AMMAN: Muslims across Syria will begin the month-long Ramadan fast this weekend, the seventh since the start of the war.

With Islam’s holiest month approaching, Syria Direct asked five residents about their preparations for and reflections on the start of Ramadan. Their stories traverse political, geographic and socioeconomic lines—from a government employee in Damascus, to a farmer in the capital's besieged, rebel-held eastern suburbs, to a 22-year-old student in the northeast Kurdish heartland.

Despite their diverse perspectives, a common narrative shines through each of their stories: Ramadan in wartime is a shadow of a once-festive, communal experience.

“There is sadness in the air with the start of Ramadan this year,” says Abu Zainab, a 27-year-old motorcycle repairman in the rebel-encircled Idlib town of al-Fuaa. “So many families are split up right now, and what makes Ramadan so beautiful is having family together in the same place.”

A strong sense of nostalgia runs through each of the following stories, a longing not just for a time before the bombing and the displacement but also for a return of the small comforts: large family meals, Ramadan television shows, pushcarts in the streets overflowing with sweets for the holiday.

Today, there is little fanfare in the lead-up to Ramadan, the five Syrians say.

“Frankly, it’s not just Ramadan,” says Abu Mazen, 40, an employee at the Syrian Ministry of Education in Damascus. “We’ve lost our excitement for virtually every month.”

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