Eid exodus: Asia's Muslims on the move at the end of Ramadan

People dressed in their Hari Raya best in Kampung Bako, a fisherman's village near Kuching, Sarawak, yesterday.
People dressed in their Hari Raya best in Kampung Bako, a fisherman's village near Kuching, Sarawak, yesterday. PHOTOS: BERNAMA, EPA-EFE
People travelling to their home villages waiting at a packed train station in Medan on Wednesday.
People travelling to their home villages waiting at a packed train station in Medan on Wednesday. PHOTOS: BERNAMA, EPA-EFE

JAKARTA • Millions of Asia's Muslims were on the move on Wednesday as they headed for home towns to celebrate with relatives the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

From Karachi to Kuala Lumpur, highways, airports and train stations were jam-packed in an annual exodus that made Indonesia's usually traffic-clogged capital Jakarta look like a ghost town.

Some 70 per cent of its residents - about eight million people - headed for other cities and villages across the vast archipelago, home to the world's biggest Muslim-majority population.

About 32 million Indonesians were estimated to be on the move this week, while some 50 million in Bangladesh were thought to be heading home.

"This year, some 11.5 million people will leave the capital Dhaka to go back to their villages to celebrate Eid," said Mr Moza-mmel Hoque Chowdhury, general secretary of the Passengers Welfare Association.

Meanwhile, Afghans were hoping for a peaceful Eid after the Taleban announced their first ceasefire since the 2001 United States invasion. The group agreed to stop attacking Afghan security forces for the first three days of the holiday, overlapping with the government's week-long halt to hostilities against the militants.

In the capital Kabul, traffic was worse than usual as families defied the threat of suicide attacks ahead of the holiday to stock up on dried fruits, nuts, sweets and cookies.

Pakistanis were also complaining of congestion as the autho-rities said they expect road traffic to more than double ahead of the holiday.

The country's railways have announced special "Eid trains" with extra carriages and discounts to tackle the rush.

In Malaysia, traffic slowed to a crawl on major roads out of Kuala Lumpur, with traffic expected to soar by some 70 per cent over the usual volume.

India, which has a 180-million-strong Muslim minority population, does not see a huge annual mass migration.

But Delhi bank clerk Shakir Khan is among those who will be headed home for the holiday.

"We live in a very fast-paced world, and Eid is always special as it gives you a chance to reconnect with your family and friends," the 29-year-old told Agence France-Presse.

Eid, which is celebrated from today, comes at the end of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain for a month from activities including eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours.

Safety will be a big factor in some countries. During Eid last year, 276 Bangladeshis died in road accidents, while in Indonesia, 740 people lost their lives.

The South-east Asian nation's often dangerous roads were clogged with thrifty travellers who packed whole families on to one motorcycle - plus luggage - for gruelling trips that can last upwards of 15 hours.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2018, with the headline 'Eid exodus: Asia's Muslims on the move at the end of Ramadan'. Print Edition | Subscribe