That fine and mysterious Muslim month of Ramadan is upon us. I very rarely claim to be an expert on anything, and Muslim holidays are no exception. I have not read any books about this special month but have discussed it with the Arabs that I work with and seen it for myself.
For this turn of the moon, as the Muslim calendar is based on the moon, the followers of Allah must fast while the sun is showing. This means no eating, drinking, smoking, or pretty much anything else you can think of. Expats and Non-Muslims have to hide to eat, drink, and smoke. Most work sites and compounds put up a “Non-Muslim Break Area” sign for rooms where these things are allowed which appears to be well tolerated. Getting caught in the open doing any of these things is severely offensive and not recommended. Not in your car, hospital, or anywhere in the open. Shops and restaurants are closed all day and the streets look like a ghost town while there is daylight. Very few cars on the road, all shops shuttered, trash blowing through empty streets like some Arab Western. They claim the purpose of this is to show every person the suffering of those that are doing without, so they can better understand the difficulties of the needy and be appreciative of what they have.
This all sounds very nice and I approve, but there have been some doubts raised in my mind the past few days as we have have gotten into this holiday. The night brings out a different and crazy animal. Roads become clogged, which is a good thing, as any open tarmac will have youths in Toyota pick-ups, Landcruiser’s, Hyundai’s and Kia’s drifting. Sometimes missing your car by a hair and sometimes losing control and spinning around to flood your face with their headlights before laughing and carrying on. Restaurants and shops change their hours to be open at night. Locals feast as soon as the sun disappears under the horizon and go to cafes to smoke and converse. Companies change their work hours for observers from a normal four hours to perhaps two hours so they can sleep during the day.
Now it is true that my worries may be unfounded or incorrect but this sounds a bit like just changing everything 12 hours and becoming nocturnal. Sleeping during the day and doing all manner of normal human activity at night does not make a fast or sacrifice. Especially when the the air is like an oven during the day. Night is the only bearable time to be outside. I leave it for the reader to decide.