IT WAS an exciting day for Khairul Izwan Ishak when he was finally able to visit a Ramadan bazaar after more than five years.
The 39-year-old self-service laundry shop owner said he stopped at almost every stall, at the bazaar, in search of local delicacies that he had been unable to savour while he was away from the country.
“I was a musician before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and lived overseas in different countries for about 18 years where there were no Ramadan bazaars. Back then, I seldom got the chance to return home for Ramadan or Hari Raya.
“At the end of 2019, I returned to start my own business and was looking forward to going to a Ramadan bazaar during the fasting month the following year.
“Unfortunately, bazaars were not allowed to open last year.
“After a long wait, my cravings have finally been satisfied, ” he said, adding that he bought at least five different dishes, including ayam percik, murtabak, kuih-muih and air kathirah from the bazaar in Johor Baru.
“I have not had ayam percik for years and I cannot wait to taste it for buka puasa later, ” he said.
School management assistant Nurul Aisha Mohd Yusoff, 34, was happy to be able to experience the festive bazaar atmosphere again.
“I love going to Ramadan bazaars; not because of the food, but for the whole experience as you get to take in the sights, sounds and smells.
“The bazaars are a little different this year as the festivities have been scaled down because of the standard operating procedure (SOP). Despite this, they still provide an exciting experience, ” she said.
However, Nurul Aisha added that she would not bring her three and eight-year-old children to the bazaar.
“They enjoy going to the bazaar, too, but I think it is safer for them not to visit the stalls due to the pandemic, ” she said.
Photographer Nurul Fatihah Kamaruddin, 26, said she was excited to be able to buy her favourite air kathirah drink.
“I tried buying air kathirah through last year’s online bazaar but it did not taste the same. Probably because the ice had melted by the time it reached my house.
“Today I bought the drink, my favourite dessert kuih pelita as well as murtabak, ” she said, adding that she planned to visit the bazaars at least twice a week during the fasting month.
It was also a good day for stall operators who had been waiting for months to welcome visitors after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.
Mohd Hisyamuddin Hamzah, 27, who runs a kebab business in Taman Adda Heights, said his anxiety turned into excitement when the state government allowed Ramadan bazaars to operate this year.
“I waited anxiously for the government to announce if we could participate in the Ramadan bazaar this year.
“When the announcement was made, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders.
“My business was significantly affected last year due to Covid-19.
“Having the opportunity to open my stall, at the bazaar, again is really important as it will help keep business afloat, ” he said, adding that he would maintain his online initiative while running a stall at the bazaar.
“I resorted to social media to sell kebab during last year’s fasting month as I could not open my stall and sales was significantly lower than previous years.”
Biscuit seller Shuhaila Nor Sham Mohd Shamshi, 33, who opened a stall at the Ramadan bazaar near Angsana mall, hoped to see an increase in sales by at least 30% with traders being able to operate this year.
“The fasting month is usually a busy time as I need to juggle between running my shop and a stall at the Ramadan bazaar. However, last year I depended solely on online sales.
“I was relieved to learn that both Ramadan bazaars and shops were allowed to open during the fasting month this year.
“I hope to make up for the losses suffered from last year, ” she said.
Syed Mohd Ghazafi Syed Abu Bakar, 49, who organised several Ramadan bazaars in Johor Baru, said there was extra responsibility to ensure the SOP was observed.
“Both bazaar operators and organisers have to play their part in ensuring that the SOP is observed, ” he said.
“We have to fork out extra money to make the necessary arrangements, such as buying body temperature scanners, traffic cones, ropes and other equipment.
“We also have to beef up manpower to monitor visitors to ensure they adhere to the SOP strictly.”