31 July 2012
Last updated at 02:39
As Muslims around the world mark the holy month of Ramadan, Gaza's old quarter comes alive as shoppers explore the markets in search of traditional Ramadan foods, in preparation for the breaking of the fast.
Abstaining from food and drink from dawn until dusk, Muslims stream through Gaza's narrow alleyways in search of dates, hibiscus, carob and spices, as well as traditional sweets filled with syrup and nuts.
Ramadan gives many Gazans much-welcomed respite from recent escalations in the conflict with Israel. In the hours before sunset, the atmosphere in Old Gaza is thick with excitement and anticipation, as vendors shovel generous amounts of their wares into bags and newspapers for those fasting to take home in time for dusk, or Maghrib.
Abu Yusuf Murtaja runs this stall, selling dates and spices. He says, “Ramadan is better than all other months for us, partly because of the fasting and piety, but also because this year, since Ramadan has begun, we’ve experienced no bombings.”
Many Muslims in Gaza spend their days inside the mosque, praying and seeking refuge from the high temperatures outside. This worshipper is reading the Koran in the ancient Omari Mosque in Gaza's old quarter.
At night time, when prayers are optional, the interior of the Omari Mosque is used exclusively by women, whilst men pray outside in the courtyard.
Thirteen-year-old Basil spends his days at the Omari Mosque. "Look at these arches. This place is really old and beautiful," he says marvelling at the architecture. For Basil, Ramadan teaches him patience. "I'm really thirsty, but everything we do is before God."
Traditional Ramadan lanterns, or fawanees, decorate the streets, shops and homes throughout the month.
Dalya and her brother sell fawanees at a small stall. Despite having to work, she still thinks the month is relaxing and enjoyable. "I find Ramadan amazing, just because I love fasting. It's a wonderful experience," she says.
Through the walls of the Omari Mosque, children hide atop a minaret as they watch worshippers praying and reciting the Koran below. [Words and pictures by Ruqaya Izzidien]