Amid ongoing food shortages and high prices, Muslims around the world have begun their week-long fast on the first day of Ramadan. In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others, Thursday was declared the first day of the month of fasting. The date depends on the appearance of the new crescent moon and can therefore vary slightly from country to country.

Many people, including in countries in the Arab world, continue to suffer from the sharp rise in food prices on the world markets. One reason for this is the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine that has been going on for more than a year. Grain prices in particular have risen sharply.

During Ramadan, devout Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex for a month from dawn to dusk. In the evening, people traditionally meet to break the fast together. Many spend this time with their families and eating in large groups. Because of the high food prices, poorer households will find it difficult, as in the previous year, to host the evening Iftar.

No richly laid tables

“The combination of high food price inflation, collapsing currencies and stagnant incomes makes it impossible for families to put food on the table,” said economist Arif Hussain of the UN World Food Program (WFP). The inflation rate for food is particularly high in Lebanon at 138 percent and in Syria at 105 percent.

The high prices also affect people in Egypt, with more than 105 million inhabitants the most populous country in the Arab world. As a countermeasure, the government opened the special markets, which offer discounted food before the start of Ramadan, three months earlier than usual. According to a study by the US research institute IFPRI, 85 percent of households surveyed in Egypt said they had eaten less meat since the start of the Ukraine war. 75 percent said they were eating less chicken and eggs.

It is estimated that there are around 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide. Most of them live in Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The two holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina, are in Saudi Arabia.