Moving to a new country is tough. Now, imagine that, when you touch down after more than 13 hours in transit, it’s 10 pm at night. The meal you’re about to ravenously eat is the last one you’ll have until 6:30pm the next evening. This pattern will repeat itself day after day. You will not be able to drink water in public, let alone access alcohol at all. And it will be….hot. Like, literally standing-inside-an-oven hot.
So began this new chapter of my life a month ago when I landed in Bahrain. I arrived at the beginning of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, when the whole of the Middle East shuts down. Tourists don’t like to frequent the Middle East during Ramadan, since eating in public is impossible and all the clubs are closed and the countries are dry. Moving to a new country is hard, but not to be able to eat and drink?
This was my first time celebrating Ramadan, and although I wanted to do it properly I did relent and drink water during the day, albeit either at home or discreetly at work. After all, I didn’t want to get sick, and the weather in Bahrain this time of year is atrocious. At the risk of sounding smug, I actually didn’t find the whole fasting thing difficult. For someone with an eating disorder,it actually made life simple: I only had to eat once a day.
In fact, my Ramadam experience made me wonder why people stuff themselves silly during the holy month. After all, isn’t that kind of contrary to the whole point of learning discipline through Ramadan? Not only that, it’s utterly gluttonous to feast like a king from iftar to fajr. Is filling your stomach with all that food going to make it any easier when you wake up to go to work at 8 in the morning? Probably not. But I’m not going to judge; it’s not very “Ramadan-y” to do that.
Overall, I don’t know why people don’t visit the Middle East during Ramadan: I found it to be a very peaceful sort of month, tales of bloodshed that occured around the world thanks to evil terrorists nonwithstanding. Bahrain’s many malls were decorated with crescent moons and sparkling lights, as was the Bab al-Bahrain old souk. Every night we knew to break iftar by watching Bahrain TV, where Bahraini tradition shows the firing of a cannon (irme!) to mark the breaking of the fast from one of Bahrain’s old fort. If we opened the window we could hear the actual cannon going off.
Another cool thing about Ramadan is the iftar tents and ghabgas, the latter a unique Bahrain get-together. I attended one iftar at Bushido’s Boshra Tent with my coworkers which was a lovely setting with some live music. I was also lucky enough to attend two ghabgas, one for the Dream’s Society at the posh Gulf Hotel in Juffair where everyone wore jalabiyyas and drove fancy cars; the other was for Women’s Crisis Care International at Al-Arish Lebanese restaurant, where I helped man the door and got to meet some of WCCI’s great supporters.
My first Ramadan was a wonderful experience. While there are some things I will do differently next year, I am pleased I made it through and learned some discipline by cutting back on sweets. I am sad it is over, until next year inshallah!
Eid mubarak everyone!