Thousands of Muslims in Gambia were forced to celebrate Eid-al-fitr locally called Koriteh in their homes due the government-imposed restrictions on congregational prayers and public gathering. The measures are meant to contain the spread of coronavirus causing a dramatic and unusual end of Ramadan.
In normal times, the day of Koriteh would begin with a joyful mood in every household. Men, women and children would then head out to the praying grounds where the congregation is held led by Imam. This normally brings together hundreds and thousands in some places of worshippers across the country. After the prayer people would start socializing through household visitations to seek forgiveness from one another.
While adults would gather and brew green tea throughout the day, children would be dressed in their new clothing and start visiting homes to seek ‘saliboo.’ On the night of Koriteh, musical shows are organized and would attract thousands of young people – particularly boys and girls at the night clubs, dance halls and at the beaches to entertain themselves. All these were heavily restricted this year.
“In my generation, I have never experienced any religious feasts like this – be it Koriteh or Tobaski. It’s a totally new experience for me,” Ebrima Barry, a Basse native tells The Chronicle.
“This should have been a moment of joy for us. We usually use this moment to visit our relatives and friends in different communities within this region who we miss so much. So, beyond celebration, it becomes a reunion for us. Unfortunately, due to this plague, I couldn’t move an inch this year.”
Added to the misery of the situation, the laid down restrictions have also made Ebrima to avoid taking part in usual feast football games in his town as well as night musical entertainment.
Ya Sira Njie has also noticed a huge difference on Eid day due to the effect of the pandemic.
“It’s not like previous Eid whereby men would go to masjids for prayers, greet each other and ask forgiveness from one another. All that is not happening this time around due to the COVID 19. Is sad anyway but just praying to God for this virus to end” she tells The Chronicle.
While it’s not her usual routine to go out on feast days for fun activities, she was denied to meet her relatives.
“I just cooked, sat at home and enjoyed with my family. The only thing I would miss is that, every year, we normally go out to visit our relatives which I believe it’s not going to be possible this year. I miss them so much because we haven’t seen each other for a while because of this corona. We only talk through normal calls and on WhatsApp.”
While congregational prayers at open praying grounds like mosques were banned in The Gambia, Muslims resorted to conducting only-family praying in their compounds. This is never experienced in this generation until when the virus hits.
“I prayed at home here because we have an imam who led us in prayer. By the time we were done, we just asked for forgiveness from each other and that’s just within the family because we couldn’t meet our neighbors due to this COVID issue. In that case, socialization is lacking and I think, it’s the main difference between this year’s Eid and last year,” Amadou Jawo tells The Chronicle.
Amadou said children would also be deprived of going out by parents. Hence the need to keep them safe from contracting the virus.
“Another outcome would be children going out on “saliboo” because most people wouldn’t be willing to welcome children in their compounds or homes.”
Kaddijatou Jallow said this year’s celebration is boring. However, she holds the view that it’s in the general interest of the people and the society in observing the social distancing measures by avoiding too much going out.
“When they say social distancing, we have to avoid social gatherings. Even though when they say Eid people should mingling, pray for each other and ask for forgiveness, families gather together but this time, everyone is indoors”
“Today everybody is like I would just wear my clothes, take pictures and that’s it. No one is planning to go out but I think it’s the best for us”.
Imam Lamin Sarr of Ebo Town said the eid prayer could have been observed in mosques if it weren’t of the virus
“What we can say is that it’s as a result of the virus and that we should take it in good faith. If it weren’t for that, it would be as it used to be, that’s gathering in mosques to observe the Eid prayer.”
In less than three months’ time, another Muslim feast – Tobaski – will be held. It’s hoped that the restrictive measures will be loosen if the virus fails to be eradicated.
There are currently 24 confirmed infected persons of COVID-19 in The Gambia including one death and more than ten recovery cases.