In the country’s largest mosque, more than 150 Muslim men feasted on fried noodles, rice porridge and fruit to mark the end of the first day of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, which started Thursday and will end on July 17.
As the sun began to set, flocks of mostly young men arrived at the mosque near the sand-filled Boeng Kak lake in Phnom Penh, and washed their hands, faces and feet before entering the dining area, located on the ground floor of the white-tiled, $2.9 million Alserkal mosque, which was inaugurated in March.
“This period we use to become more virtuous. We sacrifice to receive good things later,” said 23-year-old Tin, a first year student at Norton University.
“It is normal for us to fast. We are hungry but we have to tolerate it. We stop everything, from smoking to using toothpaste, and we cannot be intimate with our girlfriends or wives,” he said.
By 6:15 p.m., tables were filled with hungry devotees waiting for the clock to hit 6:29. Once it did, the noisy room quieted down as everyone began to eat.
“It is a special time when people donate to the poor,” said 65-year-old As Math, the mosque’s caretaker, adding that the purpose of the fast is to help the faithful feel empathy for the poor.
“There are not many rich people in Cambodia, but we help each other however we can.”
According to Mr. Math, the dinners to break the daily fasts, known as iftars, will be offered for free at the mosque every day during Ramadan, financed by National Assembly lawmaker Othsman Hassan, who is Prime Minister Hun Sen’s special envoy to the Cham community.
On June 26, Mr. Hun Sen will hold a Ramadan dinner for more than 4,000 people on Koh Pich island, according to Set Muhammadsis of the Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation.