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.