Today marked the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. The sighting of the crescent moon late on Monday night indicated the 9th lunar month, and the beginning of Ramadan, would start today.
Abstaining from food and water from sunrise to sunset (this year this is from approximately 4am to just after 7pm) must be difficult, especially in Dubai summer temperatures which slunk past 50 celsius yesterday. Not an easy feat and not something I think I would look forward to or enjoy. When I think back to my childhood days of ‘giving up’ chocolate and sweets for Lent, I remember dreading the 6 week period. I counted down the days to Easter when I would have implied permission to stuff my face with as many Easter eggs as possible…..even before breakfast. But when I look around my office many of my Muslim colleagues take the complete opposite view to that of my Lenten days. They are excited that Ramadan is approaching; they look forward to it.
The atmosphere in the office today was buzzing. Graceful, smiling faces lit up the conservative decor. Everyone greeted those fasting with the usual greeting of ‘Ramadan Kareem’ (Ramadan is generous) and ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (happy Ramadan). My colleagues are very open to explaining the ‘ins and outs’ and ‘dos and don’ts’ for those of us not so familiar with Ramadan etiquette. Indeed many are very excited to explain meanings, traditions and even pre-fasting (Suhoor) and breaking fast (Iftar) recipes!
I recall my first Ramadan in Dubai (well the first few days of it before we jetted off to cooler climes). I felt awkward and unsure. My twins were only 2 and my little one under 1. Eating and drinking (even water) in public is prohibited. Thankfully children are exempt (as are nursing mums and the ill). Most restaurants, cafes, food courts are closed during daylight hours. Some open for takeaways. Some are open, such as those in the DIFC, but are concealed behind curtains (although grocery stores are open as usual). How would I cope??? Should I stay cooped up in the apartment until sunset? I remember being afraid to drink water in my car in case I was fined. This from a woman who can’t go an hour without swigging H2O out of a BPA free beaker. If I snacked, I ‘ducked’ down in my car so no one could see me……When out and about, I would pop to the Ladies’ to slug a few mouthfuls of water to re-hydrate.
But now, a few years on, I embrace Ramadan. I have learned to adapt within the realms of respect.
Ramadan is not just about sacrifice. It is a time for giving, peace, reflection; a time to attone. The holy month really does inspire a peaceful, calm feeling. It certainly makes me re-evaluate my views of the importance of Lent!