In Qatar, everything is closed pretty much all day, until around 5pm when things start to open up and food will not be served until after prayers at sunset. The roads are deserted and tumble weed blows down the street. Then in the evening, its chaos. Everyone is out, the roads are jammed, the malls are humming and the restaurants packed with families coming out for Iftar. Families with the smallest children stay out until the early hours enjoying the atmosphere.
During Ramadan, I had to take my recycling to the park along the Corniche as usual, but the temperatures had soared and it was too hot both in the morning and the evening, so I decided that as I was getting up at 3am to have my breakfast anyway, as is the ritual, I would take it then!! As I ventured out, I saw hundreds of people on the streets, mainly men walking to the Mosque for dawn prayers.
The atmosphere was amazing and the temperature certainly bearable enough for my 5 km walk to the park. As I got close to the park, I could see that whole families were out having their Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) picnic - little children, as young as 3 years old, were playing and enjoying the Ramadan routine. It was a wonderful experience to see it and to feel the touch of coolness in the air at that time of day. As I walked back, the sun began to rise as the fishermen waited for their first catch, and I could already feel the heat building!!
Ramadan is a time of increased modesty in behaviour and attire and should be a time when we are at peace with each other. It is a time for reflection and consideration of others, particularly those who are less fortunate. The fasting helps to remind us how lucky we are to be able to eat whenever we want and provides us with the opportunity to practice self discipline and selflessness and focus more on faith and spiritual fulfilment……
It really reminded me of December in the UK, when the shops all out-do each other in the latest line of overindulgence and we all talk about how we've lost the real meaning of Christmas! Its funny - whether we're Christians or Muslims, whether we're in London or Doha, we can't help being human with all our inconsistencies, frailties and contradictions.
A time to share, cook for them, be generous, kind and loving with them. And last year I did indeed witness this personally, being invited to Iftar by two of my colleagues to their family homes.
And these are indeed impressive spreads, and several hours are spent in preparation. Plenty of traditional regional dishes and home cooked specialities handed down through the generations. Arab people are truly the warmest, most generous and hospitable of any culture I've ever experienced.
There are two such festivals in the Muslim calendar. The other is Eid al-Adha, falling around October time this year. This is the 'Feast of the Sacrifice' and honours Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his first born son to God, before God intervened to provide him with a lamb to sacrifice instead. It is another 4 or 5 days public holiday in the Islamic world.
Doha News As I said to a friend on Facebook - I'll miss the music but I fully appreciate and support the gesture.
I wonder if I'll be here for Ramadan number three!....... I very much hope so!!!!