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American English instructor mesmerized with Saudi Arabia’s social reforms

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As pandemic fears subside, Ramadan signifies a joyous return to normality in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: With Ramadan just around the corner, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions could not have come at a better time for Saudi Arabia’s residents and citizens.

Prayers in mosques, including the taraweeh, or late-night prayers, will resume after a two-year hiatus because of curbs on social gatherings. Bazars and other festive activities have also been given permission to operate, adding to the festive vibe.  

On March 4, 2020, Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah for citizens and residents amid fears of COVID-19 spreading, while pilgrims’ visits to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah were also restricted.

In March this year, the Saudi health ministry lifted most precautionary and preventive measures related to the pandemic, including the wearing of face masks in public, and social distancing in public and private spaces. 

People living in the Kingdom shared their excitement at the move ahead of the holy month.  

“I’m happy to see Ramadan being celebrated in full swing,” Wid Massoud, 26, from Jeddah, told Arab News.

“It’s been a tough two years, socially, economically and psychologically, so bringing back the festive ambience is something to look forward to.”

She added: “The last two years have really opened my eyes. Spending time at the mosque has always been one of my favorite ways to unwind and connect with God during Ramadan. Now, only time will tell if it will be a comfortable option this year, too.” 

Massoud is the youngest in her family and still lives at home. “Our house is actually the grandparents’ home where everyone gathers for fitur every day. It will be lovely to have all my nieces and nephews around on a daily basis. That part of Ramadan has definitely been missed.”

The Jeddah resident said that she also had missed being part of “Khair for All,” a group of young volunteers who donate time and effort to help provide food and other necessities for those living in poorer areas of the city. 

For the past two years the Kingdom’s 35 million people have been waiting for the moment when they could put the curbs associated with the pandemic behind them. With daily cases now in the hundreds and falling, life does seem to be returning to normal. 

“I think it’s wonderful that all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted at this time because for two years people have been living with uncertainty and fear of contracting the virus,” said Saud Al-Saud, 26, from Jeddah.

“The lifting of these restrictions shows that the virus can be overcome. It makes it even better that this has happened in time for Ramadan, so people can properly practice all the Ramadan activities.”

Al-Saud added: “I love how Ramadan brings whole communities together and everyone seems to be in a much better mood. It’s because Ramadan is a time where you get closer to God, so for me Ramadan is all about being the best Muslim I can be.

“This Ramadan, I’m looking forward to going to the less fortunate areas of my city and giving food parcels to people in need. It’s been a missed activity during the last two years.”

Saudi Arabia no longer require travelers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, provide a negative PCR test, or undergo quarantine on arrival in the Kingdom.

However, wearing masks indoors is still a requirement and people still need to show their immunity status on the Tawakkalna app to enter establishments such as hotels and restaurants.

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