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By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

08:34, July 18, 2013

Horiyat Zaynidin (left) and her family members pray at their home in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, before breaking their fast after sunset. Muslims across the region are observing the fasting month of Ramadan, which started on July 9. (CUI MENG / CHINA DAILY)

Uygurs celebrate Ramadan together during holy month of fasting

Alfira Ablat just could not help checking the clock on the wall and looking at the sun through the windows.

"My father always said that we should not break the fast when the sun is still in sight," the 18-year-old Uygur woman said on Saturday evening, the fifth day of this year's Ramadan, at her home in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims observe this as a month of fasting. The annual observance, which is regarded as one of the most important foundations of Islam, lasts 29 to 30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

"After each day's fast ends at sunset, we will first drink a cup of sugary water so that the stomach can be nourished, then we will start our fast-breaking meal by eating naan" said Alfira Ablat, who will start at Xinjiang University in September.

Her mother, Horiyat Zaynidin, a 50-year-old retired worker, said she has got up around 3 am every day since Tuesday, the first day of this year's Ramadan, to prepare a pre-fast meal for the family.

"This is the most important meal during Ramadan and people usually eat a lot in order to have enough energy for the fast," she said.

Horiyat Zaynidin said she would knock on every household's door in the morning during the holy month to wake them up because "I don't want them to miss the meal. Otherwise, they will be very hungry during the rest of the day".

She added: "I have always had good relations with my neighbors, no matter whether they are Uygur or Han. I still keep in close touch with the children of one of my father's best Han friends. We visit each other during the Spring Festival and our Uygur festivals."

When Horiyat Zaynidin was a child, most Uygur people could never imagine enjoying an elaborate meal after the fast. But, she added, that although people's lives have become better, some of the festive atmosphere of previous years has been lost.

In response to some foreign media claims that local governments in Xinjiang "intervene" in religious observances during Ramadan, Horiyat Zaynidin said she has not seen any signs of this.

"As far as I know, my school has not received any instructions from the government for us to do something or not to do something," she said.

Her daughter added: "My high school has never made any demands as to whether the students observe the fast or not."

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