We are coming up to the start of Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims worldwide.
We have lived in many majority Muslim countries and in most, business continues as usual for the month. In some fasting is a matter of personal conscience, in others a legal requirement for all Muslims. In Saudi Arabia fasting in public is obligatory for all, even non Muslims. Children are, of course, allowed to eat and drink during the day but for everyone else the fast is mandatory, not even a sip of water is allowed (until you reach the privacy of your own home).
Life in Saudi changes completely during Ramadan. Working hours are curtailed, roads are busy (and the driving even more erratic) in the hour leading up to Iftar and then uncharacteristically empty as families gather to break their fast. Charitable obligations are taken particularly seriously during Ramadan with many people donating food packages to those in need.
|Shops and homes are decorated with Ramadan lanterns.
Life becomes nocturnal. Restaurants do not open until after the Maghrib prayer and then remain busy all night, supermarkets and some shops are open during the day to allow people to get the food needed for the evening but only really come to life after Isha and Taraween prayers.
The night is full of life, from the corniche to the streets of old Balad or the precincts of the modern malls. The schools close (national exams were moved forward to before Ramadan to accommodate it) and families aim to spend as much time as possible together. Our children go to an international consular school and therefore are not impacted by the closures although their days are shorter.
Even as non Muslims, Ramadan here in Saudi Arabia has a big impact on our lives. Day to day we still have to be up for work/school and this means that the children have to go to bed at their normal time. The result of this is that although Mr EE and I can go out and enjoy events around the city in the evenings or join in any Iftar celebrations we are invited to, there is very little we can do with the children; they are in bed and asleep before anything is ready to start. Pretty much every attraction is shut during the day, last year we did take them on some walks but while the children were ok Mr EE and I really felt the lack of water in the heat. We will stick to the compound and spend most of their weekends in the swimming pool.
Ramadan is an important time for our Muslim friends and colleagues and we wish them all Ramadan Kareem.