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Ramadan Kareem

October 1, 2006

Or, “Happy Ramadan” I guess. My Arabic’s not quite good enough to figure out “kareem”.

Ramadan (and here is where I get a little instructional, so bear with me) is a month long religious observation. In fact, Ramadan is the month, not the Arabic word for fasting. The Islamic calender is lunar and for this reason, Ramadan will fall earlier and earlier each year, making a circuit through the standarized year counter-calenderwise. This year the month of Ramadan is September 24th to October 24th.

And what does one do exactly in Ramadan? Fast, and in every sense of the word. No food, no water, no music or movies from sunrise to sunset. After sunset, in order to survive, and for the enjoyment of company is Iftar -literally breaking fast- a large dinner-type meal where everything is allowed again. Until sunrise. Right before sunrise is Iftar’s complement; suhoor, which can be anything from a few pieces of bread and water before dawn or another opportunity to eat with family and friends – at 3 a.m. in the morning that is.  During the meal periods, especially Iftar, Cairo goes (relatively) quiet. All the shops are closed, no cars drive down the street. The other day, I might have seen a tumbleweed down 26 July St.
As non-Muslim’s we’re not expected to fast, and while many restaurants are closed during the day, a few around campus (knowing their audience) stay open. In the interest of respect, curiosity, and sheer test of will power (says the girl who attempted to give up Starbucks for Lent) I decided to fast for one day. You know, try it out. If millions of people had been fasting this way for hundreds of years, how hard could it be?

Hard. I went from an uncomfortable hungry to a fuzzy-headed hungry to a oh-dear-I-have-to-throw-up hungry back to a distractable hungry and finally, waiting for my Chinese food at 6 p.m, the “threatening physical harm upon my roommates if they did not stop clinking that damn spoon against the table” hungry.

The reminder of being hungry, I believe, in Muslim thought, is a reminder of God (or Allah, depending on your language). For me, it made me think about pain and the idea of denying your self in religion. Later than week I chose a different kind of pain – vinayasa yoga class with one of my fellow study abroad students. My muscles ached for days, but it was a good ache, not the ache of hunger. Which one of these makes us a better person? Neither? The next day I ate delicious pasta for lunch and couldn’t imagine myself being a lesser person because of it. Maybe it’s not about denying yourself for one month, but trying to be a good person for the whole year.

This way, you can still have fettachini.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    October 4, 2006 6:27 pm

    “Scientists Make Teleport Breakthrough” according to! See, I told you I could teleport you to DC 🙂

  2. Faith J permalink
    October 5, 2006 8:27 am

    hey tay~
    i dreamt last night that you came home for a weekend to do some research. “the library didn’t have what i wanted,” you said, “so i came back to use the library here. it’s only a 7 hour flight.” This made perfect sense to me. also, in a semi-related part of our dream you had to stay with us because the 2 other rooms our friends were in (i dunno who was where for the record) were hosting, for the night, extremely large cats. one was a black leopard and i didnt see the other one. but what are the odds? i remember saying that to julie in my dream and cracking up. indeed, what ARE the odds of all of our friends playing host to large cats at the same time. anyways, i miss you a ton! if you feel the need to come back to do some research fell free!

  3. karly permalink
    October 5, 2006 12:08 pm

    Hey I decided to comment before leaving on vacation. Thanks for the copmliments. I love the skirt too and the headband was just left over fabric…my new obsession. I’m so jealous of your break and Greece. I’m sure itll be amazing. Senegal is 95% muslum so Ramadan is a huge part of life here and makes me eating during the day look bad…but hey. I gotta eat…. I miss you so much and actually wrote Faith a sappy facebook wall post this morning. Can you e-mail me your mailing address I’d love to send you a postcard from Senegal!

    miss you like crazy and of course think of my africa sista all the time!


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