Yemeni citizens and officials alike are greeting Ramadan this year with great joy. As fathers and husbands try to secure their families' needs, women and children greet the holy month with popular song festivals, making sweets and helping other women hold special banquets.
"The advent of the holy month of Ramadan is a joyous occasion for all members of the Yemeni family, the children and women especially," said culture ministry undersecretary Najiba Haddad.
She said that Yemeni women usually prepare for Ramadan with various activities, such as "preparing a joint banquet with colleagues at a workplace, neighbourhood women or a group of friends, consisting of the tastiest and most scrumptious dishes, nicknamed 'anything you crave', in the sense one is allowed to indulge in feasting on all the savoury food one desires before the start of fasting is announced".
Most Yemeni women prepare these banquets the day before Ramadan starts, regardless of whether they live in urban cities or rural villages, Haddad said.
She added that children enjoy singing songs in the evenings throughout the month, reflecting the country's rich cultural and literary heritage.
The children's festival that was held on Tuesday (July 17th) in the open air theatre in Sanaa's Old City is but one of many to be held across Yemen in celebration of the holy month, Haddad said.
She told Al-Shorfa that the joys of Ramadan are no less for men than they are for women and children. Men, however, often face a challenge in providing their families with goods and supplies at a time when prices can vary dramatically, due to current circumstances and difficult economic conditions, from one market to another.
Economists and officials told Al-Shorfa that the holy month is a boon for business as well as a bane for price-conscious shoppers.
Dr. Taha al-Faseel, an economics professor at Sanaa University, said there is tremendous demand for Ramadan-related goods due to the existence of multiple commercial centres devoted to the season's products, in addition to traditional markets and shops carrying Ramadan goods.
He said having multiple centres with no effective oversight has led to occasional price disparities between markets.
"Yemeni society has put the entire burden of providing Ramadan needs on the man's shoulders under difficult economic conditions and after a year of political crisis," al-Faseel said.
He added that Yemeni families often resort to purchasing food and other Ramadan necessities using instalment plans.
Some businesses take advantage of the fact that Ramadan is an annual commercial season of enormous significance and exploit it to distribute and sell illegal products, he said.
Additionally, weak government oversight creates ample opportunity for these businesses to sell expired goods and take advantage of people's low purchasing power, al-Faseel said.
The government said it is seeking to address these issues.
Iqbal Bahadir, undersecretary of the ministry of industry and trade, told Al-Shorfa that the ministry is conducting field inspections in markets to monitor goods and their prices.
Price disparities occur because some merchants receive discounts from wholesalers, which in turn enables them to offer the goods at lower prices than other merchants, Bahadir said.
Other retailers have large quantities of goods and reduce their price to increase sales based on the notion that shoppers gravitate towards commercial centres that advertise price reductions, no matter the size of the reduction, thus creating price disparities, he said.