Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ramadan: Week one

Things are going pretty well. It's fun having lunch in a lunchroom and meeting other colleagues, and I swear I am eating less simply because I am not munching at my desk all day. In answer to a question posted here, no I am not fasting. What would be the point? That would be like asking a Muslim to take communion. We don't eat or drink or smoke or swear (that one is proving the most difficult, I am afraid) in front of other Muslims during Ramadan during sunup to sundown because they are fasting, out of respect. Because let's face it, it's not easy to go that many hours without so much as a drop of water.

Most accounts indicate Ramadan is getting more liberal, particularly in Dubai, but there is a definite change to the mood of the city. Most cab drivers take the afternoon off, to sleep, I imagine. Government offices and banks work truncated hours. And it's very busy out at night, particularly after the Maghrib call to prayer, before 7 pm, which breaks the fast. Most everything is open later - the cleaners I go to was open until midnight, as was the gym - and you can see things are slower during the day.

I was in a pub on the first night, and it was eerily quiet because that's another aspect: no music, or bands, or anything like that, for the entire month.

Being here at this time is really driving something home for me: I never paid attention to any of this stuff before. Islam was like a vague sort of mysterious thing to me; I dreaded being asked to write stories about anything to do with it because I understood so little. I remember years ago, in Woodstock, On., writing a story about Eid ul Fitr (the celebration of when Ramadan ends, signified by the sighting of the new moon). I had arranged to interview a Muslim family from I cannot remember where now, and when I showed up, they had made an entire feast, just for me. Of course it was one of those workhorse daily newspapers and I had to rush back to the office, and I felt terrible. It gives me a little lump in my throat, even now, remembering those sweet people, helping me with my story.

And now, being immersed in it, I cannot imagine how I could have not bothered to learn more.

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