“May this Ramadan, be a fruitful one to you and your family. Ramadan Kareem Mubarak.” Unknown
It’s that time of year when the expats are leaving in their droves, some for good in our transient existence as the school year comes to a close and others like myself who are off for a long summer break to escape the excessive heat and humidity. Conversations recently have all been ‘When do you leave?“, “How long are you away for?” and “When are you back?“.
Two of the five cases packed and ready to go
So cases were packed (well over packed if I’m honest, travelling light is impossible however hard I try), the airport was busy, the flight was full and delayed, the rental car reservation tested my patience (Gold member my a**e) but having said all that we are now back in the UK and I am even looking forward to seeing the rain. Extensive plans are in place and my eight week summer gypsy lifestyle starts now as I criss cross the country, blagging shelter. This year, our summer break coincides with the start of the month-long Ramadan so I while I will be sad to miss the lovely Iftar buffets I am relived not to have to deal with the crazy driving that occurs during this period of fasting. The airport and flight were unaffected by the fasting rule yesterday which was a blessing for us travelling with the eldest who is not good, shall we say, without a regular intake of food.
Blue skies as we start our descent into London
The Holy Month of Ramadan, which start date was declared by the moon sighting committee, is one of the five Acts of Worship in the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and to non-muslims it appears to be about not eating, drinking during daylight and shorter working hours but it’s actually much more about a time for spiritual growth through self-control, discipline, forgiveness and reflection. Having experienced five previous Ramadan’s, the city seems to sleep during daylight hours with the closure of malls and cafes (apart from some that have permission to open between curtained windows like Jones The Grocer) and comes alive again after sunset. As an expat it’s a time of being cautious to not break any rules and about being respectful, wear discreet clothing, not play loud music, display good manners and really just apply common sense in certain situations.
Mosques will be busy every evening as muslims gather for the night prayers, Taraweeh. All over the city Ramadan decorations line the streets and bridges, lit up at night to celebrate the Holy Month. Each day before dawn, many Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called Suhoor. At sunset it’s Iftar time where the fasting is traditionally broken with dates as the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with three dates. All around the capital as well as the hotels offering Iftar tents and buffets where both muslims and non-muslims are welcomed to enjoy traditional food, tents have also been erected to feed the poor members of the community as Ramadan is a time for giving and helping those less fortunate.
Ramadan decorations at Galleria Mall
Following the end of the month of fasting is the holiday of Eid al-Fitr which is the “festivity of breaking the fast” and the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal which is declared after a crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of thirty days of fasting, if no visual sighting is possible due to inclement weather. Traditionally it’s a time to wear new clothes, visit friends and relatives, exchange gifts and eat special food and the shops and anticipation can be equated to how we feel in the preparation of our Christmas celebrations.
So our summer holiday is underway here in the UK and for me it’s a time to catch up with friends and family, visit and revisit familiar places and faces and enjoy the good old British summertime and if the itinerary allows, chill out too. I must also remember to drive on the right side of the road, I mean the left!
All the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.