RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon announced they would celebrate the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, on Friday.
In Saudi Arabia, seen as the beacon of Sunni Islam, the supreme court ruled that Thursday would be the final day of fasting, before the Eid celebration opens the new month of Shawwal, according to the announcement on the official SPA news agency.
Until Wednesday’s ruling, based on observing the progress of the new moon, it was not clear whether Eid would take place on Thursday or Friday. The holiday depends on the sighting of the moon, and can therefore be observed on different days around the world.
Most of the Gulf countries follow the lead of Saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest cities of Islam Mecca and Medina, to set the day of the Eid feast.
The celebration falling on Friday, the Muslim holy day, is considered especially auspicious.
Egypt’s Darul-Ifta, the body that issues Islamic edicts, also announced that Thursday would be the last day of fasting for Egyptians.
Lebanon’s Dar al-Fatwa, the country’s highest Sunni authority, likewise said that Eid al-Fitr would be celebrated in Lebanon Friday.
Eid al-Fitr celebrates the purification achieved by a month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, and is marked by several days of festivities.
Saudi Arabian cities planned fireworks and public performances.
Airports, meanwhile, were jammed Monday and Tuesday by Saudis heading abroad for vacations, foreigners going home to celebrate Eid with families, and tens of thousands of pilgrims to Mecca heading home.
Saudi banks and businesses are closed for the week until Monday, while government services are closed for two weeks.