Thursday, 9 October 2008

Ramadan in Doha

It's been a while since I had the time to write. Our time at home was bitter sweet- the bitter part was to say goodbye to my mum who finally died of ovarian cancer. The sweetness of this was the grace of spending the last two months of her life with her as she regressed from adult to child again. Even her voice faded - it was a really gentle journey for us all. No more worrying from either side!
We arrived back home in the holy month of Ramadan to find a much more subdued world around us. As this was the month of fasting for all Muslims you do not see anyone eating or drinking from dawn to dusk anywhere. The shopping centres only open for minimum purchases during the day, with the evenings being their usual trading hours up until the wee hours of the morning. As non-muslims we of course observed the respectful rule of not eating or drinking in front of anyone during the day, making it quite a different world for us to live in. One morning in desperation Steve and I were to be seen hiding in our car in a car park sipping coffee with our heads ducked low. (you could only buy it to take away in a few places). Nevertheless fasting is not really a time for deprivation, it is a very important spiritual event in any Muslim's life. Fasting for the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and is designed to show love, devotion and fear.(of not maintaining a proper attitude towards God). 
Here in Doha the evenings come alive as families eat dates before a huge dinner to break their fast together (Iftar) and spend extra time in prayer. This is the time that many families go to Makkah, the last 10 days being the most intense- considered a spiritual retreat time. Of course there is also a wonderful sense of celebration as evening falls, and tents are set up all over the place where you can eat wonderful food, see whirling dervishes and hear live music. Children like to try a day or two without eating, and are very proud when they can manage this. 
It is strange being back to normal with coffee shops open and people out and about again. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jen, Great to have the blog up and running. i really enjoy your descriptions of life in Doha.
Ramadan reminds me a bit of Lent. I was raised a catholic until I was about 12 y.o. We used to observe Lent in a similar way.
Its interesting how the Saudis have been so influential in making the Mecca pilgramage so important. A little bit of commercialisation involved in their spiritual pillar. The fear is creating a misunderstood Prophet. I love the true uplifting words of the prophet. mark