Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ramadan for Non Muslims

I am repeating this post from September 13, 2007 because it found so much interest among my non-Muslim friends. We are all so ignorant of one another’s customs, why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. There is a blessing that comes with learning more about one another – that blessing, for me, is that when I learn about other, my own life is illuminated.

(I didn’t take this photo; it is from If you want to see an astonishing variety of Ramadan lanterns/ fanous, Google “Image Ramadan lanterns” and you will find pages of them! I didn’t want to lift someone else’s photo from Flicker or Picasa (although people do that to me all the time!) but the variety is amazing.)

Ramadan will start soon; it means that the very thinnest of crescent moons was sighted by official astronomers, and the lunar month of Ramadan might begin. You might think it odd that people wait, with eager anticipation, for a month of daytime fasting, but the Muslims do – they wait for it eagerly.

A friend explained to me that it is a time of purification, when your prayers and supplications are doubly powerful, and when God takes extra consideration of the good that you do and the intentions of your heart. It is also a time when the devil cannot be present, so if you are tempted, it is coming from your own heart, and you battle against the temptations of your own heart. Forgiveness flows in this month, and blessings, too.

We have similar beliefs – think about it. Our holy people fast when asking a particular boon of God. We try to keep ourselves particularly holy at certain times of the year.

In Muslim countries, the state supports Ramadan, so things are a little different. Schools start later. Offices are open fewer hours. The two most dangerous times of the day are the times when schools dismiss and parents are picking up kids, and just before sunset, as everyone rushes to be home for the breaking of the fast, which occurs as the sun goes down. In olden days, there was a cannon that everyone in the town could hear, that signalled the end of the fast. There may still be a cannon today – in Doha there was, and we could hear it, but if there is a cannon in Kuwait, we are too far away, and can’t hear it.

When the fast is broken, traditionally after the evening prayer, you take two or three dates, and water or special milk drink, a meal which helps restore normal blood sugar levels and takes the edge off the fast. Shortly, you will eat a larger meal, full of special dishes eaten only during Ramadan. Families visit one another, and you will see maids carrying covered dishes to sisters houses and friends houses – everyone makes a lot of food, and shares it with one another. When we lived in Tunisia, we would get a food delivery maybe once a week – it is a holy thing to share, especially with the poor and we always wondered if we were being shared with as neighbors, or shared with as poor people! I always tried to watch what they particularly liked when they would visit me, so I could sent plates to their houses during Ramadan.

Just before the sun comes up, there is another meal, Suhoor, and for that meal, people usually eat something that will stick to your ribs, and drink extra water, because you will not eat again until the sun goes down. People who can, usually go back to bed after the Suhoor meal and morning prayers. People who can, sleep a lot during the day, during Ramadan. Especially as Ramadan moves into the hotter months, the fasting, especially from water, becomes a heavier responsibility.

And because it is a Muslim state, and to avoid burdening our brothers and sisters who are fasting, even non-Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, touching someone of the opposite sex in public, even your own husband (not having sex in the daytime is also a part of fasting), smoking is forbidden, and if you are in a car accident and you might be at fault, the person might say “I am fasting, I am fasting” which means they cannot argue with you because they are trying to maintain a purity of soul. Even chewing gum is an offense. And these offenses are punishable by a heavy fine – nearly $400 – or a stay in the local jail.

Because I am not Muslim, there may be other things of which I am not aware, and my local readers are welcome to help fill in here. As for me, I find it not such a burden; I like that there is a whole month with a focus on God. You get used to NOT drinking or eating in public during the day, it’s not that difficult. The traffic just before (sunset) Ftoor can be deadly, but during Ftoor, traffic lightens dramatically (as all the Muslims are breaking their fast) and you can get places very quickly! Stores have special foods, restaurants have special offerings, and the feeling in the air is a lot like Christmas. People are joyful!

There were many comments on the original post, and, as usual in the history of Here There and Everywhere, the commenters taught us all more about Ramadan than the original post. If you want to read the original post and comments, you can click HERE.

August 30, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Relationships, Shopping, Social Issues, Spiritual | 12 Comments

End of August Sunrise

No, no, it’s no trouble at all to be up for the sunrise, in fact, I have been up for hours. Yes, jet lagging. I thought I had dodged that bullet, but when I awoke, feeling GREAT, thinking it was morning, and checked my clock . . . it was only 2:30. 2:30 ay – em.

I’ve got all the laundry done, dishes washed, I’m all unpacked, and I think I am going to need to go back to bed soon.

I was just thinking, for Kuwaitis coming back, there won’t be a jet lag issue – with Ramadan starting almost immediately, nights and days get turned upside down anyway.

My flight in was a hoot – probably 80% families, Kuwaiti and Omani. Most of the kids were between 8 months and 2 1/2 years, but amazingly well behaved. The flight was packed. Packed. Not a single empty seat. I am guessing this was the big influx trying to get back before school starts and Ramadan starts – double whammy.

Fortunately, KLM seemed to have stocked a lot of kid’s meals, they didn’t mind the toddlers in the aisles, and the flight was relatively quiet – astonishingly so, considering all the kids on board. I have never seen a flight with so many children. The Pre-boarding of the families alone took about 45 minutes. Unaccompanied people like me were stuck in here and there where there was an empty seat.

The poor families; many had hoped for an empty seat next to them, and had to hold the babies and toddler the entire flight. There was a baby in my seat when I boarded, but the parents quickly picked her up and we had a good time chatting during our time together; we even all slept when the baby did. The baby coughed and sneezed on my meal, but I don’t seem to be suffering any ill effects. 🙂

I’m happy to be back in Kuwait. I’ve grown to love Ramadan, and I am looking forward with great anticipation to those magical days when the temperatures begin to drop once again and we can spend time outdoors.

August 30, 2008 Posted by | Community, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, KLM, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series | 10 Comments