Muslims in the Middle East are observing the holy month of Ramadan
which began on Saturday.
packed into the Arab bazaar in Jerusalem's Old City to shop for
Ramadan. The cobblestone alley ways are decorated with colored lights,
and shops are selling flashing crescent moons - the symbol of Islam.
Bakers flipped special pancakes to be eaten when the daily fast ends at
While many shopped, others came to pray at the Mosque
of Al-Aksa, the third holiest place in Islam. Ramadan marks the giving
of the first verses of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, to the Prophet
Khaled Hamdi, a Palestinian merchant, says Ramadan
is first and foremost a religious holiday, a time of repentance and
fasting from dawn to dusk.
"No drinking, no smoking, no eating, only praying," he said.
is the first Ramadan in 33 years to begin in August. And with
temperatures hovering around 33 degrees centigrade here in Jerusalem,
shopkeeper Khaled Faheb says it is a challenge.
"First of all
the day is longer, and the temperature is higher, and you don't drink
for about 16 hours, and this is pretty, pretty hard," said Faheb.
soldiers armed with assault rifles patrolled the narrow streets of the
Old City, and Faheb said that puts a damper on the holiday.
"It is a very sad Ramadan in Jerusalem mainly because of the occupation," he said.
are not optimistic about ending the Israeli occupation because peace
talks remain deadlocked. Faheb says there is plenty of blame to go
"I think it's both of us, we and the Israelis, I don't
blame only one side, I mean both of us are not ready for a real peace
settlement, no," he said.
Despite the volatile mix of religion and politics, the atmosphere was calm.