Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ramadan Kareem!

Well, Ramadan has started once again!  Its a funny time here when Ramadan is on... its a period of religious reflection and in a country that is governed by religion, then it impacts EVERYTHING.  Work, shopping, dining out, driving and socialising in general are all affected.

The rules of Ramadan are this:

1. No eating or drinking, even of water in the daylight hours (this is particularly tough given its summer and temps are 45-50 degrees celcius)
2. No smoking, chewing gum or any other item that goes in the mouth again in daylight hours
3. Work hours are reduced and knock off time (for those observing Ramadan) is 3pm

Ramadan means increased prayer times so instead of Muslims ducking out for prayer for say 5 minutes, they're gone for much longer.  In non-Ramadan times this has no impact on my work day and is almost the same as a "smoko" in Australia, but when 80% of the staff disappear for nearly half an hour at a time, it does impact the work day.

On the roads, and particularly as Ramadan goes on, the driving becomes more erratic.  Muslims are not eating and sleeping and yet are operating motor vehicles at high speed.  Its a mix for a disaster and there were a number of crashes on the roads last year.  The trick is to avoid the 3pm rush but also leave before the Iftar rush (Iftar is the meal that breaks the daily fast which occurs exactly on sunset... which is approx 6:30pm).

Speaking of Iftar, it is like the Xmas Party season in the western world.  My company will be putting on an Iftar Buffet for all staff and their families on August 25 and I have already been invited to another companies Iftar Buffet for their clients next Monday.  Think the Xmas Party scene in Sydney but without the alcohol.

But whilst I point out all these do's and do not's, it is actually a very interesting time to be living and working in the Middle East.  I have a real respect for the Arabic way of life now that I have been here for a while now and it is their holiday season and they do make Westerners feel welcome.  You need to be more careful and you need to be conscious of your own actions (dont sip water, don't eat in front of fasting Muslims) but at the same time the impact on the way of life here is intriguing and a great experience.

And its long... its a full lunar cycle so approximately 29 or 30 days and given its summer, its going to be quite difficult for fasters especially the lack of water!

Ramadan Kareem!

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