In photos: Ramadan in Jerusalem

Kiyam el layl ❤(got myself a pillow today!) #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Muslims follow a lunar calendar; the full moon signals that the second half of Ramadan has arrived, a time for introspection and extra motivation to make the most of the blessings of what is left of the holy month. Pictured is the Dome of the Rock and Dome of the Chain.

The month of Ramadan is well underway and Instagram user @zalameh (@BDS4Justice on Twitter), a resident of Jerusalem, is documenting how Palestinians are observing and celebrating. Below are a selection of his beautiful photographs (find many more on his Instagram account) and his own description of Jerusalem during Ramadan:

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims all over the world abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. It is a month of prayer, introspection, charity and renewing of interpersonal ties.

Jerusalem is the home of one of Islam’s most holiest sites, the al-Aqsa mosque, and is thus a center of pilgrimage for Muslims. The majority of Palestinians however are prevented from visiting their capital due to Israel’s racist pass system, which restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and confines them into ghettos. Palestinian Jerusalemites have become increasingly isolated as a result and their numbers have dwindled. Israeli policies of Judaization and ethnic cleansing have placed pressure on Palestinians to leave the city, accompanied by attempts to criminalize Palestinian national and cultural expressions.

Ramadan therefore comes as a breath of fresh air. As the month begins, the Old City of Jerusalem transforms and becomes almost unrecognizable. Street lights beautify the city, with neighborhoods competing with each other on who has the best lights. Children walk around holding the fanous, the traditional Ramadan lantern, and launch fireworks in celebration of the month. New commerce spurs up; street vendors sell all kinds of delicious food and drinks, which have become tradition during Ramadan.

Damascus Gate is the center of the festivities, especially during the evening until the early hours of the morning. During the weekends street performers animate the crowds. The Israeli occupation allows for a restricted number of permits for Palestinians from the West Bank to visit Jerusalem during Ramadan, a much needed economic relief for Palestinian businesses. (Jerusalem remains inaccessible to Palestinians in Gaza.) Palestinians from ‘48 [present-day Israel] also flood the city in great numbers. Ramadan allows us to imagine the Jerusalem that once was, before Israel came to colonize it, and to dream of a Jerusalem that one day will be.

al-Quds sharif :-) 3ala albi #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

A panoramic view of the Muslim quarter of the Old City, as seen from the Austrian Hospice. The golden Dome of the Rock is one of the several buildings inside the Aqsa mosque compound, the center of prayer during Ramadan.

Oh the symbolism of this photo! Israeli apartheid colonialist army standing next to sign directing worshippers to "aqsa mosque" #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Israeli soldiers are sure to make their presence felt in the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. A group of soldiers standing next to a sign that says “al-Aqsa mosque.”

I just had a shower myself #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Thousands of worshippers concentrate at the al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, a large proportion of them from the West Bank, having received rarely-issued permits to enter Jerusalem. Volunteers throw water over thirsty worshippers to refresh them under the scorching summer heat. Acts of kindness are considered particularly virtuous during Ramadan and are encouraged.

#ramadan selfless deeds I wish were there the rest of the year: volunteers dot the streets of the old city distributing water to fasting crowds in scorching heat #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

The Old City is dotted with residents distributing water to passersby so they can cool themselves under the scorching heat during Fridays when scores of pilgrims head to al-Aqsa mosque. Pictured is a woman wetting her towel with water.

Thousands upon thousands at #aqsa today - some in shade others in sun #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Thousands at al-Aqsa for Friday prayers.

Father and son take shade ☺#ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Friday prayers at al-Aqsa. Thousands fill the compound, and not everyone can find a shade so they come up with creative ways to take shelter. Here a father and son cover their heads with a prayer mat.

#iftar (breaking of fast) today at #aqsa #palestine #ramadan on Instagram

The iftar meal is a happy occasion that brings families together around the table filled with traditional dishes. Communal iftar meals are also served at the al-Aqsa mosque (pictured), some of which are sponsored by the Gulf states (UAE and Qatar). 

Love this, these little kids making their own kiyam el layl #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Al-Aqsa mosque remains open at night during Ramadan, and worshipers are encouraged to peform qiyam al-layl, standing in prayer during the night. Pictured is a group of children reciting the Quran (Islam’s holy book) while in prayer inside Aqsa before the dawn meal, the suhour.

21st night kiyam el layl #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

The last ten nights of Ramadan are special because within one of them there is “the night of power” which is superior in worth and blessings than 1,000 months. However Muslims do not know which one of the last ten nights will be the “night of power. They are therefore instructed by God to “look” for the night by worshiping during intensely during the last ten nights in practice called i’tikaf. It is said that those who stay awake in worship will be able to identify the “night of power” for its distinctive characteristics. This photo shows the first night of i’tikaf at Aqsa.

Falling asleep (i'tikaf) #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Hundreds sleep during the night inside al-Aqsa mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan before they stand in prayer for qiyam al-layl.

Eating sohor meal at #aqsa #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

The Aqsa mosque was open this year during the night, unlike the rest of the year when the Israeli authorities force it to close at strict schedules. Muslims are encouraged to stand in prayer during the night and many faithful stay overnight at Aqsa for that. Pictured is the suhour meal at al-Aqsa mosque, eaten before dawn when the fast is supposed to start.

S7oor at #aqsa: labne, bread, tomato, cucumber and a bar of halawa #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

A suhour meal of yogurt, bread, tomato, cucumber and a bar of halawa at al-Aqsa mosque before dawn when the fast begins. Al-Aqsa remains open during the night during Ramadan for qiyam al-layl (night worship).

#ramadan is a lifeline for #jerusalem businesses, otherwise strangled by Israeli ethnic cleansing. Israel provides a very limited number of "apartheid permits" to Palestinians from West Bank to visit. #palestine on Instagram

Ramadan is a lifeline for Jerusalem businesses which are badly suffering as Israel seeks to isolate Palestinians in the city from the rest of Palestinian society.

Men beddo ka3ek? (La fotoor) - #Jerusalem bread #ramadan #palestine on Instagram

A stand of ka’ek, a crusty bread with sesame seeds. The ka’ek from Jerusalem is particularly famous. Visitors from elsewhere in Palestine carry large quantities home with them when visiting.

Here it is the whole collection of traditional #ramadan drinks: Caroub, loz, lemon and tamer hindi. My favorite has to be kharob, so refreshing! #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Almond, tamarind, lemon and carob drinks for sale. While these are available throughout the year (sold in a cup), they are particularly popular during Ramadan (when they are sold in bottles) and they are drunk extra cold, sure to quench one’s thirst after a long day of fasting.

6abeekh fee mosrara, the dishes are msakhan, kidra rice and chicken yum yum #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Restaurants are normally closed during the day in Ramadan but some open a few hours before the breaking of fast (the iftar). Pictured is one such restaurant outside Damascus Gate selling traditional Palestinian dishes.

Mjadal traditional bread only for #ramadan - #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Khubez mjaddal (crossed bread) has become a must during Ramadan for Palestinians in Jerusalem. The tradition is said to have started by a Jerusalem baker two decades ago.

Baraze2 (sesame crackers, sort of), popular during #ramadan - #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Baraze’ is a snack made of sesame seeds available throughout the year but is more popular during Ramadan. Pictured is a street vendor of baraze’.

When I was a kid I used to have these, dunno what's the name in English, my translation is "sweet cotton" #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Ramadan is a particularly happy occasion for children; here one of their favorite sweets is on sale. Children queue up in the evening after the iftar — the breaking of the fast meal — to spend their pocket money on sweets.  

Serving qatayef after tarawee7 #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Qatayef is a sweet traditionally eaten in Palestinian homes during Ramadan after the main meal. It consists of a small rounded pancake filled with walnuts or cheese and then soaked in a sweet syrup. Most families make their own qatayef at home.

Stocking up on the jelly & gum supply for #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Jelly gums are a favorite during Ramadan.

Bab el amood is one big party tonight #ramadan #aqsa #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

A festive mood in Damascus Gate, where street vendors set camp, families shop and youth socialize until the early hours of the morning. Israeli police are often seen harassing Palestinian street vendors, imposing on them heavy fines because they don’t have permits — which the municipality refuses to give. Palestinians remain unfazed by these impositions as the festive mood takes over.

Happy kids on my way home of 7ara sa3diya in the old city - the little small things that make you small and be thankful #jerusalem #ramadan #palestine on Instagram

Usually empty and depressing at night, the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem come to life during Ramadan, with beautiful street lights on display and children playing outside until late at night.

Entering #aqsa through Bab Hutta #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

Street lights at the Bab Hutta neighboorhood in the Old City. Bab Hutta is also the name of one of the doors of al-Aqsa mosque, which gives the name to the neighborhood.

I've always been a #sunset enthusiast but #sunrise is a whole new experience by itself - first morning rays of sun hit the quds - saba7 el hurriya #ramadan #jerusalem #palestine on Instagram

The sunrise in Jerusalem on the morning of the 21st day of Ramadan.




Hi Maureen, Your beautiful photos have given me a different perspective. I am in the U.S. and understand this special month of reflection and charity also includes studying the Quran. I have been looking at it and wonder what percentage of modern day Muslims follow the Quran. Do you know? Thanks DM

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.