10 August 2013

Ramadan Kareem!

Or Ramadan Maasalama rather…We are wrapping up the month with the 3-4 day celebration of Eid al-Fitr.  Eid marks the end of Ramadan & is the biggest Muslim holiday of the year – often compared to Christmas.  Indeed, work has been pretty quiet this past week – especially during the day when folks are sleeping.

Unfortunately I haven’t been around long enough to get much of an insider’s look or a really good feel for all the intricacies of Ramadan, but I can try & share a few things from the periphery.  Superficially, almost EveryThing is closed, or has severely reduced hours, during the day, during the entire month.  They even altered our “shopping bus” schedule to run later.  Here are a few (fuzzy – sorry!) snaps from Balad (the older district of town) at 1 am…plenty of men, women & children milling about.

As you probably know, fasting during the daylight hours is a big part of Ramadan.  It is also an important time for prayer, reading the Qur’an and for personal reflection.  It's recognized by almsgiving and, my favorite, “watching one’s tongue”…to mean “refraining from obscene & false speech.”  Feasting, visiting with family, and making trips to Mecca are also significant activities this month and during Eid – plenty of dates & delicious deserts!  Here is a snap of some families waiting for the sun to go down so they can break their fast with a picnic by the sea – nice!

The Mutawa, or “Religious Police” who work on behalf of the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue & Prevention of Vice” – No, I’m not kidding.  Go ahead, read that title again :)  They enforce the dress & behavior codes, crack down on public entertainment, make sure women don’t drive & check businesses to make sure they are closing 5 times a day for prayer.  They are said to be more prevalent during Ramadan & have a legitimate reputation for being verbally aggressive.  Fortunately I haven’t had the pleasure of interacting with them, but friends say they have been harassed in the mall – mostly followed around and told (unprofessionally) to cover their hair.  I don't think they can actually arrest you.

Illegal Mingling

Speaking of “watching one’s tongue” and while I’m on a down-beat, the work tid bit of the week was that one of our locum staff (3 month contract) was fired & sent home for cussing, coming clean on a med error, and having a personality conflict with one of her colleagues – obviously the wrong one.  Disturbing & concerning to be sure, but I've decided not to bitch about work in this post :)  Rumor has it the nail in the visa was the cussing…needless to say, those of us remaining with explicative tendencies are trying to come up with more appropriate words to express our frustrations – think “Fudgesicle.”  All suggestions are welcomed :)

On to more pleasant & exciting news!!  I bought my plane tickets for a much anticipated holiday in September!  I’ll be going to visit a friend I met here from Portugal for a week & then to Kyrgyzstan for a wk to see the sights & catch up with old neighbor friends there.  Both places look absolutely Gorgeous & I’m looking forward to seeing some GREEN, and red…as in wine!  Now I just need my Exit/Re-Entry Visa to go through & then it’s only 26 days to departure!  But who’s counting?

My Portuguese Habibi 
Well gang, I hope you are enjoying your August weather & bountiful gardens – Svetlana said she planted 15 tomato plants in my backyard (among many other things) and I can’t imagine it!  Maybe she ripped up part of the lawn :)  
Take care ya’ll & keep in touch – I love hearing from you!