Saturday, July 21, 2012


Yesterday, Friday the 21st of July, was the first day of Ramadan. This is my first experience with Ramadan. If I make another bone-head move like running shirtless through the streets, it could be my last experience, ever, let alone last Ramadan experience. So, here's to good choices!

My understanding of Ramadan so far is limited but the gist of it is that it's the Muslim's most holy time of the year. Like Easter for Christians, this is the time to show your true colors. Every religion of course has the kaleidoscopic of followers; everything from the very devout-wouldn't-step-on-a-bug-on-Sunday to those who are consider themselves part of their religion merely because of birth and it's the easiest way to pick which holidays to celebrate. 

Unlike Easter however, Ramadan is taken very seriously. By the entire country. Not just those who practice the religion. Personally I find this intensely impressive. For instance, the celebration of Ramadan calls for a fast and I'm not talking about my (Christian) weak fast during Lent when I give up chocolate for 40 days and it's supposed to bring me close to God. No. This fast consists of not eating or drinking anything, not even water, between 4 a.m. and sunset. So, say I have no clue what's going on in the country, very possible situation, and I walk down the street drinking my ice cold bottle of water to keep from shriveling up like a shrinky-dink in a 450 degree preheated oven. I could in that case be hauled of to jail for the duration of Ramadan. (This is what I have been told by my locals so I am going by that.) Here's the impressive part - I wouldn't be put in the think-tank because I wasn't a Muslim, I'd be put there because I wasn't respecting their beliefs and traditions. 

To me, that's exactly what the Declaration was all about and what I think we've gone soft on back in the states. Yes, we say everyone can practice their religion free from persecution or prejudice but I think we're a little off when it comes to actually protecting people when we don't like what we see in them. I think somewhere along the way America got castrated. We need to once again grow a pair and start living up to the principles we preach.

Anyway, off the soap-box and back to Ramadan. So this fast would be completely fine if say I were living in Northern Europe where it's nice and temperate this time of year, or maybe in Alaska during the winter when sunset comes really quick! However, it's the dead of summer, in the middle of the desert where it's 104 at noon during my walk to work. No water through the day may just about put me over the edge. But we'll see how it all turns out in 30 days when I'm done participating in my first Ramadan. No Mom and Dad, I haven't converted, it's just part of the experience.

The basic idea of the fast, in this case religious, is to teach you self-discipline, strength, and deepen your relationship with your deity. To break it down: create a dire situation where you need something, someone, or some god's strength to see you through and you'll deepen your relationship with said thing. After today, in this heat, without water, the lethargy I experienced I also made me believe it's supposed to make you slow down and take a minute to appreciate life a little more.

Customs here would definitely allow for slowing down and appreciating that life. Work hours are cut down to between 5 and 7 hours a day on average if at all. I've heard in Saudi work basically comes to an absolute halt for the month. I noticed that I became very lethargic and sloth-like around midday. I think the lack of water and blood sugar caught up to me by then and I just wanted to lie around in the shade. Pause. I'd like to take this opportunity to retract my sloth-like feeling and say that I believe feel more like a lion on the African Safari. That's a much better self-image. Play.

I'm not sure how not eating all day will affect my health and overall weight but I do have to be careful. Not eating or drinking creates quite an appetite but at the same time a very shrunken stomach. By Eftar (the way to say the time for breaking the fast) I was famished but did exactly what I shouldn't have - ate way too much way to fast! Also, I ate, of all things, Mansaf, a local delicacy affectionately known as "Mansaf the Destroyer." You are given a bowl of seasoned yellow rice over which you spoon a white, yogurt broth and pile on chunks of lamb pulled from the bone. It's quite delicious but it's known for inducing comas on a regular appetite. I could barely keep my eyes open the second half of the night teaching lessons and it felt like I had a brick logged in my stomach. 

Here's to better decisions. Smaller portions and maybe starting off with say a salad and glass of water. I'll see how that fairs me tomorrow, my third day of my first Ramadan. 

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