In Baghdad’s new Ramadan rhythm, calls to wish and maintain coronavirus away

Baghdad, a metropolis of almost ten million residents, is operating on an uncommon rhythm this Ramadan since Iraq imposed an in a single day curfew to curb the spreading coronavirus.

A number of hours earlier than daybreak, the wailing voice of Sayyed Mozahem rings out throughout a small neighbourhood in previous Baghdad, amplified by his transportable microphone.

Mozahem is the neighbourhood “musaharati”, accountable throughout Ramadan for reminding Muslims to have their closing meal earlier than a brand new day of fasting begins with the dawn.

“Fasters, get up,” he chants, marching by the streets to the beat of his conventional drum as his older brother and father did earlier than him.

However his refrains have a particular twist: “Could Ramadan maintain the coronavirus away,” and “God, spare Iraq from COVID-19”.

Iraqis are adapting their Ramadan routines to suit a curfew from 5 pm till 5 am — the hours Baghdad often comes alive with enormous fast-breaking feasts, late-night runs for sweets and midnight mosque visits.

As a substitute, Iraqis are dashing by checkpoints earlier than the lockdown begins, praying alone at residence and baking conventional sweets often purchased in shops.

A sombre and isolating temper has settled over the capital, the place the response to the novel coronavirus has left its mark from daybreak till nightfall.

Beating the curfews

After Mozahem wraps up his pre-drawn name — technically a violation of the nighttime curfew — the solar rises over Baghdad, the second most populous Arab capital.
By midday the warmth is bearing down on the streets, sending visitors police looking for slivers of shade. The decision to prayer rings out from a whole lot of mosques, urging Muslims to worship from residence.

Quickly after, it is Moussa al-Bedeiri’s flip.

Twice a day, the firefighter makes use of the megaphone on his firetruck to induce folks to remain residence, keep away from gatherings and wash their palms repeatedly.

His throat and lips are cracked however as a religious Muslim Bedeiri refrains from ingesting throughout the lengthy sweltering days.

“Because the coronavirus unfold, our work has doubled. We had extra sanitisation campaigns and broadcasts of official pointers by loudspeakers on the civil defence automobiles and at our centre,” he tells AFP.

The blinding solar dims right into a late-afternoon haze as 22-year-old Mortada zips by visitors on his bike.

Strapped to the again are meals packages that Mortada must ship earlier than the curfew begins.

Eating places have been closed to patrons for round two months however as restrictions have eased, they’ve been permitted to open for residence deliveries.

Mortada makes lower than a half-dozen deliveries per day now, a couple of quarter of his normal haul throughout Ramadan.

The dual shocks of coronavirus restrictions and falling oil costs have hit Iraq arduous, and will double the present poverty fee to 40 p.c, the World Financial institution has predicted.

Eerie evenings

The solar is making ready to set, casting lengthy shadows throughout the huge esplanade of Baghdad’s Abdelqader al-Gailani mausoleum, the place a revered Sufi determine is buried.
For the primary time in his life, 70-year-old sheikh Yalmaz Youssef is seeing the shrine and hooked up mosque empty.

“For the reason that ’70s and till this present day, I’ve by no means seen the door of the holy shrine of Sheikh Abdelqader closed. However once I did, I cried,” Youssef tells AFP.

As nightfall settles, the dainty garlands adorning the mosque gentle up and the sundown prayer — calling on Muslims to interrupt their quick at residence — echoes throughout town.

Iraqis chew in to modest dinners at residence with household, reminiscing about previous elaborate meals the place dozens of kinfolk, neighbours and associates have been invited.

As a substitute of strolls by halogen-lit streets to select up sweets or toys, they wile away the nighttime hours with card video games or tv.

On the nightly information broadcast, Iraqi channels announce the brand new coronavirus numbers: greater than 3,600 instances throughout the nation and over 130 deaths.

The numbers are rising sooner now, a grim lead-up to the Eid al-Fitr vacation — often a joyful event for prolonged household gatherings.

As twilight approaches, a drum echoes by the darkened streets and the musaharati begins calling Muslims to their closing pre-fast meal.

Baghdad’s new routine begins once more.

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