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For Muslims around the world, Ramadan -- the holy month of fasting from dawn to dusk -- begins today.

Clerics around the Islamic world spotted the new moon Monday, signaling the start of the observance. The starting date changes each year and is determined by the sighting of the new moon.

Egypt's grand mufti, Sheik Nasr Farid, the government's ranking cleric, made the announcement in Cairo. Similar announcements also were made by clerics in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Qatar.

Telephone lines in Egypt were jammed as family members called each other to relay Ramadan greetings, making it hard even to get a dial tone.

The holy month marks God's revelation of the Koran, Islam's holy book, to the Prophet Mohammed some 1,400 years ago.

The world's 1 billion Muslims observe Ramadan by abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex during daylight hours as an act of sacrifice and purification.

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