Friday, July 20, 2012

To Fast, or Not to Fast?

Delicious falafal sandwiches have become a staple in my diet

I have been giving a lot of thought lately to whether to participate in the fasting part of Ramadan. Two years ago when I moved to Abu Dhabi in the middle of Ramadan, I participated in the last two weeks of fasting (after I arrived) and it seemed to be a good experience aside from the fact that I didn't know anyone, so I usually ate Iftar (the fast-breaking meal) alone and missed out on the communal spirit of fasting. This year I think that it will be different. I've made wonderful friends here and I believe that there will be plenty of opportunities to share after-dark social time with others. I think that it would be more meaningful if I actually fasted with them instead of eating all day and then joining them to eat again in the night.

I have heard many people tell tourists not to come to Jordan during Ramadan because of the way that everything slows down. It also makes it difficult to organize day trips and treks in the beautiful Wadis, forests, and coastal areas here because drinking water in public is forbidden. But I'm very glad to be here for Ramadan. I think it's a special time of the year. One of the things I'm looking forward to most is the fact that people will not be smoking during the daytime. I know that this makes most people really grouchy during this time of the year. I don't have anything against being around smoke, but Jordan is full of smoke indoors which I'm not accustomed to. I'm looking forward to a little break from it! The other wonderful thing about Ramadan is the beautiful celebrations at night....the community comes alive and everyone stays out late to socialize. It's a unique and nice time to be here.

So how do I do this? I want to fast, and in some ways the solidarity aspect will help me to connect more with my muslim friends. On the other hand, it may exclude some possibilities to socialize with western or Christian Arab friends. I realized need a more significant motivation for doing this than just for solidarity. Growing up, we fasted for 24 hours once per month and gave the money we saved from not eating 2 meals to those without. This year I am going to try to blend this tradition with the slightly different Islamic concept of fasting. I will fast during the day, eat one meal at night, and make a small daily donation that I would have spent for food to buy food to donate to refugees who are struggling in this country. And then I will celebrate iftar with friends without the pangs of guilt knowing that this is their 1st meal of the day while it is my 4th. I think that this will be strong enough motivation to keep me going. I just thank goodness I don't have to give up cigarettes this Ramadan!

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