Jerusalem's Old City prepares for the holy month of Ramadan

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Celebrating Ramadan in Jerusalem
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Celebrating Ramadan in Jerusalem
A Palestinian Sheikh teaches children to read the Koran inside al-Aqsa Mosque, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
A Palestinian Sheikh gives a lesson about the Koran inside al-Aqsa Mosque, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Firas Kazaz, a Palestinian muezzin, dressed in traditional clothing, prepares before he begins to call Muslims to prayer, inside al-Aqsa Mosque, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
A Palestinian man hangs decorations at the entrance to the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City May, 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Firas Kazaz, a Palestinian muezzin, dressed in traditional clothing, calls Muslims to prayer, inside al-Aqsa Mosque, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
People are silhouetted as they stand behind a structure containing glass panels in the Dome of the Rock located on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
The Dome of the Rock is seen during sunset on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
An employee of the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic trust, that oversees the area, fixes mist cooler fans during preparations for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City May, 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
A Palestinian girl places her hand on a marble slab covered with perfume inside the Dome of the Rock located on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Muslim women walk in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Visitors walk past al-Aqsa Mosque at night on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
An employee of the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic trust, that oversees the area, stands on a crane as he cleans the ceiling during preparations ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in the Dome of the Rock located on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
An employee of the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic trust, that oversees the area, constructs a shade during preparations for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Muslim men pray inside al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
An employee of the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic trust, that oversees the area, cleans during preparations ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in the Dome of the Rock located on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Visitors walk by as employees of the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic trust, that oversees the area, build a structure during preparations for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
A Palestinian vendor touches Muslim prayer beads displayed on sale at his shop in a market in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
Issam Zughaiar, 67, a Palestinian vendor arranges lamp shades at his shop in a market in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad 
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Jerusalem buzzes with renewed energy in the days before the start of Ramadan, Islam's holy month, when the faithful abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

There's the bustle to prepare the al-Aqsa Mosque, the 8th-century Muslim shrine in Jerusalem's Old City, for the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who will come to pray.

Palestinians employed by the Waqf, the Islamic trust that oversees the mosque and the ancient compound that surrounds it, set up tents for fasting worshippers to take respite from the heat alongside the golden Dome of the Rock, the site where the Prophet Mohammad is said to have ascended to heaven.

Around the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, shopkeepers stock up on Ramadan essentials, including bright lights for decorations and Korans and prayer beads for recitations.

Issam Zughaiar, 67, sells ornate Ramadan lanterns, called fanous, in the Old City's winding covered market. Each year he visits factories around Jerusalem and neighboring Jordan and Egypt to handpick his selection.

The twisting alleyways are filled with the scent of sweets eaten at Iftar, the nightly breaking of the fast, including atayef, sugar-soaked pancakes with cheese or nuts, and date-filled ajwa cookies.

Dutch tourist Ari Heida came to see preparations at the holy esplanade, referred to by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as Temple Mount, the site of an ancient Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

"This is why I like Jerusalem," he said. "It's the center for Jews, Christians, and Muslims."

That's also what makes this time particularly tense.

Israel controls access to the esplanade, which sits on large raised area between the Muslim and Jewish quarters of the Old City. Authorities have restricted access to the compound before during periods of confrontation.

For now though, the politics has been pushed into the background by the bustle and energy of Ramadan preparations.

"What will happen in Ramadan, what the security situation will be like, whether Jerusalem be will be open, whether the mosque will be open, we are always optimistic," said Abed al-Rahim Sader Helmi Ansari, who works at al-Asqa Mosque.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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