JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Millions of Muslims in Indonesia returned Monday to celebrate the booming Eid al-Fitr after two years of subdued festivities due to pandemic restrictions and travel restrictions.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when worshipers fast from dawn to dusk.
The return of the Eid tradition of going back to basics caused great excitement among people in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, as family reunions and socializing with friends were on people’s lists while as shoppers flocked to malls despite soaring food prices.
Last week, millions of Indonesians crammed into trains, ferries, buses and – in greater numbers than ever – motorbikes, as they rode out of major cities back to their villages to celebrate the holiday . with families in the midst of severe traffic jams that are beginning to occur on the main arteries of the country.
Flights were overbooked and anxious parents laden with gift boxes formed long queues at bus stations for journeys that can take days.
The annual exodus tradition, known locally as “mudik”, returned this year after President Joko Widodo surprisingly announced last month that the government had decided to ease restrictions. for the holiday festivities for the first time since it was banned two years ago due to COVID-19.
The country had largely recovered from a third wave of COVID-19 infections in the form of an omicron-induced surge peaked at around 64,700 daily cases in mid-February. New daily infections had fallen to around 200 by May. About 80% of Indonesia’s eligible population of 208.2 million people were fully vaccinated on Sunday.
The government estimates that around 85 million travelers are expected to crisscross the vast archipelago that spans 17,000 islands for Eid al-Fitr this year, with around 14 million travelers departing from the greater Jakarta metropolitan area. That’s significantly higher than before the pandemic, when some 30 million people took part in the annual exodus tradition.
Worshipers wearing face masks joined joint prayers shoulder to shoulder without physical distancing on the streets of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, and in mosques across the city.
At Jakarta’s Grand Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia, tens of thousands of Muslims attend prayers after authorities closed the mosque in 2020, when Islam‘s holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Istiqlal Mosque was totally closed in 2020 and remained closed for congregational prayers in 2021.
“Words cannot describe how happy I am today. After two years we were separated by the pandemic, today we can pray Eid prayer together again,” said Jakarta resident Epi Tanjung. “I hope all this will make us more faithful,” he said after worshiping with his wife at Al Azhar Mosque in Jakarta, where Muslims were seen embracing after prayers.
Despite soaring food prices over the past month, popular markets such as Tanah Abang in Jakarta were teeming with shoppers buying clothes, shoes, cookies and sweets ahead of the holiday. Security personnel were overwhelmed by thousands of shoppers and traders who ignored health protocols.
The Commerce Ministry said prices of imported staples, including wheat, sugar, beef and soybeans, saw the biggest year-on-year rise in 2022 due to rising prices. global commodity prices and supply chain disruptions, especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine..
Prices could rise as eased pandemic restrictions, coupled with Eid al-Fitr festivities and the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, increase domestic food demand.
“Food prices, which are increasing day by day, have certainly affected my life,” said Aneke Karolina, a mother of two in Jakarta.
“But the loss of trust in the government makes it more difficult because it is an annual problem before Eid,” she said, adding that she hoped prices would return to normal. as they have done in the past after the holidays are over.