Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ramadan comes and Ramadan goes

Every place has its own Ramadan traditions and customs. In Egypt, there was the lighting of the fanoos and here in Doha, there was the firing of the canon. Just before sunset, Landcruisers and SUVs of all shapes and sizes gathered in parks and squares in their respective neighbourhoods. We live near the corniche, right in front of the Tennis center and decided one night to go watch the signalling of iftaar in our 'hood. We pulled up to an empty lot in front of the commercial bank building where huge cars and SUVs were all circled around a centerpoint. Little kids were sitting on the hoods of cars and others standing, waist high from the sunroofs. Friendly soldiers lifted little boys and girls to take their turn to sit and have a photo taken on the tank. A few minutes before the sunset, each child was returned to their parents and by standers were asked to move away, the soldier loaded up the canon and fired it. Everyone cheered and then rushed to their cars to tear away in a frenzy back home to break their fast properly and enjoy the evening meal together.

We live in a tall apt tower by the sea, far from this little square. How would I know for sure what time to break my fast when every clock in our house tells a different time and our 25th floor windows do not open to recieve the evening call to prayer? I found myself turning on Qatar TV and sure enough, at magrib time there was a short clip of a soldier loading up a tank and firing the canon to signal the end of the daily fast.

Doha has been a great place to spend Ramadan. Days were short, working hours were reduced and the whole country was focused on getting the most out of this holy month. A British counterpart who was chasing up a contract asked me quite exasperatedly how I felt that the whole country ground to a halt for a month. In that moment, I didnt know what to say but upon reflection, I wish I had told him that I felt happy to be living and working in a place where they made it easy for those who want to practice to do so. I love that the rat race was meaningless for a month. I'm not that religious but I respected those who were and loved the gentle pace of just about everything. I miss it now and think how fast it all went!

Hope all of you had a wonderful Ramadan and a happy Eid -- we celebrated in Sri Lanka -- photos to follow.