At an outdoor table near the Nurunnaim Mosque north of Phnom Penh on Tuesday morning, Sith Ybrahim and a group of friends dug into big bowls of noodle soup. It was just the first course, he said, in what would be a full day of eating well. He had a good reason for indulging—it was his first daytime meal in a month.
Tuesday was the first day of Eid ul-Fitr: literally, the festival to break the fast. It comes at the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, a time when participating Muslims around the world abstain from all food and drink from sunrise until sunset.
After a long month of discipline, the three days of Eid are a time of plenty.
“Today, each Muslim family has a big party, and the food is free,” said Sith Ybrahim, who is a former secretary of state at the Ministry of Religion. “Any family you visit will welcome you with a feast.”
At Nurunnaim Mosque, hundreds of Cham Muslims in their best clothes gathered for early morning prayers, thanking Allah for granting them the self-control to make it through Ramadan’s hard days of deprivation.
In between prayers, some men snapped pictures of each other with cell phone cameras. When the imam finished his remarks, the room erupted into a flurry of handshakes, laughter and embraces.
Eama Naf, 25, passed by Nurunnaim Mosque on the way to visit friends.
“Today I gave my nephews and nieces gifts of 500 or 1,000 riel,” she added.
According to Mufti Sos Kamry, leading religious leader of the Cham Muslim community, Eid is about more than food. It’s also a time of charity, apology and forgiveness.
In Cambodia, Sos Kamry said, it is customary for all Muslims older than the age of 15 to donate 3 kg of rice to the poor and disabled during Eid.
The day’s household visits are also a chance to make amends.
“It’s a time to say sorry and ask for forgiveness for wrongs you have done to your family and your neighbor throughout the year,” he said.