Thursday, August 8, 2013

Eid al-Fitr

Men pray in front of Haroon Mosque in Bangkok during Eid al-Fitr services Thursday

Thursday was Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of the Fast Breaking), the day Muslims worldwide mark the end of Ramadan, the month of spiritual renewal and fasting. Eid is more celebratory, it’s a time of feasting and parties.

I went to Haroon Mosque, in the old part of Bangkok, for Eid. I really enjoy photographing at Haroon Mosque. 

It’s about 200 years old. It was one of the first mosques in Bangkok and it’s tiny. But because it’s so well established it serves a lot of Muslim expatriates. There are worshippers from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia (it was originally established by Muslim traders from what is now Indonesia), India, Pakistan and Chechnya. From Africa, Europe and North America. In other words, from across the Muslim world. Announcements before services are made in Thai, Arabic and English.

During Eid the narrow streets leading to the mosque are lined with poor Muslims soliciting alms. Charitable giving is an important part of Muslim theology and giving during the holidays is especially important. As worshippers walked into and out of the mosque they frequently pressed a few Baht into the people’s hands. 
A man presses 20Baht (about .60¢ US) into a woman’s hand during Eid at Haroon Mosque

It’s a very social holiday. After services in the mosque people gather in small groups to chat and catch up. Families go to the small cemetery next to the mosque to leave flowers and pray for the deceased. 
A man leaves flowers on a grave

I almost didn’t go to the mosque for Eid. The actual date of Eid is based on the Islamic lunar calendar and is based on when the hilal moon (marking the beginning of a new lunar month) is seen. In the Arab world this was expected to be August 8. Eid was also scheduled to be celebrated on the 8th in Indonesia and North America. But it could be different in other countries. 

I spent the day Wednesday with a group of photojournalists covering protests around the Thai parliament. During our down time, we talked about we had coming up. Everyone was expecting to cover Eid but no one knew exactly when it was. The consensus was that Eid in Thailand would be on Friday, Aug. 9 because Ramadan had started a day late here (because the new moon to mark the start of Ramadan was seen a day late).

I worked late Wednesday night editing my photos from the protests and I was exhausted when I finally went to bed. But I couldn’t sleep when the sun came up, and in the spirit of “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” I downed a quick cup of instant coffee and went to the mosque.

I’m glad I did. It was packed. The crowd was so large men were worshipping in the alleys and plazas around the mosque (picture at the top of this post). I go to Haroon Mosque for photos a lot, and this was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it. 
A boy naps on his father’s shoulder while they wait for services to start. 

I photographed for a couple of hours then headed home to edit and file. It was a good day. There are more photos from Eid al-Fitr at Haroon Mosque in my archive or available from ZUMA Press
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