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Muslim authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and most other countries are calling for the holiday to begin on Thursday. The start date is based on when the crescent moon (also known as the Ramzan moon) is expected to be seen. The crescent moon is visible in different countries on different days, but this year Thursday is the widely accepted start date.
As journalist Saeed Ahmed explains: "How we determine when Ramadan begins is decidedly old-school: You have to physically see the moon (even though there are apps for that)."
Ramadan is a monthlong observance typically known for its fasting tradition during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, from sunrise to sunset, Muslims don't eat, drink, smoke or even have sex. Yes, even water counts.
Ramadan fasting is done to become closer to God, or Allah, and show devotion to the Muslim faith as well as remember the suffering of the poor. This is a time for religious contemplation, extra prayer, generosity and charity. Muslims also believe that it was during the month of Ramadan that God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed on "Laylat al-Qadr," the Night of Power.
It's believed that Mohammed once said, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened, and the gates of hell are closed, and the devils are chained."
Then, once the sun sets, it's time to enjoy food festivities with family and friends! After sunset prayers, of course. These feasts are known as "iftars." At an iftar, you can expect to see all kinds of food, specifically holiday goodies like candy and nuts. The major celebration at the end of Ramadan is called Eid al-Fitr. Eid is celebrated by more eating and partying and also gift-giving (especially to children).