VIDEO: London's West End lights up for Ramadan for the first time ever - GulfToday

VIDEO: London's West End lights up for Ramadan for the first time ever

Ramadan-Piccadilly-750x450

First ever Ramadan lights installation at Piccadilly Circus is pictured on the eve of the first day of Ramadan in London on Wednesday. Reuters

Gulf Today Report

The Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan began at sundown on Wednesday, as the faithful prepared for a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting intended to bring them closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate.

For the next 30 days, Muslims will refrain from eating or drinking anything - even the tiniest sip of water - from sunrise to sunset.

Many will strictly observe prayers, read the Holy Quran and donate to charity as they seek to draw closer to Allah.

Family and friends will gather for joyful nightly feasts.

In London this year, though, there is a viable difference to the festival. For the first time, Ramadan will be celebrated with a light display in central London, in Piccadilly Circus, no less.

‘Ramadan Lights’ is the first street illumination to celebrate the holy month in the UK and Europe.

It’ll be blazing away on Coventry Street (between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, where the Trocadero is) until April 21.

Around 30,000 lights form 61 moons, and to be more sustainable, the lights are more energy-efficient LEDs, while the carbon from the installation will be offset.

Aziz Foundation said, “THE LIGHTS ARE ON. The Aziz Foundation brings Central London the FIRST EVER Ramadan lights, attached to Aziz Family buildings!

We will lead this for years to come, so make sure to visit & tag us! Special thank you to Heart of London Business Alliance.Ramadan Mubarak!”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said on Twitter, “Tonight we welcome the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan."

“I want to thank London’s Muslims, not only for your enormous contribution to our city, but for showcasing London’s caring and compassionate values.

“From my family to yours: Ramadan Mubarak. In another Tweet he wrote, “Ramadan Mubarak!

Wishing all Muslims in London and around the world a blessed and joyful Ramadan. #RamadanMubarak”

Ramadan-Picadilly1-750x450Women stop to photograph the first ever Ramadan lights installation at Piccadilly Circus in London

This year many will struggle to afford holiday treats amid soaring prices fuelled in part by the war in Ukraine.

The Holy Month will also be shadowed by the suffering in Turkey and Syria, where an earthquake last month killed more than 52,000 people,

However, there have been some encouraging signs of possible reconciliation.

More than 1.8 billion Muslims, who account for around a quarter of the world’s population, are expected to observe Ramadan. Islam follows a lunar calendar, so the month begins a week and a half earlier each year, cycling through the seasons, including the long days of hot summers.

Ramadan1-2023-750x450People read Holy Quran at the Grand Mosque ahead of Ramadan in Sanaa, Yemen. Reuters

The start of the month depends on the sighting of the crescent moon by local religious authorities and astronomers, and can sometimes vary from country to country. But this year there was broad agreement that it began Wednesday evening, with Thursday declared as the first day of fasting.

In Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, worshippers flooded mosques for evening prayers after authorities declared that several Islamic astronomy observer teams had sighted the crescent moon in different regions. Muslim authorities in Saudi Arabia and several other Middle Eastern countries have also announced that Ramadanbegan on Wednesday night.

Ramadan2-2023-750x450A man prays inside the Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani shrine on the first day of the Ramadan in Srinagar. AFP

Muslims believe Allah began revealing the Holy Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during Ramadan more than 1,400 years ago.

The fast is one of the five pillars of Islam and is required for all Muslims, though exceptions are made for young children and the sick, as well as women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating. Travelers are also exempt, including athletes attending tournaments away from home.

Those observing the fast must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset. They are also encouraged to refrain from cursing, fighting, gossip or road rage throughout the Holy Month.

Many Muslims, particularly those who live in the US and Europe, are accepting and welcoming of others around them who are not observing Ramadan.

They also are not expecting shorter work hours, as is the case in the public sector across much of the Arab world during Ramadan.

The normal bustle of cities dies down by late afternoon, with streets emptying and shops closing early. Muslims traditionally break the fast at sunset as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was said to have done, with a sip of water and a few dates.

Ramadan-2023-750x450People read the Holy Quran after at Al Makmur mosque in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. AFP

Some can be seen happily indulging in a long-awaited cigarette.

After sunset prayers, family and friends gather for "iftars” - feasts with local holiday treats like candies and nuts. Mosques and charities set up outdoor banquets where the poor can eat for free each night of Ramadan. Muslims then wake up early for "suhoor,” a small meal eaten just before dawn.

Five-star hotels, particularly in wealthy Arab Gulf countries, host lavish iftars, and cable networks unveil big-budget soap operas, raking in millions in advertising. Both practices have been criticized by conservatives who fear Ramadan is becoming too commercial.

Ramadan culminates in Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Destiny, during the last 10 nights of the month, when Muslims engage in intense late night worship. Muslims believe this was the night God sent the Angel Gabriel to the prophet to reveal the first verses of the Quran.

After the last day of fasting, Muslims celebrate Eid Al Fitr, a festive three-day holiday in which children are often given new clothes and gifts.

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