Monday, September 1, 2008

Gimme gimme gimme good water...

(One of the mosques by Safa Park, the Burj Dubai in the distance.)

Saturday, as evening approached, it "cooled" from 109 to around 101. When the temperature drops the humidity increases, and by 6:30 the humidity was more than 70%. Unfortunately, 6:30 is also when the Predictor Run starts.

By the end of the first lap I was entertaining thoughts of throwing in the towel and browbeating myself into continuing. Only 3 days earlier I'd had a thoroughly wonderful, chatty run with hotter conditions on this very same track, and had finished feeling invigorated and happy. Lungs a little sore from the thick air, but other than that...

By the middle of this run's second lap I felt like I was running underwater in a jacuzzi. A HOT jacuzzi. I was having about as much success getting a good breath as I might underwater, too. My heart rate was perfect, but the not breathing thing doesn't work so well for me. It was awful.

I was last among the 2-lappers, though I still had a better finishing time than the first time I did it. I also couldn't tell you how many times I slowed to a few paces of walk then back up to a sloppy slog. That is so unusual for me I can't even tell you.

I decided, though I was also disappointed, overall to be really happy I had neither died nor quit. (Success though lowered expectations). I figured that was the best I could get out of the experience, because it really was awful. This is the first place I've run where your shoes go 'squelch-squirch' because they're all wet inside, and not from running in standing water. Yuck.

After the run all the Road Runners gathered to hear the awards and announcements from Graham. He reminded us that Ramadan was starting soon. This I knew. He followed it with the statement that during the next runs we should not have anything to drink.

Ooh, hadn't thought of that one. I'm also thinking I'll be a one-lapper next week.

For more than a billion Muslims worldwide, Ramadan started at sunset on Sunday.

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which just happened to fall on the 9th month of the western calender this year. Next year it will start Mid-August, as it follows the lunar cycle, and the year after that it will start about 2 weeks earlier, and so forth.

For 30 days, Muslims fast (sahwa) from sunrise to sunset, neither eating nor drinking, putting nothing in their mouths whatsoever. Those who are very ill, pregnant, and children under the age of 12 are exempt from fasting. I was amazed at the "no drinking" bit. No water? Um, in the desert?

I told you these people are made of tough stuff!

All people here in the UAE are required by law to not eat or drink or chew gum or smoke in public during Ramadan. This includes in your car. Restaurants are closed until nightfall, when the Iftar, the evening light meal of dates commences. Then, I have been told, the party begins.

So here's how it works. People get up really early and eat. Then they fast all day. Work and school hours for most (not Mike, unfortunately) are shortened, and the Muslims who can go home and go to sleep until nightfall. Then the cannons are fired to signal the end of the fast. Yes, cannons.

The cannon, a formidable looking piece of military hardware, was already set up in the parking lot at Safa Park on Saturday, attended to by 4 policemen in their olive uniforms. I asked Graham and Katrina if they thought it would be all right for me to go over and talk with the officers and they urged me on. So I slopped over there in my running gear, all wet and disheveled. I tried to ask the men if manning the canon was an honor, a reward for service. They looked at me blankly. One said "It is for Ramadan."

Yes, yes, got that. But is it a special privilege, did you do something very good to get this duty?

More blank looks. Flurry of comments to one another in Arabic.

Finally I said, Um, er, mabrook! Mabrook to you...?

You wish to congratulate us Madam? Said one with a glimmer in his eye. Then he went on to talk to me about Ramadan at some length, in English, and how I would not be drinking in the park next time and also, he teased, would I sneak food in a dark little corner of my house? Maybe a little bit, I confessed.

(The only reason I can remember "Mabrook" for congratulations is because that was the name of the competent wizard in The Last Unicorn. Embarrassing, but true.)

They offered me coffee from a bowl on the ground, with small demitasse cups, and dates from another bowl. I tried a crystallized sugar date, tasty. I told them I'd bring our kids to see the canon being fired. The other Road Runners, who have really opened up by the way, had said it's really loud and something not to miss.

Here is a news article showing said very cool looking cannon.

My verbose friend in the force is the one plugging both his ears in the news photo. Bethy cannot wait to go out to Safa Park and see it.

As the month goes on I'll write more about Ramadan, what it is, and how we experience it here for our first time.

Ramadan Kareem!

(Kareem, yes, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that's how I remember it, means "happy", just as we might say Merry Christmas)


sherrip said...

Yes, I would think not dying would be cause to be really happy! (Crazy girl!!) You are a dedicated soul...I don't think you'd catch me doing even one lap in that weather without water...btw, if you are not to eat in public, not even in your car, were you not blatantly disregarding that while eating in your car and watching the sand being deposited on the beach?? You lawbreaker!

Thanks for the cultural information, it is really interesting. You will talk to everyone...obviously that's where Bethy got her outgoingness!

Natalie said...

A comment! A comment! Yaaaay!

Lawbreaking? Me? Not in this country, sister!I hear the jails are not so posh.

We were in the car eating several days before Ramadan started. Totally OK to eat in public any other time of the year. Now McDonalds is closed until 7 PM and I can't stop for a coffee either. (whimper). Coffee aside, I've noticed that I'm getting dehydrated from not constantly drinking water like I was before; I'm so glad it's OK for the kids to eat and drink.

The funny thing is that I got my outgoingness from Bethy! I was a quiet-ish book-in-the corner happy-as-a-clam girl before kids. Bethy gets it from her Grandma Colleen.

sherrip said...

Oh, I see. Well, I don't think I could give up fluids in that heat, even at a cool 90! I have juice fasted in the past, but that was having fluids only for 3-5 days. It is really the first couple of days that are tough, and with Ramadan at least you get to eat at night. Kudos for any attempts.