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How Châu Đốc's Chăm Muslim Community Celebrates Ramadan

Vietnam's recent four-day holiday coincided with observations of Ramadan this year.

I traveled to Châu Đốc City in An Giang Province near the Cambodian border to observe the diverse traditions associated with the holiday. Châu Phong Village is home to more than 5,000 Muslim residents from the Chăm ethnic group, who welcomed me into their celebration of the lunar month of fasting, prayer and religious observation.

I arrived at the village at around 10am via ferry. Since most worshippers rest during the sunny daytime, the atmosphere was peaceful. By 4pm, people had begun their activities: running errands, readying themselves for the mosque and preparing food for when they were able to break fast when the sun went down at approximately 6pm. 

Visitors can rent traditional outfits and arrange a photoshoot at Mohamad’s shop in the heart of the village.

In the street, a child hides his face from my camera, while his father behind him purchases groceries for when they can break fast. In the background, Vietnamese flags are on display for Reunification Day.

A man stands in front of a mosque during the peaceful time while the sun is still up and people are fasting.

A young teenager in front of her house going out soon after the sunset to meet with friends, along with her cat.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Jamiul Azhar Mosque, one of 15 mosques in the city, attracts up to 250 people.

As tradition, when sunset nears, the men prepare a mixture made from coconut milk to break the fast. They often eat it along with a sweet soup.

Châu Phong has many mosques, including one for for women, but some people prefer to pray at home.

The preserved front entrance of a mosque built in 1730 that reveals the long history of Islamic heritage in the village.

It is not uncommon for elderly individuals to break fast earlier in the day during Ramadan due to health concerns.

A young woman in the Women's Mosque.

While Châu Phong has a strong Muslim community, some Muslims also live in outside the village and must take a ferry to cross into it for prayer.

Fasting is not required of children, so while teenagers and adults are inside the mosque, children play freely in front of their homes.

This teenager was doing some last-minute grocery shopping in anticipation of satisfying her cravings come dusk. 

On this night, Mohamad is in charge of the cooking to break the fast. He will prepare a salty porridge for dinner.

The Imam of Jamiul Azhar Mosque watches the time closely to announce the end of fasting for the day.

Sitting in a coffeeshop, a group of men relax and talk in the evening's cool breeze. 

Children often light candles two nights before the end of Ramadan. I was told this tradition is unique to Châu Phong and serves no purpose other than an aesthetic one. 

Worshippers must wash themselves according to specific rules before entering the mosque. 

Worshippers leave their shoes outside the mosque before entering. 

A young worshiper goes to the Mosque on the first morning after the end of Ramadan. During the peaceful day when everyone can eat and drink freely, people give each other foods and beverages. 

Joanik Bellalou is a photographer based in Vietnam. See more photos at his Instagram.

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