Ramzan, the holy Islamic month of fasting and prayers, has started in the Gulf region amid the global coronavirus outbreak and severe restrictions imposed to check the spread of the killer disease.
In the UAE, the Moon Sighting Committee announced on Thursday that the moon marking the beginning of the month of Ramzan has been sighted and that April 24 will be the first day of the fasting month.
This year is expected to be an extremely low-key Ramzan with social-distancing imposed across the world, including Saudi Arabia which is home to Islam's holiest shrines.
"Based on the sighting of the new month's moon, it has been decided that Friday is the start of the month of Ramzan," the Saudi Arabian Royal Court was quoted by the official SPA news agency.
However, the country's COVID-19 Follow-up Committee has asked citizens to continue adhering to the advice and instructions of the Ministry of Health during the fasting month.
"I am pained that the holy month arrives amid circumstances that make us unable to perform group prayers and Taraweeh -- special Ramzan night prayers -- at mosques due to precautionary measures to protect the peoples' lives and health in combating the coronavirus pandemic," King Salman said according to the SPA.
Leaders and heads of states exchanged telephonic greetings and good wishes. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres extended his wishes on the occasion to the people.
In Qatar, the Crescent Sighting Committee at the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs announces that Thursday marks the completion of the month of Shaban and that Friday is the first day of the fasting month, the Qatar News Agency said.
Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which Muslims worldwide refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk and break bread with family in the evening.
Community members traditionally gather in large numbers at mosques at night.