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Thursday, September 11, 2008

9 Reasons to Love Ramadan: part 1

Many travellers avoid the Middle East during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but I think it’s a fab time to visit. Why? Well, you’ll have to read my post 9 Reasons to Love Ramadan on Viator. In short?
1. It’s all about the moon – what’s not to love about a festival that only begins once a Moonsighting Committee has sighted the new crescent moon with the naked eye. Who needs science and technology?! For expats, guessing the dates is a source of amusement with a serious intent – so we can figure out when the Eid Al Fitr holiday is going to begin. While some people book flights left right and centre, others make last minute decisions. I have lots of memories of picking up visas from embassies on the way to the airport!
2. Lazy Days – as Muslims fast during daylight hours (and abstain from smoking, drinking and ‘intimacy’), non-Muslims also can’t eat or drink in public, so because everyone is lethargic and lacking energy and concentration, working hours are officially shorter. The pace slows down and the cities have a more languid feel to them.
3. Silent Streets
– the cacophony of noise that Middle Eastern cities normally produce also subsides with Ramadan – at least during the day. Apart from the early afternoon when everyone rushes home to take a nap before breaking their fast, the streets are silent and empty. It’s sublime. It’s a fantastic time to leisurely explore a city.

4. The Call to Prayer Sounds Better
– a familiar sound in the Middle East, the muezzin sings the melodic call to prayer from the mosque five times a day, encouraging Muslims to come to pray. It’s generally broadcast from tinny loudspeakers fixed to the mosque’s minarets. I don’t know why it sounds better during Ramadan. Is the muezzin trying harder? Do the empty streets allow it to reverberate more loudly and with more clarity? Or are we just more conscious of it?

To be continued here. Pictured? A traditional mosque at Abu Dhabi Heritage Village.


Anonymous said...

In the morning at least here in Muscat the streets seem to get busier during Ramadhan; I have just travelled through non-stop traffic in Ruwi – cause with mornings only government hours and shorter bank hours the same work needs doing in fewer hours .

Lara Dunston said...

Yes, traffic can be bad in Dubai/the UAE in mornings and right up until everyone goes home early from work, but the afternoons are quiet and it's lovely. We were in Morocco one Ramadan, also Lebanon and Cairo and they were the same.

Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

I just had a slightly awkward moment regarding a "lack of intimacy" moment. I met a new friend, and not realizing he was muslim, thought to shake his hand. He promptly informed me that he couldn't do so with the opposite sex because he was fasting. His name wasn't so muslim, so I didn't think about it. Oops!