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Eid Al-Fitri
Saudi Arabia

Eid Al-Fitri 2017 and 2018

Eid al Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast), is one of the most important holidays celebrated by Muslims all over the world.

YearDateDayHoliday
201725 to 28 JunSun to WedEid Al-Fitri / Ramadan Holidays
201814 to 17 JunThu to SunEid Al-Fitri / Ramadan Holidays

The day marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and the beginning of the month of Shawwal. “Shawwal 1st” is a day when fasting is prohibited, for it is to be a time of feasting and rejoicing over completing Ramadan. The exact date of Eid al Fitr must be declared by national authorities upon the sighting of the new moon, making it technically unpredictable. In most other Muslim countries, however, the date ascribed by the Saudi Arabian moon sighting committee is adhered to.

The main traditions of Eid al Fitr are to gather at mosques for communal prayers and sermons and to give “zakat,” which is a religious tax of 2.5 percent of one’s income that is often given in the form of food to the poor. Those below a certain income threshold are not required to donate. Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and it is only “outranked” by the dutiful saying of one’s prayers. For Eid al Fitr, there are specific prayers called “Salat” that must be performed in the prescribed manner in a public meeting hall or out in a spacious field.

In Saudi Arabia, Eid al Fitr begins with a small breakfast of something sweet, often dates. Next, Eid prayers are attended, and back at home, families feast on sweet dishes and give out gifts to children. It is also customary to put on perfume or cologne, don new clothes, and greet one another with “Eid Mubarak!” (Blessed Eid!) or “Eid Said!” (Happy Eid!).

Finally, don’t be surprised if a shopkeeper gives you a free “Eid gift” or if a total stranger gives your kid a toy while you wait at a stoplight. These kinds of random gift giving are common during Eid al Fitr in Saudi Arabia.

A few ideas on what you might like to do for Eid if in Saudi Arabia as a tourist when it arrives are given below:

  • Get a taste of some Saudi Eid cuisine, which basically means anything sweet that Saudis normally eat the rest of the year. In fact, Eid al Fitr is sometimes called “Sweet Eid” for this very reason. Look for “kleeja,’ which are cardamom-spiced cookies and mutabbak, which are best described as “stuffed pancakes.” You will certainly want to pair your sweets with some authentic Arabian coffee, and even if it isn’t sweet, you should try “kabsa” simply because it is the national dish of Saudi Arabia.
  • In many Saudi cities, there will be fireworks displays during Eid, and you can expect to find numerous festivals throughout the country, and especially in Riyadh. There will be cultural singing and dancing, poetry recitations, handicrafts for sale, and more. Be aware, however, that many events segregate men and women, while others are “family” events.
  • If you are given to extreme outdoor adventures, head out to the Thumamah sand dunes, where you can rent dirt bikes, ride on camels and horses, fly Arabian kites in the desert wind, and try your hand at “sand boarding” on the dunes.

If in Saudi Arabia for Eid al Fitr, you will find that many businesses are closed for three days straight. But there are still some malls and diners open, and there are plenty of special events to take part in that you will remember for a life time.