Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Getting ready for Ramadan

Ramadan starts next week. The grocery stores are setting up their special Ramadan displays, with great sales on apricot leather, dates, and nuts (traditional break-the-fast snacks). They are also stocking up on food in general, because more food is consumed during this month of fasting than other months of the year.

As this article points out, Ramadan is falling during an especially challenging season this year (the month-long holiday shifts back about ten days each year). The days are very long during July and August, which is relevant because the period of fasting is from sunrise to sunset. Furthermore, the temperatures are hot and humidity is high. This is not a big deal for those who work indoors, but there are plenty of outdoor workers (construction, gardening, etc.) who will be suffering a little extra through this Ramadan and for the next few years until it shifts into a more temperate season. Many businesses shorten their employees' working hours, or shift the hours to fall after the period of fasting, to combat this challenge.

Ramadan will also have an effect on those of us who aren't observing it. Eating or drinking in public (including in your car) is against UAE law during the daily period of fasting. Driving will get a little crazier with all the famished, irritable people behind the wheel. Traffic will come to a frenzied peak in the hour or two before iftar (breaking of the fast at sunset, which falls at around 7.15pm for now), and the roads will be empty for an hour or two after that while everyone is busy eating. Restaurants will be closed during the day, except (maybe) for discreet delivery service. These same restaurants will be open until well into the middle of the night and delivery service will sometimes run until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.

Something I've been wondering about for a few years is whether Muslim children form seasonal associations with Islamic holidays at all, since said holidays creep slowly through the calendar to fall at different times every year. You know how Christian kids associate Christmas with winter and snow and December and a break from school, etc.? Well, over the course of a Muslim's life, s/he will have experienced all the Islamic holidays during every possible month of the year, so is it possible for seasonal associations to form?

It turns out: yes! My office mate mentioned off-hand a while ago that she associated Ramadan with winter, because that's when it occurred during her most formative years growing up in Kuwait. So the new clothes and gifts she got for Eid at the end of Ramadan were always cold-weather clothes. Now that she's grown up and Ramadan is during the summertime, she said, it's not quite the same. I find this fascinating. And it's good to have my Ramadan-related question answered at last!

1 comment:

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Nice that your vacation is scheduled to avoid the negatives of Ramadan. Jeremy, not so much.

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