Ramadan Kareem – رمضان كريم
We’re about two and a half weeks into the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the month in which it is believed the first verses of the Quraan were revealed to Muhammad. As many of you probably know, during this month, Muslims of age fast from dawn to dusk and generally live a disciplined life (no alcohol, no other “sins of everyday life”). It’s basically Lent on speed. I think the most difficult part is that you are not allowed to ingest anything, including water. And we live in a desert! And people still exercise! Many of the students are fasting. Some get up around 4 am to have a snack before dawn (called “Sahoor” – السحور) and then we all gather for a sit down meal right after dusk (called “Iftar” – الإفطار which literally means breaking, thus the breaking of the fast). Those are a blast, and they have wonderful food, especially the deserts.
It sounds incredibly difficult, and all the Americans here are blown away by it all. People outside the cultural context tend to think of it as a penance or a punishment, but the Muslims I have interacted with really don’t complain at all – it’s a month of discipline and diligence, charity and solidarity with the poor, but it’s also a month of family celebrations. Every Iftar is an occasion to see and celebrate with different family members, and since the whole country alters it’s schedule so that everyone has Iftar free, it becomes a wonderful time to see loved ones. The traffic is absolutely insane around Iftar because people are trying to get to their relatives’ houses. Many Muslim countries actually consume more food during Ramadan, and many Muslims gain weight from the big Iftar dinners. Ramadan ain’t no weight loss plan.
So, Ramadan is pretty exciting for Jordanians (Christian ones too) because they have family here whom they get to see. It kinda sucks for the foreigners, even though we’re not the ones fasting. Everything is closed all the time! Many people stay up very late and wake up late (work hours are shifted and shortened) so that they are awake for less of the fasting period, and working hours are so minimal that many stores (and certainly cafes) don’t even open until after Iftar. I feel have been stuck on this campus for the entire month! It’s incredibly frustrating, and as much as I appreciate it, I am excited for Ramadan to end (also we get a week off for Eid al-Fitr – عيد الفطر which is the holiday of the breaking of the fast after Ramadan).
Random: Lately, whenever I hear “Ramadan” I start singing in my head “Rama-dan-cha think your girlfriend was hot like me.” A nice little Middle Eastern take on that great hit by the Pussycat Dolls. Luckily, I haven’t slipped and done this out loud… yet.