RIYADH - Muslims around the world began marking a sombre Eid al-Fitr Sunday, many under coronavirus lockdown, but lax restrictions offered respite to worshippers in some countries despite fears of skyrocketing infections.
The three-day festival, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is traditionally celebrated with mosque prayers, family feasts and shopping for new clothes, gifts and sweet treats.
But this year, the celebration is overshadowed by the fast-spreading coronavirus, with many countries tightening lockdown restrictions after a partial easing during Ramadan led to a sharp spike in infections.
Further dampening the festive spirit, many countries - from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Turkey and Syria - have banned mass prayer gatherings to limit the spread of the disease.
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, began a five-day round-the-clock curfew from Saturday after infections more than quadrupled since the start of Ramadan to over 70,000 - the highest in the Gulf.
Mecca's Grand Mosque has been almost devoid of worshippers since March, with a stunning emptiness enveloping the sacred Kaaba - the large cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.
But on Sunday, an imam stood on a podium while Saudi security forces, some wearing masks, positioned themselves between rows of worshippers who gathered before the Kaaba for Eid prayers.
Scuffles in Jerusalem
At Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina, prayers were not permitted inside, although the site is expected to reopen after the Eid holiday.
At dawn, small scuffles broke out between Israeli security forces and worshippers gathering around the mosque, although prayers eventually went ahead outside.
In Gaza, Hamas authorities allowed prayers in mosques despite the enclave's first coronavirus death on Saturday, but worshippers mostly wore masks and placed their prayer mats far apart.
"Eid is not Eid with the atmosphere of corona - people feel a sense of fear," worshipper Akram Taher said.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire to mark Eid al-Fitr in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the signing of a landmark agreement with the United States.
The streets of Kabul were mostly empty as part of a strict lockdown, but some people did venture out and greet each other - some from a distance and others hugging and shaking hands despite calls for social distancing.
Fears of 'new peak'
Muslims across Asia - from Indonesia to Pakistan, Malaysia and Afghanistan - have thronged markets for Eid shopping, flouting coronavirus guidelines and sometimes even police attempts to disperse large crowds.
"For over two months my children were homebound," said mother of four Ishrat Jahan at a bustling market in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.
"This feast is for the kids, and if they can't celebrate it with new garments, there is no point in us working so hard throughout the year."