Saudis 100 years ago had to wait for the Grand Mutfi in the holy city of Mecca to announce the first day of Eid.
With no radio or telegraph and in a country as big as Saudi Arabia, camel riders did their best to race to inform people about Eid’s timings, but sometimes it was not possible to announce it uniformly, leaving a gap and sometimes days when each village celebrated Eid.
“In the past, each village had its own Eid, especially in remote areas; during the summer, the difference sometimes exceeded 4 days,” astronomer Khalid al-Zaaq told Al Arabiya.
Sometimes when Eid falls around summer, camel riders would find it even more strenuous to move and spread the word, Zaaq explained.
“With the radio, the number of days has diminished, although the radio broadcast only reached the main areas and then the Eid announcement was conveyed with camel riders to nearby areas,” he added.
“Those who know the villages and remote areas know that the Mutawwa [religious leaders] wers the only ones who counted the days and announced Eid despite the difficulties faced sometimes to see the crescent,” he said.
Nowadays Muslims can use the telescope to see the Eid’s crescent, but long time ago, it was not possible. There are 12 months in the Islamic calendar. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast until they see the Eid’s crescent, heralding the coming of the new month of Shawaal, when people celebrate.
Zaaq explained that the main reason behind allowing the radio in Saudi Arabia was to share the news of Eid. It later became one of the most important means of communication between people, although not everyone had access to it.
Suleiman al-Fayez, a researcher at the Sahabi Saudi Arabian Heritage, told Al Arabiya that there are many stories about the delays in Eid celebration between one area and another, because the only available means of communication was the telegraph.
Al-Fayez narrated an old, comical story coming from the central Qassim region, when a village sent its messenger to the nearest hamlet, which had the telegraph to learn the exact date of Eid.
When the messenger arrived, he saw people were celebrating Eid, promoting him to celebrate with them, forgetting about his own village.
By the time the messenger returned back to his own village the day after, he found out his people were still fasting.
The messenger had to celebrate twice his first day of Eid twice.
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