Ramadan

It's Ramadan, my second one.

My previous one was a cultural experience. I was eager to learn the ways of the muslim people and trying to understand the greater meaning of it. You can read what I wrote about it last year here (in estonian).

This year things have changed. Dubai has corrupted me. I am not so culturally sensitive anymore. At times I can be a careless westerner complaining about the fact that I can't eat and drink in public before sunset. But hey - Ramadan is a holy season for muslims and they should be fasting because of the meaning they believe in and seeing other people eat and drink should not disturb them. If the faith is strong enough. A week ago there was an article on the front page of a newspaper, criticizing women who wear skirts and show shoulders during Ramadan. The next day you could read letters from the readers (muslims) where some said that if you are a true muslim, your faith is strong and you will look away, that Ramadan is about you, not other people. I couldn't agree more.

Dubai has sold out too. Last year the cinemas were closed and there was no music in bars. This year there is no difference between Ramadan and other months. Only food outlets are closed in most of the places (but not all, if you paid enough, you could get a special license allowing you to keep the restaurant open). Home delivery still works everywhere which is how our staff has lunch. I overheard one of my egyptian friends saying how in Dubai its hard to notice that it is Ramadan compared to Egypt.

The fast is an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Another meaning is compassion for the poor people - you feel the hardship of the poor who don't have anything to eat.

This last thing is a bit funny for me. Sure, during Ramadan people don't eat when the sun is up, but when its eating time they mean business. Eating almost never stops and they eat HUGE quantities. Most of you probably know that you feel like could eat an elephant when you haven't eaten for a long time. So usually people dig in as much as they can. And feel bloated afterwards. I've done the same - yes, it can be great to eat that much. I also tried to fast one day, but I have to be honest - it was damn difficult. I cheated and had 3 cups of tea during the day. So definitely it is a test of willpower and requires inner strength to accomplish it. The thing that makes me scratch my head is that poor people can't start feasting after the sunset. So this part seems a bit hypocrite to me.

When asked if I like Ramadan, then I have to be honest. Since there is no spiritual meaning for me personally, I only endure the hardship of being restricted from doing certain things I would like to do. So I have to say "no", I would prefer that it wouldn't be Ramadan. The main good thing for me is that we have Ramadan working hours and I can leave at 3pm. And there is less traffic.

This weekend I will have the chance to have iftar (breaking the fast) with 2 local (emirati) families, which I am looking forward to. This kind of chances to get to see the local culture are hard to come by. More about that later.

No comments: