It is just after 4 am. The first call to prayer for the day invades my dreams. It is the first day of Ramadan. The first day of fasting for millions of Muslims around the world. I have not even contemplated my morning cup of coffee, yet, the pre-dawn meal, or suhoor, has already been consumed by most of the residents in my neighbourhood in preparation for about 15 hours of fasting.
Each month in the Islamic calendar begins and ends with a sighting of the new crescent moon, the hilal. Despite modern technology, these sightings have to be made with the naked eye, and are particularly important when determining the start of Ramadan, as it begins the morning after the new moon is seen, and ends at the next new moon, when Eid al Fitr is celebrated. The new moon is often very faint and appears only briefly in the night sky, while dust, heat, humidity, and haze often make these moon sightings even more difficult during the sweltering summer months.
For the next month life will slow down during the daylight hours and take on a different rhythm. There will be business as usual for most businesses, except restaurants, but working hours are reduced and an inevitable lethargy will creep in. The malls will be ghost-like during the day, but over-flowing at night. The iftar tables, when the fast is broken at the end of each day, will groan under mountains of food, and a festive atmosphere will reach deep into the night, as families come together to eat and pray. Many people will simply exchange their days for their nights, while others will try to live a normal life.
For those who live close to their faith, it is also a time to give or to reach out to those less fortunate. It is a time to spend reflecting on one’s life and values, read the Qur’an, and strive to come closer to God. To mark the holy month, the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa has, for example, ordered 879 prisoners to be released and their debts settled.
No matter how one chooses to live in the UAE during Ramadan, it will affect one’s life one way or the other. There will be no leisurely coffees for me at my favourite coffee shop, but I will still be able to meet my friends for coffee during the day at a screened off restaurant in one of the hotels.
For now, I think, I will roll over for another hour of sleep.
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Read what I had to say about things pertaining to Ramadan previously: