CAIRO - The holy fasting month of Ramwadan will start on Friday, July 20, according to astronomical calculations.
The Ramadan moon will be born on Thursday, July 19, Hatem Ouda, chairman of Egypt's National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics, said.
He said the new moon will be sighted in the holy city of Makkah and most Arab and Muslim countries on Thursday, July 19.
He noted that the dawn-to-dusk faswedting month will be 30 days.
`Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, will be on August 21, he added.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
The first day of Ramadan and moon sighting have always been a controversial issue among Muslim countries, and even scholars seem at odds over the issue.
While one group of scholars sees that Muslims in other regions and countries are to follow the same moon sighting as long as these countries share one part of the night, another states that Muslims everywhere should abide by the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia.
A third, however, disputes both views, arguing that the authority in charge of ascertaining the sighting of the moon in a given country announces the sighting of the new moon, then Muslims in the country should all abide by this.This usually causes confusion among Muslims, particularly in the West, on observing the dawn-to-dusk fasting and celebrating the `Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of fasting.