Saturday, August 22, 2009

I wish the real world would just stop hassling me...

We were offline for many days, (apologies), but the internet is up and running for us again, phew.

Ramadan began today. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a holy month of fasting from before dawn to sundown for Muslims. This means nothing at all by mouth. No water, no food, no gum, nada. It's supposed to teach empathy for those who are starving, and to figuratively burn away all sins. Muslims also avoid any other sort of luxury or indulgence of the body during the fasting hours of the day. It's a time of reflection, of purification, a time to perform charity and appreciate your spiritual and family relationships. Really, it's a beautiful celebration.

For non-Muslims in a Muslim country, it can also be a pain in the patella.

Isn't that terrible of me to say? But true. Please understand that I respect Islam and the practice of religion. It's the idea of being thirsty that makes me vaguely cranky. I also wear long sleeves in addition to the long pants in an effort to dress appropriately, so being hot (like, HOT hot) doesn't help my 'tude.

Turnabout being fair play, it must be absolutely horrid to be a Muslim in, say, particularly the USA, trying to fast all month long while everyone around you is stuffing their faces, completely oblivious to your spiritual quest. (And in Northern climes where days are a lot longer so you have to fast several hours more than your Middle East counterparts). So here, by law, all adults except for certain groups like pregnant women and the terminally ill refrain from any eating or drinking in public, which includes in your car.

Rumors have circulated that the police in Dubai will be looking to give out twice as many tickets this year for infractions. Getting busted having a sip of water, for instance, netted a 1000 dirham fine last year. In other words, no matter how little you care about being culturally respectful, they make sure you will care. It's not worth it, and they have every right.

The restaurants and coffee shops are all closed until the sun sets, and then stay open late into the night and the starving folk feast...and feast and feast. Then they get up early to get something to eat before the sky starts to lighten and the whole cycle starts all over again. I can't imagine this doesn't wreak havoc on one's metabolism.

That we aren't allowed to eat in public of course instantly makes me crave gum and water and drive-through junk food and to have iced coffees brought to my car window...things not to be until almost October. Dry mouth is the way of the day when you're out and about. At least I get to sneak around behind the closed curtains of our home and be as infidel as I please.

Last year I was surprised at how many fellow non-Muslim expats dreaded and complained about Ramadan. Second time around, I wasn't looking forward to it, but considering everything, it's OK. A little extra self-control, a spiritual self-examination, bit of discomfort, can't really hurt, right?

And, perhaps childishly, I am looking forward to the fun of being at Safa Park this evening when they fire a cannon to mark the last bit of the sun slipping away. Good stuff.


Will & Cheyenne said...

That's pretty intense. With our faith, being Mormon, we fast the first Sunday of every month for two meals. For all the same reasons.....humility, empathy.....and then donate the money we would have used on those two meals to the poor. I really enjoy the concept and have gained much from it, but Will and I practically stay at opposite sides of the house that afternoon because I get a little "tense". :)

Sariya said...

Ramadan Mubarak! I made myself nauseous yesterday just dreading the coming of Ramadan today ... isn't that horrible of me?? So no, don't feel guilty for dreading it as a non-muslim. I think it's still unfair that anybody be punished for having sips in their cars! Ridiculous and I think, kind of un-halal, lol! Also, although we have to fast til 8:30 PM here in Seattle gasp!, at least it's only 70 F outside ... :)
See you in the desert, soon!

dorothy said...

Good going cousin - be sure to stay hydrated...or there is always the 'well timed pregnancy' option. Better than the terminal illness one by a long shot!

Jean said...

What happens at Mike's job site during Ramadan? Do the workers work without water during the day in temps that feel like 156.5F? Or, do they switch to a night work schedule?

Anonymous said...

The work day is reduced and the schedule is revised a bit. Water is provided in "private" areas for non-Muslim workers. It is a very dangerous situation that we have to monitor closely.

We have a similar problem even when it is not Ramadan. Some of the contractors pay their workers a stipend for food. Many of these workers are supporting families back home, mostly in India, so they send the money home and go without food. We have had a few heat-related illnesses because of this and have since directed the contractors to provide actual meals and not cash.

Seeing how these guys work, and being responsible, at least indirectly, for their well-being (17,000 laborers) is quite an educational, and at times surreal, experience.

- Mike

Kerry said...

I followed a link from your cousin's blog (Urban Servant). So, no "non-Muslim" passes for those not of that religion, huh?

I'm going to link to this, if you don't mind, because I think it is so valuable for Americans (most of my blog readers) to get even a small glimpse of life outside the US.

Jean said...

Thanks, Mike, for the info on work conditions during Ramadan. Charlie was particularly interested because years ago he taught a Boeing class in Morocco during Ramadan. (Very bad planning on somebody's part.) After partying all night every night the students were zombies by noon. Fortunately the airline declared that classes would end at noon. Charlie says it was the most condensed course he ever taught. To the good side, Charlie was invited to some of the parties and felt very honored to be included.