By Nour Al-Ali
As we are almost finishing the Holy month of Ramadan, I am sure all of you have had a lot of experiences, I do hope mostly good, as you were going about doing your best to observe all that is Ramadan. Thinking about Ramadan experiences, I thought it would be good to share different perspectives of Ramadan, especially if we have spent the Holy month in other places apart from AUS and from UAE.
I used to spend the first few days of Ramadan in Syria during the summers. It was something else. We lived a few blocks away from my grandmother’s house and that made all the difference. Right before the Athan, I would walk through the neighborhood's narrow streets, trying to avoid the cracked flooring, to her house. Whoever sat next to grandma had the most on their plate. Sometimes my uncles and their families would join and the Iftar would become this loud, nostalgic storytelling gathering where my grandmother would point out what my late grandfather would have cooked (most probably BBQ-ed some Kebbeh because he adored it) and my uncles and aunts would share their stories in memory of his soul.
My uncles and male cousins would then go out to the balcony and that’s where the night begins. Within five minutes, a large platter of fresh, red, and juicy watermelon must be served along with tea and sweets like halawet el-jebneh, fatayer, zalabieh, ma’rook, mshabak, and so on. Before you know it, there’s hookah between every 2 people sitting and everyone has formed groups of 4 to play tarneeb or trix.
Life in Syria’s Ramadan was alive. Walking down the streets of Aleppo at night was like no other; street vendors yelling out their merchandise and calling for customers to buy, to families sitting on the sidewalks enjoying their night in the open road.
In UAE, my Ramadan shifts from being a family-centered event to a friend-infested delight. Every few nights, my friends and I dine in a different restaurant, and then either go for tea or watch a movie. I get to experience Ramadan from different cultures when visiting other friends, some Egyptian, others Moroccan, Libyan, Pakistani, Turkish, Jordanian, and so on. I get to eat dishes like Um Ali, Mansaf, Kushari, Kuskus, Karahi, and many other mouth-watering cuisines. Ramadan UAE is an experience to remember every night. I count my blessings and pray that my country returns to safe harbor sooner than sooner.
Here are some other perspectives from AUS students and alumni on the different cultures they experienced in Ramadan:
Aida AlNaser, English language alumna, shares her experience.
One rarely stays at home in Palestine. Be it social visit, Taraweeh prayer, or just going to the market to shop for Eid. There is always life on the streets of Nablus. Ramadan in the UAE is different, you cannot see everything happening at once; you either see family or friends if you visit them, see people shopping in the malls or meet other people in mosques at the time of Taraweeh. In Nablus, however, you can see everything happening all at once as the market is open to the rest of the city; as you are walking you can see people going to mosques and others going to the market. There is always a chance that you will meet someone you know when you head to any destination in the city. What I miss the most though is "Tawheeshet Ramadan" or "Ramadan Goodbye." Ramadan Goodbye is a Ramadan tradition and starts from the twentieth night of Ramadan to the end of Ramadan. This Tawheesheh is basically when the person who calls for prayer does Inshad at night that has Duaa asking Allah for forgiveness and accepting our worship practices in Ramadan followed by the person’s singing saying that there is nothing we can miss as much as we will miss Ramadan.
Fatima Merchant, Mass Communication senior, shares her experience.
My Ramadan experiences in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan have been completely different. In Saudi Arabia it was spiritual compared to the other two countries. I would spend my maximum time in the mosque praying the five daily prayers, Taraweeh and Al-Qiyaam prayers. We didn't spend much time eating and did not shop at all except on two of the days for dates and a few items that are not available here in UAE. Since Sharjah has been my hometown for quite a lot of years now, I really don't do much here. I sleep and wake up late, I pray the five daily prayers and rarely do I go to the mosque for Taraweeh or Al-Qiyaam prayers. I attend Iftars on a weekly basis, and yes I do think a lot about food during my fasting hours. Spending Ramadan in Pakistan was a totally different experience as compared to Saudi and UAE. The hours that we spent fasting we used to pray on time and prepare for a feast or we used to go to our relative’s house and help them prepare a feast for Iftar. Our usual routine after Iftar was shopping for Eid, even though I wasn't supportive of this I still had to go along with everyone. I rarely performed my Isha prayer on time since the markets there did not have a prayer area for their visitors. Overall fasting in Pakistan was all about food in comparison to Saudi Arabia which was all about spirituality and fasting in UAE was neutral.
Have you ever spent Ramadan in another country or countries and would like to share your perspective? Comment below! Eid Mubarak to all of you.
Nour Al-Ali is an English Literature and Mass Communication double major junior at the American University of Sharjah.