Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, in its 27 March 2008 issue, published an article on the Baha'is celebrating the end of their annual fast and the advent of their new year on the 21st of March. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the group of families gathered in Maryland public park of Cairo. A follow-up article addressing the misleading subtitle was published here on 29 March.
The newspaper reported that the Baha'is were free to celebrate and that the celebration was not interfered with by the state security. It also mentioned that during the celebration, called Naw Ruz, they read from their Holy Book, after which each family returns to its home and resume its usual devotions.
Baha'is in the Park (Cairo, 21 March)
The following paragraphs regarding the Baha'i Fast are quoted from the website of the Baha'i International Community:
As has been the case with other revealed religions, the Bahá'í Faith sees great value in the practice of fasting as a discipline for the soul . Bahá'u'lláh designated a nineteen-day period each year when adult Bahá'ís fast from sunrise to sunset each day. This period coincides with the Bahá'í month of Ala (meaning Loftiness), from March 2 to 20, inclusive. This is the month immediately preceding the Bahá'í new year, which occurs the day of the vernal equinox; and the period of fasting is therefore viewed as a time of spiritual preparation and regeneration for a new year's activities. Women who are nursing or pregnant, the aged, the sick, the traveler, those engaged in heavy labor, as well as children under the age of fifteen, are exempt from observance of the Fast.
"The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires."
Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man's thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow... Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual. The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body. But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits. Therefore, material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting. That is: 'O God! As I am fasting from the appetites of the body and not occupied with eating and drinking, even so purify and make holy my heart and my life from aught else save Thy Love, and protect and preserve my soul from self-passions... Thus may the spirit associate with the Fragrances of Holiness and fast from everything else save Thy mention.'It must be said that this example represents the true face of Egypt, and not the other face that is occasionally promoted by extremist elements. Egypt, by nature, can be quite tolerant and open to various beliefs and points of view. Peaceful Egyptian citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation, deserve to be always treated with dignity and respect and to enjoy their full citizenship rights. The Baha'is of Egypt are still awaiting the issue of ID cards, birth certificates and all other required official documents.