This week we welcomed the start of the Eid-Al-Fitr celebrations where people rejoyce celebrating with banquets and parties and some well earned days off work. These celebrations signify the end of Ramadan 2014.
For those who don’t follow Islam, Ramadan can be a strange and bewildering time. Most Non-Muslims are intimidated by the very thought of leading such a restricted life for 30 days. Many of these families will take the opportunity to use their annual vacation and head to the airport in ridiculous numbers to get out of town and ignore it altogether.
This year I didn’t have a choice whether I was going to be in town or not as we had already taken our vacation early due to family commitments. I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought of it but I had a simple choice – drag it out and be miserable like last year or embrace and enjoy it. Thankfully I chose the latter and in all honesty I have really enjoyed the past month!! So I wanted to share with you how I spent my Ramadan as a Non-Muslim in Oman.
First, let me rewind a little to the previous year – I was newly pregnant, extremely sick in the intense summer heat and most of my friends had skipped town for the month. My negative outlook on the month of Ramadan manifested from being sick, bored and lonely. In all honesty I did not understand the culture and the fasting. This made the month drag past so slowly and it really was no fun at all. This is why I knew that I had to change my mindset for this year.
This year I have so many more Muslim friends and acquaintances that celebrate the holy month and their excitement and enthusiasm had rubbed off on me. I was excited for them like I would be excited for our own Christmas celebrations. During our Christmas party I was in awe of one of my Muslim girlfriends joining in with us, not because she believes in Christmas but because she wanted to join something that made us happy. At that point I knew that I wanted to to understand her celebrations like she does with mine. I began to educate myself as to why things happen the way that they do in Muslim culture and this was huge turning point for me to understand and more willing to accept.
Having to refrain from eating and drinking in public places can be very difficult in the intense heat, especially as Ramadan landed in the peak of the summer with the mercury hitting over 40 degrees, so to avoid dehydration we spent most of our time indoors whether it be at home, in friends homes or at the Mall. The difference from last year to this year is that I was prepared. I knew what to expect and to plan activities to keep us occupied.
Here are a few examples of things that kept me busy for the past month:
- Going to delicious Iftar meals at the Shangri La and the Grand Hyatt
- Experimented cooking with some new recipes and perfecting some old ones
- Started a project to learn HTML coding. As a Blogger I often need to alter my blogs HTML code and it really intimidates me so I took a course to feel more confident.
- A great trip camping at Jebel Shams
- Bought a new camera for blogging so watched lots and lots of tutorials to try and learn some new skills.
- Colin celebrated his birthday and we threw a big birthday party for our friends
- We hosted a dinner party for friends
- I made a point of taking quiet time to read an actual book instead of just newspapers and iBooks. I read ‘The Fault in our Stars’ by John Green.
- Baby groups with Spencer and lots of reading and play time
My favorite part of Ramadan is Iftar! (The breaking of fast at sun down). The happy, celebratory vibe around the evening dinner table is infectious! I was lucky enough to spend these meal times with my family, friends and lots of new friends. We ate lots of food, we chatted, we laughed and then ate even more food! I’m actually quite sad that I have to wait until next year for more Iftar, no other meal times have the same kind of atmosphere.
During the Holy Month women must take extra care to cover themselves and respect the culture. Thankfully women in Oman are not forced to cover themselves by wearing any kind of Abaya, Burka, head scarf or face veil. This allows us freedom to chose what we wear but during Ramadan it can be tricky to find clothes that are culturally appropriate yet cool enough in the scorching temperatures.
Below are a few examples of my Ramadan clothing choices. As you can see, I am still modestly covered but incorporating my own style at the same time.
Now that Ramadan is finished for another year the Expats start flying back into town in the masses, we can get back to our caffeine fix during sunlight hours and generally things just go back to the chilled way of life. Although it will be nice to get back into normal daily life again I wish that we could keep the happy and charitable community spirit of Ramadan all year round!
As much as I managed to embrace the culture this year there is one thing that I really struggle without – Starbucks! Ohhh soya latte in the morning I have missed you!
To my Expat friends, If you find yourself in the country for the next Ramadan there is no need to be afraid! Try to keep and open mind and embrace the culture and everything else will fall into place.
Wishing you all a happy and blessed Eid Mubarak from my family to yours.