Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Ramadan 2009

So, here we are again with another Ramadan.  It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset.

From what I can understand from a lot of my friends who have lived in other countries, Dubai is one of the strictest that they have encountered.  Apparently in Egypt, the Muslims fast, while the other religions carry on in a normal fashion.  Yet here in Dubai, during daylight hours, when you wander the great malls, all of the food or coffee outlets are closed, with all of the chairs stacked up on the tables.  Malls can be a very gloomy affair in Ramadan – in my view, the very soul is sucked out of Dubai and it’s a very solemn place to be during the day.

We live here and have chosen to live here, so we have to abide by the rules and not eat in public in the daytime.  That’s fine by me – however, hard it may be.  But one thing I don’t understand – even for Muslims, little children are exempt – so when I let my children (under 6) eat something in public, I feel that everyone is staring at me and that I’ve done something wrong.  I know that I haven’t, but there feels as though there is a tension in the air.

There are a few places which bend the rules and open during the daytime.  The rule which they bend is that they have to be unseen and unheard from the outside, so dark curtains are pulled all around the cafe or the windows are papered over.  When westerners go inside the few treasures that are still open, the place is humming with activity and people eating and drinking without a care in the world!

Given that Dubai is a very relaxed country in the Middle East, where we are allowed to drink alcohol (in certain places) and where there is a great deal more freedom than in many others, Ramadan feels like such the opposite.  I am sure that others will feel differently, but it’s just my view.

Perhaps a very strict Ramadan is the deliberate price we pay for an otherwise very flexible and liberal Arab country. 

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