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AP PHOTOS: As Ramadan fast ends, the feasts begin

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AAA Jul. 21, 2014 4:28 AM ET
AP PHOTOS: As Ramadan fast ends, the feasts begin
By The Associated Press

This Sunday, July 6, 2014 photo, shows an Iraqi family waiting to break their fast during the hold month of Ramadan in Basra, Iraq. For the millions of Muslims abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset every day during Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan, that first sip of water after a grueling fast is by far the most anticipated moment of the day. (AP Photo/ Nabil al-Jurani)

This Sunday, July 6, 2014 photo, shows an Iraqi family waiting to break their fast during the hold month of Ramadan in Basra, Iraq. For the millions of Muslims abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset every day during Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan, that first sip of water after a grueling fast is by far the most anticipated moment of the day. (AP Photo/ Nabil al-Jurani)

This combination of two photos taken on Wednesday, July 2, 2014, shows Chinese Muslim women posing for a photograph before breaking their fast, top, and their meal, bottom, during the holy month of Ramadan at Niujie Mosque in Beijing, China. For the millions of Muslims abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset every day during Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan, that first sip of water after a grueling fast is by far the most anticipated moment of the day. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

This combination of two photos taken on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, shows a Syrian refugee family waiting to break their fast, top, and their meal, bottom, during the holy month of Ramadan, next to the Temporary Centre for Immigrants in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Spain. The family is from Aleppo, Syria, and they arrived to Melilla about four months ago. They fled war crossing through Turkey, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco before arriving to Spain. They are currently waiting for the Spanish authorities to allow them to travel to Europe. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

This combination of two photos taken on Monday, July 7, 2014, shows a Muslim family waiting to break their fast, top, and their meal, bottom, during the holy month of Ramadan at their home in Kabul, Afghanistan. Fasting is a physical and mental exercise meant to draw worshippers closer to God and increase empathy for the poor. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

This combination of two photos taken on Thursday, July 3, 2014, shows an Iranian Muslim family waiting to break their fast, top, and their meal, bottom, during the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran. After a long day of fasting, the moment of pay-off finally comes in the form of “iftarâ€, the evening meal that breaks the fast. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

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For the millions of Muslims abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset every day during Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan, that first sip of water after a grueling fast is by far the most anticipated moment of the day.

In some corners of the world, Muslims are fasting for more than 20 hours a day, depending on when the sun rises and sets in their city. It is a physical and mental exercise meant to draw worshippers closer to God and increase empathy for the poor.

But after a long day of fasting, the moment of pay-off finally comes in the form of “iftar,” the evening meal that breaks the fast. For more than 1,400 years, many Muslims have been breaking fast in the same way the Prophet Muhammad did: with a handful of dates and a sip of water.

Next comes the feast.

Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. The celebratory meals give people reason to reconnect with friends and family, and gather around shared platters of food.

Many cultures also share in special culinary delights particular to the month of fasting. Across much of the Arab world, a juice made from sweet apricots is a staple of Ramadan iftars. In South Asia, yogurt-based drinks such as lassi are popular.

In Egypt, charities set up tables on street corners and under bridges for anyone to stop by and enjoy a free iftar. In the Gulf, community leaders and wealthy sheiks open their doors to their communities to come by at all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation.

Here is a collection of Associated Press photographs of iftars from around the world.

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Associated Press

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