“Eid al-Fitr is the time for everybody to gather and ask for forgiveness, not only from Allah but from parents, spouses and the children. It’s time always for a new beginning.”
–Taijuddin Ismail, Jakarta
After a disciplined month of fasting and abstention, observant Muslims the world over declared victory over temptation as the sight of the new moon signaled the closure of Ramadan and the start of Eid al-Fitr, or Day of the Breaking of the Fast. Decked out and gift-loaded, Muslims traversed the streets, sand dunes, and waterways of the world on their way to prayer and celebration with some of the planet’s most iconic landmarks lighting their way. Here’s a look at Eid 2015 around the globe.
As the cultural center of the Islamic faith, the Middle East saw no shortage of celebrations throughout the region. From the “Eid Bus” of Riyadh to the gleeful celebrations of an Iran still riding the high of the recent nuclear deal announcement, residents and visitors alike enjoyed fellowship with their neighbors.
Despite the ubiquity of the holiday in the Middle East, conflict marched on. War-torn Yemen saw a significant victory for loyalist forces, with the retaking of Aden coinciding with the start of Eid. In some afflicted areas of the region, the holiday moved forward with remembrances of the dead and a respite from grief for the orphaned. Eid also provided surprising but much-welcomed warmth to frosty political relations as well-wishes from Israel to the Palestinian Authority brought new hope for renewed sovereignty negotiations.
Across the Sinai Peninsula, Africans north and south of the Sahara marked the end of Ramadan with massive gatherings. In East Africa, a long history of relations with neighbors to the north and across the Red Sea to the east has blended African and Arab traditions, making Eid a distinctly multicultural affair. Fellowship throughout the continent created opportunities to reflect on challenges to the sustainable development of African nations, including entrenched disease and poverty.
Despite the high spirits, festivities were darkened by ongoing social ills in Egypt and twin suicide attacks by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. As in other parts of the Muslim world, the continued scourge of religiously fueled terrorism tempered revelry outside of the Nigerian capital, with community leaders trumpeting the need to confront and uproot radicalism in local Muslim communities.
Politicians and celebrities joined everyday citizens in vibrant festivals around a region distinctive for its religious diversity. Befitting a holiday that culminates a month of selflessness, Eid brought peace to the violence-weary and solace to the disaster-devastated, with even the Taliban taking diplomatic steps towards conflict resolution.
As Eid shared the stage with this year’s Rath Yatra, Muslims extended the spirit of community to their non-Muslim neighbors, even postponing their own celebrations to accommodate the annual Hindu festival.
While celebrations from Moscow to Sidney enlivened the Eurasia and Asia Pacific regions, long-standing tensions between minority Muslim communities and government officials continued through the holiday. Ongoing violence and political oppression disrupted Ramadan for ethnic Uyghurs in China, while a police shootout with suspected terrorists on the eve of Eid in Kyrgyzstan stoked fears of religious radicalism having reached the steppes of Central Asia.
Still smarting from public clashes over immigration in Melbourne, Australia saw the cancellation of the Australian Federal Police’s annual Eid dinner in Sydney following Muslim community leaders’ call for a boycott. Across the Timor Sea in Indonesia, the one-two punch of an economic downturn and a travel-crippling volcanic eruption did not deter residents of the country with the world’s largest Muslim population from finding ways to honor the holiday.
Europe and the Americas have faced similar challenges in integrating their religiously diverse populations, but Eid was an opportunity to reflect on some of the strides made around the Atlantic. In the U.K., records were vaporized as 60,000 converged on Birmingham for its annual festival, with British retailers eagerly reaping the benefits.
Across the pond, the Eid spirit swept from the suburbs of Chicago and St. Louis to the shores of Toronto and Halifax, giving Muslims an opportunity to connect their faith with their communities and draw Ramadan to a joyful close.