My fourth Ramadan is coming to a close.
The Muslim holy month comes to a conclusion this Saturday, and Eid begins on Sunday. Things start getting back to normal after that. A lot of the restaurants and stores will be closed on the first day of Eid, as most Muslims will find their way to the Mosque – and spend the day with family – in much the same way we Westerners spend Christmas or Thanksgiving with our families. Eid lasts three days (five days in Saudi Arabia), but most non-Saudi Arabs I know only observe the first day, then return to work. The Saudis go for the gusto. In fact, the government workers have been on holiday since Tuesday. If things go as they have the past three years, King Abdullah will extend the holiday by an extra week, and it takes them a day to get through greetings upon their return before they actually get back to work.
For the Westerners, the primary change comes with being able to get coffee on the way to work in the mornings, as well as being able to go to lunch and not have to pay an exorbitant price at some hotel – where they hide you deep in the dark center of the structure so no one can see you and the other infidels ignoring the Ramadan fasting strictures.
I say that Eid begins on Sunday, but that actually depends on if a group of religious scholars see the new waxing moon Saturday night or not. Each country has their own group who defines the start and end of Ramadan. Usually, all the countries agree on the start and end; but, last year there was controversy, and both Iraq and Syria said that Ramadan started and ended one day after all the other Islamic countries said it started and ended. This year, there has been no such controversy.
The first year I experienced Ramadan, I did so with a some trepidation, having never been through it before then. But, after four of them, it’s not that big a deal. There are ways to make do if you’re intelligent about it. I haven’t starved, yet.
If you’re interested, or simply don’t remember, you can do a search on this blog using the key words Ramadan and iftar to read what I wrote about the past three Ramadans. I go into more detail in those entries.