The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan will begin on Friday in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan, it was officially announced in those countries.
Saudi Arabia said Ramadan will begin on Friday in the kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest shrines, Mecca and Medina, because the sighting of the new moon was confirmed by the authorities.
The Syrian government announced that Ramadan will start on Saturday; whereas the Syrian National Council and opposition said that Friday will be the first day of Ramadan.
The exact dates of the start and the end of Ramadan depend on the sighting of the new moon as many Muslim countries reject using astronomical calculation for the Muslim lunar calendar.
Muslims observe the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar when Archangel Gabriel revealed the Quran -- Islam’s holy book -- to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Throughout the month devout Muslims must abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn until sunset when they break the fast with the Iftar meal.
The fast is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the annual pilgrimage to Mecca which able Muslims should do once in a lifetime.
Sweltering temperatures in the Gulf Arab countries and the length of time between dawn and sunset will make Ramadan in August a trying ritual for Muslims this year.