Image 1 of 16: It’s beginning “to look a lot like Christmas” (or a Beirut disco!), with trees and houses wrapped in blinking colorful lights in crescents, lanterns & stars. Electricity prices across the region are rising, but with Ramadan, caution goes out (or in this case, on) the window! See it through a child’s eyes and enjoy the jolly vibe!
Image 1 of 16: In the Muslim-majority ME, fasting is a community affair. New in town? People will bluntly ask if you’re fasting. If you’re Muslim & say no, then the wrath of 10,000 hungry fasters will fall on your honor as they haraam you to next week! Not Muslim? Be prepared to be swayed into trying ‘not trying’ food. What's to lose (but the pot belly)?
Image 1 of 16: Iftar is everything! The fab feast at the end of the fasting tunnel! Advice? Make nice with your neighbors to nab invites to their iftar extravaganzas! Sharing their fine fares is a surefire way to change frenemies to besties - especially if they send sweets directly to your door. It's like your just-moved-in friendly neighbor welcome hamper!
Image 1 of 16: From street sweeper to surgeon, child to elder, there’s a common funky reaction to Ramadan everyone shares - bad breath! Daytime dehydration coupled with spicy late night buffets make for some potent oral odors. Breath mints are off the menu and extra brushing risks breaking the fast - so buck up, people. Extra tolerance is in order!
Image 1 of 16: Ramadan is the time to get tip-sy! It’s the season to tip service providers beyond your usual limits. Think taxi drivers - especially close to “iftar o’clock” - as your ride may delay them from suhoor (it’s cruel to delay people from breaking their fast). Ramadan Kareem literally translates to “generous Ramadan”. So dig deep!
Image 1 of 16: Hell hath no fury like a smoker denied smokes! Fasting for tobacco lovers extends to their puffs: brace yourself for epic mood swings until sunset when they can feed their nicotine addiction! It’s rude - and cruel - to smoke (or drink aromatic coffee) near fasters. So why not jump on the Ramadan train and try breaking some heart-wrecking habits?
Image 1 of 16: You can forget “bed-time” when Ramadan rolls around! Seize the night, night owls and early birds, with shops and cafes operating well into wee hours. The luxury of having virtually all your fave restaurants (not just the kebab shops) open to meet your every nocturnal foodie whim is one exclusive to the Ramadan in the Muslim world. Alhamdullah!
Image 1 of 16: In every neighborhood, one dude and his drum take it upon themselves to wake up every living creature ~ 2:30 in the blessed AM. The drummer (Ms'harati) - spurns traditional alarm clocks for a pounding assault of the ear drums. Ironically, when the month is over, Bashar & his breakfast bongos comes door to door for cash for his alarming services.
Image 1 of 16: Holy binge! Embrace late-night illicit (albeit halal) snacking (aka. suhoor) all the way until dawn (see Ms’harati wake-up call in previous slide). No need to blame a break up for digging into a tub of ice-cream, eating anything and everything is permitted in the name of suhoor (the light supper before onset of fast!)
Image 1 of 16: Here’s a chance to kickstart that trendy new diet you’ve been eyeballing (the popular 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet comes to mind!). The fact that food is hard to come by creates a perfect chance to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. Just make smart choices at that heaving iftar table (steer towards the soups & salads and away from the sweets!).
Image 1 of 16: Alternatively, throw diets to the wind and reward your daytime discipline with sanctioned nighttime grazing! The specialty sweets on offer help make fasting bearable. Break your fast sensibly, then spoil it with atayef, a yummy fried pancake oozing with cream & nuts. Ramadan is all about this variety-filled treat, the 'mince pie' of the season!
Image 1 of 16: Ramadan - when playboys turn into prayboys! A month-long hiatus from street harassment for girls sets in, as the calls to prayer drown out catcalls. Enjoy the respite, ladies - it will be back to the sleazy stares once it's "Eid Mubarak"! Girls this'd be the time to dust off those minis..except that with the fasting comes (more) modest dress.
Image 1 of 16: In the ME- where you’d be excused for thinking umbilical cords grow stronger after birth - Ramadan is when families hang out...a lot more than usual. Don’t feel rejected if your phone stops ringing, your social media hibernates, and your buddies go AWOL. (To avoid being a Billy-no-mates, make new friends with feeding benefits, see slide 3).
Image 1 of 16: Ramadan incites pop-up 'dating services' in unusual places! Near 'iftar-o’clock', businesses supply workers and clients with complimentary dates to break fast. Some taxi drivers will offer them to passengers, some charities in turn provide them to taxi drivers! Join the movement by handing them out too - random acts of 'casual dating'!
Image 1 of 16: Use the Holy Month to view the world from a positive new perspective. Your favorite hangout may be closed for the duration; shops will open later and close for iftar; and productivity goes on life support. But don’t complain or criticize, as negative emotion or ingratitude is an affront to the very core of Islam. So, zip it and resist whinging!
Image 1 of 16: Not Muslim? Don’t fight this seasonal 'coma' when work hours reduce and productivity plummets. Realize that less is expected from EVERYONE and welcome the break! Stay up late, sleep in, and use the extra slack to catch up socially or tackle those niggling items on your 'to-do' list. Ramadan is a de-facto holiday for all who feel its lunar tug.
We’re one week into Ramadan - the annual Holy Month of Islam. New to the scene? Maybe you’re an expat in the midst of majority Muslim Middle East, Persia or Southeast Asia. Or perhaps you’re a less observant Muslim, choosing not to fully engage. Feeling a little disoriented or even intimidated by this month-long tradition of spiritual contemplation, communal fasting and feasting? We bring you a few reminders of what’s cool, what’s risque and what’s possibly a new perspective to help you sail through this lunar month of ancient observances.
The spirit of Ramadan has the power to pull in non-Muslims, a common phenomenon where even non-believers can be captivated by the twin moods of discipline and appreciation. (Christians don’t hold a monopoly on “seasons to be jolly”!) Most Muslims approach the month as a continuous nighttime celebration of friends and family. Work obligations get put on the back-burner and our usual daytime social lives are shelved as we rack up family-time points sitting around sharing special evening meals and watching Ramadan’s rich TV soap-opera line-up (and of course, the World Cup!).
To fast or not to fast?
It is not for us to cast judgement on your to fast or not to fast reckonings, but for the non-initiated we can throw some light on some ways for you to actually enjoy Ramadan! You are probably familiar with the givens that come with the Ramadan territory-- the fasting from food and water from dawn till dusk, but are you prepared for the rest of what accompanies the basic ground rules to a month of hard and fast rules, in terms of the mood, habits and extra frills of the month?
What to expect this month
Friends, foreigners and fast-shirkers, here’s how to play your cards right as an outsider, without foregoing the seasonal goodwill and spirit of the occasion. Check out Al Bawaba’s “life hacks for surviving” - at the very least coping, or maybe even exploiting! - the best bits of the season. Our Ramadan survival guide documents 16 things to expect or tacks to take if you're new or strange to the fasting month, besides the obvious do's and don't's.
Immerse yourself in the “second wind” that blows through Ramadan nights as people strive to squeeze in all the life they can until fasting resumes at dawn. And whatever you do, or don't do, make sure to indulge in all the seasonal cheer even if you choose to eat and skip prayers in the wee-hours of the night.