Monday, September 25, 2006

a taste of Ramadan

For all of you that don't live in a Muslim country... I thought it might be fun to give you a taste of life during Ramadan in Bahrain.

Let's start w/ the bad things first:

The thing is... you fast from sun up to sun down during Ramadan. So... when you get up in the mornings, there's no drinking of water or any type of beverage, no intake of food, no smoking, no sex, no nothing. Even for non-Muslims... there is none of this.. well, unless you're inside your own home, of course. ;)

Every restaurant on the island is closed until after 5:00 p.m. every day. You can find little cold stores open in the mornings in case you're not fasting, but you are not allowed, by law, to eat, drink or smoke on the streets or in public during Ramadan. If you are caught doing this, you will be arrested. I can imagine how difficult it is for the ppl who smoke... and who are accustomed to smoking in their cars while driving some place or while they're walking on the streets. But... this is a BIG no no.

All workplaces close the kitchens during Ramadan so you have no access to water, tea, coffee - nothing. If you are non-Muslim, you should close your door when eating so that no one will see. It's of VERY bad manners to eat or drink in front of a Muslim during the fasting hours of the holy month.

If you're fasting, it's very common to have severe headaches in the first several days of Ramadan, and many Muslims stay in bad moods during the holy month because they're fasting. You'll find tempers flaring over small things and ppl are more argumentative, in general.

At 3:00 a.m. every morning, for a month, in some neighborhoods (this happens in ours every morning), young men and boys march thru the neighborhood banging on drums. This is to wake everyone up so that they can have their last meal before sunrise. I don't eat before sunrise... and because I'm a light sleeper, this wakes me up every morning and then I can't get back to sleep. This year, they have other instruments to accompany the drums... and there are probably 15 young men in the group. It's quite a nice wake up for any of you that find it hard to sleep at night... I have this to look forward to every year! And this year, it's especially loud and seems to last forever! ;)

And one of the big things that can be very bad, depending on where you work, is that so many ppl stay up until 4:00 a.m or 5:00 a.m. every morning, that they are practically like zombies at the work place. At some companies, it doesn't matter, but when you're busy and need the help of some ppl, it can be very aggravating because ppl are too tired and can't function properly. Ppl also keep their children up until these hours and then send them off to school the next day. Imagine trying to learn and study when you've only had a couple hours of sleep!

Some of the good things about Ramadan:

Ppl tend to give more to the poor during this month. You'll find famlies making big meals especially for the poor.

Restaurants and coffee shops are open until the wee hours of the morning and you'll always find huge crowds of ppl out and about during Ramadan. Ppl love to socialize during Ramadan and many visit their family members and friends during this month.

Huge meals are prepared for Iftar (breaking of the fast) every night of the month. This is especially good. It reminds me a lot of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in the States, altho the meals are much different. You'll find a large array of food items including different rice dishes, samboosa, chicken or lamb, soups, salads, harees (some type of smashed beans w/ shredded meat and olive oil on the top - very tasty!!), kufta (meatballs w/ a tomato-based sauce and potatoes), thareed (soggy lebanese type of bread w/ potatoes, tomatoes, meat, onions, carrots cooked on the top - very delish), hummos, olives, dates.... almost any kind of food that you can think of. It's so wonderful and I always look forward to Iftar during Ramadan. There are many other types of food, but I don't know all the names - so I welcome anyone to give more detail.

Sweets/desserts. These are always so wonderful during Ramadan. There are so many that I especially like, but I don't know the names. I like Um Ali... it's so good. And there are many other desserts that have cinnamin and I always love anything w/ this spice.

There's also another dinner at around 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 - sometimes later - in order for ppl to get together. It's called ghabga. Lots of companies do these types of dinners for their employees during the month of Ramadan. At these dinners, you'll also find a huge assortment of food and sweets... anything your heart can imagine... you'll find.

You get more movies and shows on the TV during Ramadan. It can be quite enjoyable but sometimes the shows aren't very good.

Many coffee shops have musicians during Ramadan, so it's always a lot of fun to sit at coffee shops during the night to listen to the music and have a good time, if you're a night owl - which many tend to be during Ramadan.

There are usually lots of sales during the month of Ramadan at clothing shops, electronic shops and the likes. So you can get some really good deals on items.... it's always fun to shop during Ramadan cuz if you're looking for a big TV, this is the time to buy it.

These are just some of the things I can think of... but I thought it might give some of you that aren't familiar w/ Ramadan a glimpse into the life of a few during this holy month.

I will add this particular thought ... I find that Muslims have it very easy in this part of the world during Ramadan. Everything is closed and there is no temptation in front of them so they have it rather easy, I think. In the States.... this is where the true test of faith comes in... or in any other non-Muslim country, for that matter. Wouldn't it be better to allow restaurants and such to be open? Isn't that where the true test of faith comes to play? Having what you desire in front of you but still not partaking in the exquisite fruit? If everything is closed and there's no chance of slipping... then where does the true test come in?


Mahmood Al-Yousif said...

no chance of a BLT then? damn!

Ramadhan mubarak...

MSB said...

How long have u lived in Bahrain? You have Ramadan down pretty well! =)

You reminded me of Ramadan in the States. It was horrible. Not only did you have to sit there and watch people eat/drink in front of you, you couldn't always break your fast at the correct time (if u r in class or in a meeting!) Plus, my favorite, breaking fast time was later there than here! At times I couldn't break my fast till almost 8 pm. That was horrible!

still breathing said...

most of restaurant and cafe owners would close their shops out of their own free will if they r in a muslim country...coz the majority are fasting..

1 thing that i don't understand..why do people spend like maniacs on food when their normal intake is still the same?

Reem said...

You reminded me how nice Ramadan is in the Middle East! I'm back in London and missing all those things you mentioned, the good and the bad!

The Moody Minstrel said...

I heard once that some medical researchers say Muslims tend to have healthier digestive systems than Westerners largely thanks to the fasting of Ramadan. Apparently it gives the system a good opportunity to clean itself out...a very handy fringe benefit!

The more I research Islam, the more it amazes me.

Anonymous said...

Laxatives actually work better and faster, use them once in a while to ensure that your pipes get scrubbed!

tooners said...

mahmood, do you know how long it's been since i had a BLT... yum!!!! i love them!!! and Ramadan Kareem to you my friend.

msb, i've lived here for almost 4 yrs now. my husband said the same as you! ;) i have fasted in the states before and you're right.. depending on where you live, sometimes to break the fast comes very late in the evening. in texas, the sun doesn't set until almost after 8 at times. and yes, it is really difficult.. i will agree w/ you.

still breathing, you know, there's one shop that delivers lunch that is still open during Ramadan this year... apparently they got some type of special contract... but you are right, i think most close their shops because there'd be no business. but... i still think it would be nice for a few to be open for those that aren't fasting. and i agree... WHY do ppl spend like maniacs!!! you wouldn't believe how much food i've been seeing in carts these last few days at the grocery!

reem, i hope i gave you some nice thoughts and feelings. i can see how you'd miss both... i do the same w/ special events.

moody, you know, they say it's very healthy for the body to fast like this and i've heard the same w/ respect to the cleansing itself, altho i would have never believed it. but... if you're not careful, you'll gain tons of weight during ramadan but i think this comes from ppl absolutely stuffing themselves, which i don't really get.

Ms Bees Knees said...

this is really cool tooners... i've always wondered about ramadan. what do you say to those celebrating it? happy ramadan??

vampyregirl said...

but isn't it bad not to have water when you are thirsty? yeah, you obviously won't die from not drinking for that short o' period, but still....but then again what do I know! ;)

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

What an excellent post showing us Ramadam as it is experienced where you are. Better than all the book explanations.
Our two Muslim women in our Interfaith group didn't come today, but I think they are travelling overseas.
In Fiji they also have Ramadan as there are about 60,000 Muslims living there.
I wonder about drinking though - in a hot country because you can get dehydrated and ill surely!
In fiji fasting for Christians - some of them - means one day a week without food.
The only fasting I've ever done was for World Vision - the forty-hour famine where we fund-raise and can only drink water. I lasted for abouy 50 hours and felt very healthy afterwards.

Haitham Salman said...

You managed to take me back to an atmosphere that I missed. I have not had Ramadan in Bahrain for 9 years..
I really miss it.

Girl, Interrupted said...

I'm impressed with this post. And I'm ever more impressed that you seem to think that "harees" is tasty!! Well done... :) And in a way, i'm relieved you mentioned the headache part. It's been stuck, almost glued to my head for the past three days... This morning is probably the first time I woke up without feeling hungover... Yes, I insist on using that word!

In reply to your comments, they were truly wonderful and made me feel heaps better... As everyone has, I've been hurt many many times and something happened to me that lead me into deciding that I need to keep my mouth shut. However, I'm beginning to think, after kind of sinking in that familiar comfort zone, of how wrong it is and how much it's not really me...

Thank you once again, and I'm glad you've decided to read my blog!

stillsmokin' said...

gr8 description of Ramadan btw, especially the insight of how it is over there in bahrain! its kinda similar in kuwait as well, and you get fined and/or go to jail if you are caught in the street publicly breaking fast..not sure how it goes these days. i used to live there, but now i'm in cairo..things are quite different here, you will not find too many people eating or drinking publicly, but if they are, there is no real problem with that. same goes for the offices, christians or ppl who just don't wanna fast can have their ciggy or eat where ever they please, but it would definitly be impolite of them to do it infront of everyone! :)

tooners said...

ms bees knees, sure, say happy ramadan. you can also say ramadan kareem which literally means ramadan giving or happy ramadan and you can also say ramadan mubarak, which means congrats on ramadan. :)

vampyregirl, i always thought it would be better if ppl had liquids as well... and like you, i sometimes find myself saying, "what do i know!" ;)

W, i didn't realize fiji had so many muslims... i learn something new every day! you know, most ppl stay indoors until the breaking of the fast because, if not, i can only imagine the headaches and dehydration that ppl would suffer from not drinking enough liquids. ppl do get a lot of headaches and i think this may be a part of it. having been in a catholic home, i used to fast on fridays during lent, but it was nothing like the fasting during ramadan.

haitham, thanks for stopping by my blog! i really enjoy all of your stories. i hope that i brought you some good memories. being away from home can be difficult at times, especially in times like these.

girl, interrupted, first, i love your blog name! you have a really good blog, and i'm glad my comments made you feel better. always remember to be yourself.. at the end, that's what matters. you know, i didn't like harees in the beginning but i really like it now. i look forward to having that and we even went out last night to a place that sales it cuz i was craving it a bit but it was sold out! :( and thanks for coming to my blog. :)

stillsmokin', glad you liked the post and thanks for coming by. i was wondering if all the gulf countries were the same and i think, for the most part, they are very similar. i'm not surprised that egypt is more open... they are w/ most things, don't ya think? i love egypt, btw. i went there last year for a week and can't wait to go again. i loved all the pyramids, the museum... all the really old places... just wonderful stuff.

thanks everyone for all the comments. i'm glad i gave you guys some good memories. it helps to have positive thoughts and memories when you're far away from family and friends... and even to remember the good things and bad things at times (if your close).. cuz sometimes we take things for granted. i know i do.

Leilouta said...

In Tunisia, I always went onto the streets during the breaking fast just to enjoy walking on the deserted streets. I thougth that was so cool.

My husband and I fasted Saturday and Sunday.He was really good about it. He whined a little, and asked me if he could have a beer with dinner the second night :

Leilouta said...

and he did have a few :)

tooners said...

leilouta, last night we went out driving after iftar, i guess around 8 pm or just a little later, and the streets were completely empty. it felt weird but really nice. i so enjoyed it. if the weather was better, i'd love to get out and walk, like you. it's such a nice feeling to have the streets to yourself!! and good for your hubby!!!! a beer sounds really good right about now! ;) i haven't had one in prob 5+ mths!!

gazza27 said...

In my ignorance,what happens if you dont keep to it,does that make you a bad person?

TechZ said...

Wow, you know a whole lot of about Ramadan tooners :D

I dont get headaches, I think people who stay up late and over eat do. I also don't lose my temper at this time of the year, because being patient and understanding is also what its all about.

Ramadan Mubarak to all, hope yours goes great!

Munther said...

Happy ramadan tooners ! :) Sorry for not dropping by as often ! I blame Ramadan ! I really enjoyed reading this post, but you missed something ! People blaming ramadan for things ie I can't be bothered to do something ! Why ? Cause I am FASTING ! :p or I didn't do my homework ! WHY ? cause I am FASTING ! :P and so on ! :D

gazza: It is one of the pillars of islam to fast, I don't know about other countries but in Bahrain, you wouldn't get into much trouble, well, at least I think so ! :P

Greg said...

Tooners: haven't been around lately...sorry! I really enjoyed reading this post and not because it was the first one I saw:) I've always been interested in other religions, besides Judaism. To be completely honest, I know very little about Judaism as well.

Your post was quite informative. I saw a lot of similarities between the fast of the holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur. Though not religious, I always keep this fast. It's only one day, but it's an entire 24 hours. Like I said, there are plenty of similarities just like there are between the three major religions.

BTW: did you know that Arabic and Hebrew both come from Aramaic and are very, very similar?

Greg said...

Just a side-comment for all the bloggers here: good for you for ignoring "anonymous." Makes me sick.

tooners said...

gazza27, a lot of ppl, from what i understand - but i could be wrong - go to Mecca specifically to cleanse away their sins because of stuff like this.. or if they break the fast, they'll take it up later, which has to be done before the next Ramadan. i, personally, don't feel that it makes you a bad person if you break it, but i'm sure that there are many who feel quite differently than me.

techz, you know, in the work environment that i'm now in, i don't see the bad moods like i used to see or argumentative ppl, but i did see it a lot in my last job. i see it sometimes at the grocery w/ some ppl, but more often that not, i don't see this either. but i thought it was fun just to mention it! ;)

munther, i used to hear of excuses in my last job, but i don't see this anymore. i'm sure in the field that you're in, you see it a lot.

greg, hi there. you know, i think there's a lot of similarities as well... i've thought that for a long time, matter of fact. i wonder how many ppl would acknowledge that though! i wasn't sure about Yom Kippur, i thought it was for longer than 24 hours. i also found it interesting that it started on the same day, am i right, that Ramadan starts??

The Moody Minstrel said...

Greg, of course there are similarities! After all, the Q'uran doesn't refer to Muslims, Christians, and Jews collectively as the "People of the Book/Scriptures" for nothing!

Of course, the Q'uran also says that ALL the "People of the Book/Scriptures" are supposed to be treated with respect, but we don't need to get into that here...

Greg said...

Tooners: please forgive me for my ignorance, but could you tell me exactly when the first day of Ramahdan is? Yom Kippur is the 1st of Oct. this year but just like the Muslim calender, according to the Jewish calendar, the date is different(Christian calendar-wise) every year...Whew...that was tough...

Anyhow, it's a well-known fact that there are more similarities than differences between the three major faiths and the people of the Book--whether the "Book" is the Old Testament, New, or the Koran.

All we have to do is make these similarities shine brighter than the differences--not a very easy task, to be sure:)

tooners said...

greg, Ramadan started the 23rd of Sept. it goes until the 22nd of Oct., then Eid starts on the 23rd. :)

Anonymous said...

I was searching the web for similarities between Lent & Ramadan for a research project when I came across this. Not much help for my project but so interesting to read! :)