Saturday, May 15, 2021

After Covid-19 washout last year, Ramadan bazaar traders raring to go

Both newcomers and veterans look forward to the month-long affair which gives them an opportunity to ply their goods.

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After a year-long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramadan bazaars have been given the green light to reopen this fasting month – and traders are champing at the bit.

For Ros Sahilla Atira and her husband, Mohamad Hafiz, this year will mark their first ever Ramadan bazaar.

The couple, who hail from Terengganu, specialise in local cuisine including nasi dagang and pulut nyior. They used to work at a canteen in a primary school but their contract was terminated in December as health measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 kept school gates nationwide closed.

Even before that, they had struggled to turn a profit as most students were advised to bring their own food from home.

Once their contract ended, they knew they could no longer stay in Terengganu. Armed with just their savings, they moved to Selayang in Gombak, Selangor, in search of a fresh start.

“It was a last-minute decision,” Ros Sahilla told MalaysiaNow. “We couldn’t keep staying in Terengganu, so we decided to move here and start over.”

They have only been in Selayang a month but already, they know they are happy.

“Our business is performing better here than it did in Terengganu,” Ros Sahilla said.

Finger food and snacks are a staple at Ramadan bazaars which are held throughout the fasting month each year – with the exception of last year.

Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced last month that Ramadan and Aidilfitri bazaars had been given the green light to open this year.

However, he said these must be held in strict compliance with SOPs including sufficient space between stalls, separate entrances and exits, temperature checks and registration through the MySejahtera application.

He said Ramadan bazaars would be allowed to open from 3pm until 8pm while Aidilfitri bazaars could operate from 10am until midnight.

Ros Sahilla and Hafiz are well aware of the need to adhere to SOPs, especially in areas as traditionally congested as Ramadan bazaars.

“Even now, people are queuing to buy our food,” Ros Sahilla said. “For the Ramadan bazaar next week, we will apply the SOPs more strictly and make sure they maintain physical distancing.

“But I am so happy to have the opportunity to join the bazaar next week,” she added. “Looking at where we are now, I don’t think we have plans to return (to Terengganu).”

Salwani Abdul Shhukor meanwhile is a Ramadan bazaar veteran. She has operated a stall during the fasting month for 15 years.

“I am so happy to have the opportunity to join the bazaar next week.”

Each year, the bazaar gives her an opportunity to sell an assortment of finger food which brings her profits of up to RM10,000 a month.

It’s no surprise that she refers to Ramadan as her “bonus month”.

When the movement restrictions last year kept Ramadan bazaars off the calendar, she was forced to move her business online.

The money she made was nowhere near what she would have earned at a traditional stall.

“But we were more than grateful that we could still run our business.”

This year, she hopes to attract more customers despite the strict physical distancing which she intends to enforce.

Her ambitions are high: she aims to sell 1,000 pieces of samosa and 400 curry puffs when the bazaar opens next week.

“We lost our opportunity when the bazaar was closed last year. So this year, I really hope we will have bigger crowds.”

Ice-cold drinks are a must at any Ramadan bazaar, where many go to break their fast at the end of the day.

Mindful of Covid-19 SOPs, the authorities have allocated each stall an additional three feet of space to ensure a sufficient distance between traders.

“I’m sure there won’t be any challenge maintaining physical distancing,” Salwani said.

Like Ros Sahilla and Hafiz, Amirul Ikmal Izhar will be running a stall at the Ramadan bazaar for the first time this year and he hopes to collect many good memories.

Amirul, who sells blended ice flavoured with a variety of syrups, is looking forward to the crowds to come.

“I am sure that everyone misses Ramadan bazaars a lot,” he said. “It’s an event that we all look forward to annually, and now it’s returning. So for this year, I do think we will see a massive crowd.”

But he also hopes that buyers and sellers alike will not take the permission granted by the authorities for granted.

“As sellers, we will definitely follow the SOPs as intended by the government. I hope the customers will follow them as strictly as we do. We have to take the precautions seriously.”

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