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Bara Tamim uses a telescope in an attempt to sight the moon after sunset from Vaucluse Heights, Palmerston North, on Thursday.

Muslims in Manawatu will celebrate Ramadan in their bubbles this year, as lockdown rules restrict gatherings and group prayers.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is a period of fasting during daylight, prayer, reflection and community.

It was due to begin on Friday, if the moon was seen by someone in New Zealand on Thursday night. If it wasn’t Ramadan would start on Saturday.

Manawatu Muslims Association chairman Riaz Rehman said this year would be different to normal. “It’s not going to be easy, but we will manage.”

Usually people would gather every day for a group prayer and iftar – a fast-breaking feast in the evening.

Although it was sad and different, Rehman said people were used to praying at home.

He said normally during Ramadan 150-200 people would gather at Palmerston North’s mosque on a weekday and 300-400 at weekends.

The mosque became a social centre and that would be missed.

Rehman was to take his family to a park to look for the moon on Thursday night.

He said even at levels three and two, there would be restrictions on how many people could congregate.

Association committee member Hazim Arafeh said Islamic centres and mosques across New Zealand would be putting lectures online, but it was not the same as a physical gathering.

“It’s really sad, but again it’s the price for safety and there is no two ways about it. We have to adhere to regulations.”

Adding to the sadness was that the committee did not envisage being able to hold a celebration for Eid at the end of the month of Ramadan.

“We don’t want to waste the hard work of lockdown. That is the sacrifice that we have to make.”

Ramadan marked at home during lockdown