions of Muslims across the Middle East are facing a Ramadan like never before, as communal and cultural events are disrupted by the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

While lockdowns and social distancing measures are expected to last until Eid (late May) in many countries, Middle East Eye takes a look at how some governments in the region are loosening restrictions during the Muslim holy month.

Bahrain

Bahrain's state news agency reported on Wednesday that the kingdom would be extending coronavirus measures for an two additional weeks from 23 April (the beginning of Ramadan) until 7 May.

These measures include closing all cinemas, sports centres, gyms and salons, and restricting restaurants operations to food delivery and takeaway only.

The country has said while it will host Taraweeh (communal night prayers) at the al-Fateh Grand Mosque, they will only involve the imam and five people.

Egypt

Egypt is set to reduce a nightly curfew, put in place to combat coronavirus, by an hour for Ramadan.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told a televised news conference on Thursday that the curfew would start at 9pm instead of the previous 8pm, and run until 6am.

Although communal activities and mass prayers have been banned, Madbouly said some restrictions would be eased, such as allowing shops and restaurants to deliver food.

Palestine

The West Bank and Gaza are observing different lockdown rules as Ramadan approaches.

Hamas-run Gaza has no official reports of coronavirus infections and therefore no lockdown measures are currently in place.

Coronavirus: British Muslims prepare to celebrate Ramadan under lockdown
Read More »

Although in the West Bank the Palestinian Authority has declared a state of emergency, a full lockdown has been eased to allow some businesses to resume partial operations.

Schools, wedding halls, restaurants and mosques remain closed.

In Jerusalem, the al-Aqsa mosque will be closed for Ramadan for what its managers say will be the first time since the birth of Islam.

"Such a decision was the first in 1,400 years; it is tough, and it pains our hearts," Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia plans to ease curfew hours it imposed on several cities during the month of Ramadan, to allow people more time to shop for essential needs within the boundaries of their neighbourhoods, the state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

Currently, people living in areas under 24-hour curfew can go out for health care and to supermarkets from 6am to 3pm.

During Ramadan, these hours will be from 9am until 5pm, SPA said.

Turkey

Turkey has announced a four day lockdown between April 23 and April 27, covering Turkey's 30 largest provinces.

Coronavirus: British Muslims prepare to celebrate Ramadan under lockdown
Read More »

Markets and grocery stores will operate from 8am to 11pm on 21 and 22 April and then from 9am to 2pm on 23 and 24 April for the beginning of Ramadan.

The country has also taken steps to repatriate its citizens from abroad ahead of the holy month.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Foreign Ministry have said they will bring back almost 25,000 citizens from 59 countries before the start of Ramadan.

On Thursday, 349 Turkish nationals were brought back from Canada, and another  249 from Oman, all of whom were put into quarantine upon arrival.

UAE

The UAE is looking into reducing some of its coronavirus restrictions during Ramadan.

The country on Thursday said it had shortened a nationwide coronavirus curfew by two hours, to run from 10pm to 6am daily during Ramadan, according to the state news agency WAM.

Health workers gather a centre in the Warsan neighbourhood, where people infected or suspected of being infected by the virus are quarantined, in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai (AFP)
Health workers gather at centre in Warsan neighbourhood, where people infected or suspected of being infected by virus are quarantined in Gulf Emirate of Dubai (AFP)

The previous curfew had run from 8pm to 6am daily. It was not clear whether the new announcement includes Dubai, which has been under 24 hour lockdown.

Officials in Dubai have said they were considering reopening malls "with necessary measures and precautions", according to local reports. 

Dubai is also reportedly to allow limited social gatherings of up to 10 people during Ramadan, as long as they following social distancing rules.