Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ramadan in Syria

September 1st 30 days of Ramadan started for all Muslims around the world and Syria was no exception. In my office the change was felt immediately; working hours were cut by one hour pr day and despite that people still showed up half an hour late – “it’s Ramadan!”

The water cooler (and heater) was emptied and turned off so I have to bring my own bottle of water with me to the office and can forget everything about a cup of coffee during the day. Luckily, the Syrians are very relaxed with non-Muslims not fasting and my colleagues have given me permission to drink and eat at the office. Same understanding does not exist with Muslims not respecting the Ramadan. A friend of mine was scold for drinking a beer – by the waiter that served him the beer!!!

The first two weeks are supposedly the worst – close to 15 hours without food or water in 40 degrees just can’t be too much fun! I have witnessed a lot of road rage and have been yelled at by cashiers and taxi drivers. Basically, people have more of a temper – understandably.

My Arab teacher has suffered a great deal from lack of food and as a consequence my vocabulary has been filled with food related words, which I guess is very useful.

As the clock approaches 7 pm the city changes dramatically. The streets are abandoned and the few cars left on the road are driving as fast as possible to their homes and the great Iftar – at sunset it is time to break the fast and finally eat. At restaurants great iftar menus are the only thing on offer with lots and lots of Arabian food. And though I love the local food I have to admit that after a few Iftars it is nice with a few friends how are willing to break the fast with lots and lots of sushi instead!