As Oman celebrated Eid al Fitr under tight COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on congregational prayers at mosques as well as on traditional and family gatherings, many still enjoyed the new experience with the same vigour and warmth within their own nuclear families.
Without COVID-19, Eid holidays are usually celebrated by lavish daytime feasts and gatherings and many would usually invite each other to celebrate at their homes after finishing Eid payers early in the morning at mosques.
However, with the ongoing restrictions stopping people from gathering, most Muslims in Oman held their prayers at home and did whatever they used to do, but in a limited way.
“This year, we celebrated Eid al Fitr in a unique way at home with our family only and it turned out to be a beautiful experience, even though we missed our extended family and friends,” Mubarak al Dhawi, an Amerat resident, who used to visit his parents in Seeb on Eid day, said.
He, however, said that he felt sad that he was unable to celebrate Eid physically with his loved ones. “With mosques closed, I had to forego my traditional practice of greeting friends with handshakes and warm hugs for completing the holy month,” he said.
Prior to Eid, H E Dr Ahmed Al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health, had urged both citizens and residents to take preventive measures and not to violate the instructions issued by the authorities. “Eid is not the same this year. The current situation demands that we protect our loved ones by staying at home. Avoid Eid greetings, hugging and shaking hands as human contact is the key to coronavirus transmission. Do not invite anyone to your homes nor should you visit anyone. Always remember the social distancing measures,” Dr Sa’eedi said.
Indeed it was a new experience for many. “This is the first Eid al Fitr in my entire life that I have prayed at home. Since I live in Sohar and my other family members are in Muscat, I miss joining them to celebrate Eid. I have resorted to using different social media platforms to get in touch with my family and friends who I can’t invite over to feast with me,” said Hussain al Naamani, who lives in Sohar.
In Oman, the first day of Eid is generally reserved for familial visits to the homes of relatives and cooking ceremonial dishes such as Arsiya (rice made with chicken or lamb), while the second and third days include making Shuwa (meat cooked in an underground fire pit and served along with rice) and all these are enjoyed in groups.
However, this time, almost all homes wanted to try these tasks on their own in a smaller way. “Arsiya or harees is a unique Omani traditional dish that is usually cooked for special occasions like Eid. It is made from wheat mixed with meat, and is usually served with a special sauce and requires many hours of cooking. This time, I had to make it alone at home and this was an experience of its own,” Mohammed al Farsi, Ghubra resident, said.
Shuwa, too, is another celebratory Omani dish that is also prepared on special occasions like Eid. “During the festival, many families in Oman begin cooking their Shuwa on the first day and consume the dish on the second day. The making of this traditional Omani food is an elaborate process, and it is normally done and enjoyed when in a group. However, this time, I prepared it all alone at home. Even though I miss my family members, I learned a lot during this Eid and I had plenty of time with my children. The experience was new but we had a good time,” Abdullah al Khaldi, from Seeb, said.
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