Ramadan Kareem, everyone! The Muslim world is well on its way through the first week of Ramadan, marking the holy month and my first experience with Ramadan.
Ramadan falls on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and lasts a month. People fast from dawn until dusk and abstain from drinking, eating, smoking, and other potentially sinful stuff. Ramadan is not only a time of religious observance but a time for practicing self discipline and empathy for the less fortunate. I’m sure there is a better description literally anywhere else on the internet, but there it is.
It has been pretty hot here lately- I’m talking high 30s and low 40s Celsius, or between 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit. Sleeping in the heat is easy in the afternoon when I’m at work and not so easy at night when I actually need to be sleeping! But I have to admit, I love the heat. I am my mother’s daughter.
Ramadan for me marks my last bit of time in Jordan (for now) as well as the chance to experience another new thing here. For the most part I can navigate life here comfortably; I know what to expect, how to act, and what to do. Now, however, I have to pay attention to what other people are doing around me now that the ‘rules’ have changed, in a sense. Many of the supermarkets are closed during the day, although some remain open. People fast during the day and restaurants that do remain open usually close their blinds. Cafes that serve arguilah or alcohol either don’t serve those products at all or only do so at specific hours in the evening. Liquor stores are also closed, but someone always knows a guy who knows a guy if you need emergency beer. The streets are quieter- fewer people are out and about, and the horn honking has been minimized to a crazy quiet level. I don’t really know how to handle the formerly chaotic streets now only being semi-chaotic!
I was on my way to a friend’s house the other day right as the fast broke and found volunteers with little packages containing water bottles and dates (which is what you eat when the fast breaks) handing them out to passing cars and buses on the main road by my apartment. I was amazed- how nice is that? I then hopped on a bus of my own and was greeted with a cold bottle of water and a date, which the bus driver shared with me and the one other guy on the bus. Jordan and its people continue to surprise me with their generosity, hospitality, and all around awesomeness! I don’t want to leave.
Office hours for most companies also change. I now have to work between 10-3 which I am a huge fan of! Unfortunately I now only have 5 hours of internet time, so I gotta get creative with things to keep busy. Three of my four coworkers are fasting so I’ve managed to discontinue the snacking and coffee drinking while at work, but I’m definitely making myself a snack as soon as I get home. I really don’t want to be the jerk waving a sandwich under the nose of the hungry guy, that’s for sure. Hanger (hunger induced anger) is a thing during Ramadan, as is nicotine withdrawal. I’m enjoying the lack of smoking everywhere, but people get really grumpy really fast when they’re hot, can’t eat, and can’t smoke.
People break the fast at Iftar, when the sun goes down. People have elaborate Iftar dinners at the homes of their families, extended families, and friends. Celebrations of breaking the fast go on well into the night as people eat, visit, nap, visit, eat, and repeat. Ramadan is an interesting time for me as I’m experiencing a part of Jordan I haven’t had the chance to live in before.
In order to fill up the time I’m not spending at work or with friends I’ve joined a month long workout program at a gym nearby. If I work out four times a week for the month of July they’ll refund my monthly fee. Woo! I think I can manage to make that work in my favor, even if I lose whatever muscle tone I gain when I’m eating ice cream and being lazy (aka recovering) post-tonsillectomy.
Throughout the gym process all I can think of is Chandler from the TV show Friends: I want to quit the gym!
Happy Ramadan, everyone.