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. http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Heritage_and_Culture/10241863.html
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.
(Kareem, yes, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that's how I remember it, means "happy", just as we might say Merry Christmas)