Saudi Arabia/ World – Share YOUR Ramadan

Naturally with American Bedu’s blog focus on Saudi Arabia, during the holy month of Ramadan I like to feature more posts about Ramadan and its traditions.  With this posts, I’d like to encourage Muslim readers from within Saudi Arabia and around the rest of the world to share what their daily life is like during Ramadan.  How, if any, does their life change specifically during the month of Ramadan.

In the case of my late husband and I, we practiced Ramadan a little differently depending where we were, especially since several of our Ramadan’s were while we were living in the United States.

While in the United States I believed there were greater challenges presented as a fasting Muslim.  Unlike Saudi Arabia or other predominant countries, where eateries are closed during fasting hours, in America it is business as usual.  It took a little bit of getting used to smelling and seeing the various food as well the people eating throughout the day but with strength and perseverance, you adapt and fast even among the temptations!  One can still attend business meetings and lunches where food or beverages are served and abstain while encouraging non-Muslims to partake and enjoy.

Because Abdullah worked at the Saudi Embassy in Washington while in the States, he was fortunate in that his workdays were shortened.  They were not as short as a day if he had been in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan but it was much easier for him than a typical eight hour day.

Since he would usually arrive home before me during Ramadan, he’d actually get our iftar started.  He’d have the dates prepared, the coffee on and generally a light soup started.  By the time I got in from work it was usually time to break the fast.  After the initial breaking of the fast with dates and having some soup, I’d then pick up where Abdullah left off in preparation of the rest of the meal.  We always avoided heavy foods during Ramadan.  Abdullah liked for me to prepare a variety of simple and small dishes instead.

In the morning prior to fasting, we’d get up and I’d prepare our suhoor.  Abdullah liked to have a full and satisfying Saudi breakfast with shashooka, foul and white cheese with na’an.  I’d generally have a few dates with orange juice and water.

We did not stay up all hours of the night.  We did not sleep through the day.  For the most part we went about our usual routines albeit a little slower and quieter.

The Ramadan’s while in Saudi Arabia were different and I would describe them as more formal.  First, it was much easier to concentrate on fasting with both condensed work hours and no eateries being opened or being exposed to others who were eating during fasting hours.

The majority of our iftar’s were spent with family or close friends so they were on a larger scale with more preparation.  It certainly helped to have a housemaid who assisted in the preparations too.  Additionally I generally had ample time to prepare iftar.

After iftar and evening prayers, we’d usually settle in front of the tv to watch the popular Ramadan tv series, Tash ma Tash.  After Tash ma Tash family members would either choose to go to the local mosque for additional prayers or continue with visits to other family and friends.

The first two weeks of Ramadan many business remained open so Abdullah and I maintained a quasi-regular schedule.  We did not stay up all night and just like in America, we’d arise early so I could fix us a suhoor.  However, once we were both off work for the final days of Ramadan, leading up to Eid al Fitr, we generally left Riyadh for my mother-in-law’s home in Makkah.  Once there, it was easy to get caught up in a “partying atmosphere” of Ramadan.  We’d easily have 50 – 70 members for iftar.  Most family members would stay up through the night until suhoor during which a large and sumptuous meal would be served.  Many, especially the children and teens, would sleep until around 4pm.

However, my mother-in-law and I along with a few other family members would generally continue to rise early in the mornings.  That was a cherished time.  My mother-in-law would read aloud from the Quran and then we’d start work together on early preparations for another large iftar.  I loved sitting on the floor with her with a table cloth beneath us while we made and then rolled out the dough for her special sambosas.  During those times she’d share with me about iftar’s and Ramadan’s past when Abdullah was but a young child.  Those were some of our bonding experiences which I’ll never forget.


19 Responses

  1. Lovely Ramadan reminisces!These are the kind of posts that attract me to your blog time and again.

    I live in Saudi and as a teacher I’m lucky enough to be off work completely during Ramadan. I do tend to stay up most of the night although I sometimes go to bed at 2 and then wake up at 4 for suhoor. A My family usually has a light suhoor quite similar to usual breakfast nothing special. I sometimes eat desserts left over from iftar and drink 3 glasses of water-as I get very thirsty. fter suhoor I pray Fajr and go to bed.I then sleep till around 11-12. and then get up wash-up, pray, and read quran. Start on some chores, I usually, help to prepare iftar after asr prayer. We keep it simple, salad, fruit salad, samosas, and a drink with dates. We have the dinner after maghrib prayer. Then my parents drink tea and watch the news, while I usually take a nap. Then off to taraweeh. After taraweeh I usually snack on leftovers. I tend to avoid watching TV, etc and try and keep it to a minimum in Ramadan. I read quran, and then go online for a while, or talk to a friend. We don’t go out much in Ramadan, only for groceries or maybe one or two iftar parties in the whole month. I don’t think my routine conveys the spiritual feeling one gets when reading quran or praying late at night especially in Ramadan. Or the joy of breaking the fast and feeling truly thankful to Allah. I wish everyone could experience Ramadan

  2. Lovely memories you have Carol! For me Ramadan doesn’t mean over eating like most people tend to think. I don’t know where the idea came from that Muslims binge eat. Trouble is many people tend to think that one country or people represent the whole Umma. Actually after we breakfast I can never catch up on the eating I missed out in that day. I don’t sleep all day either nor do I stay home all day. I go on about my usual activities which is really what Ramadan is all about. Most Muslim’s lives don’t come to a standstill. Although I noticed that in Arab countries where I lived such as Libya, Egypt businesses open really late. Mu husband tells me it’s the same in Saudi A. Masalama

  3. I don’t fast because I’m not Muslim. Many of my students have tried to talk me into it, but I’m borderline hypoglycemic and it wouldn’t work out well for me. However, that doesn’t mean my life goes on as usual during Ramadan.

    I usually have music playing in the classroom…classical during writing activities and hip hop during group discussions (many feel more comfortable speaking if they don’t have to worry about sudden silences). I don’t play any music during Ramadan because I know that some, though certainly not all, of my Saudis prefer not to hear any music at that time. To be honest, shifting to such a quiet classroom environment is very uncomfortable for me and I am usually relieved when it’s over as are a number of students who are not Muslim. The Saudis are appreciative though and it’s only one month out of the year.

    I also don’t allow any food or drink in my classroom during Ramadan. Before Ramadan begins, I generally initiate a conversation about it with all my classmates, allowing the Saudis to take over at any point and explain further so that the other students know why things will be different for four weeks.

    I skip over any chapters, units, or lessons that are about food during Ramadan and substitute others that require more self reflection (if possible considering the levels I teach at the time). I’m also much more accommodating about accepting late homework, especially from the Saudi women with husbands and children that they are looking after. I assign a bit less and again, if possible I try to tie it into self contemplation exercises. For example, instead of requiring them to fill out answers to exercises in their books, I have them use whatever grammar concept is being learned while writing sentences about what they can do to make their community better, or what parts of themselves they would like to change. That way they are still following some of the spirit of Ramadan while doing their homework.

    At home, I refrain from cooking during the day because I don’t want the smell to permeate the air. I still eat, but only food that doesn’t require cooking and I eat it in my room. I have on occasion taken the toaster outside so I could have toast. I also don’t play music at home or in my car if I have Saudi passengers. I love music in the background, so it’s not easy for me.

    As I find more ways to tie Ramadan into what we do in our lessons at school, I enjoy it more and more. While I might get antsy about the no music deal, I find that there is a different kind of peace in the classroom that is much easier to achieve at this time and it’s really enjoyable.

  4. Okie, why shouldn’t non-fasting students bring food or a drink into the classroom if otherwise it is allowed? I don’t see the point. The point of fasting is to suffer and remember those who do not have food or drink. I don’t see why the rest of the world should conform to that. And for the fasting students it’s only good, gains them more brownie points.

    Do you also tell students not to eat anything with meat on Friday so as not to upset the Catholics?
    Or not to eat meat at all because that is offensive to vegetarians?
    Or not to eat non-kosher foods because that might upset the Jews?
    Or not to bring industrialized foods and drinks with refined sugars or refined flour because that will upset the healthy people?
    Or should nobody in the class be allowed to eat or drink anything containing animal products because that is upsetting for vegans?

  5. Actually, *I* am vegan.

    I do this because the Saudis are coming from a country that caters to them during Ramadan. Our school is not just an English school. We are meant to provide a transition between a student’s culture and the American culture, to help them transition smoothly, not slap something into their faces.

    I also don’t require newly arrived Saudi women to stand in front of a class to give a presentation or to work in a group that has one or more Saudi men. It’s all about transitions. First, they must speak while still sitting in their seats. Later, they speak in front of the class, but they are permitted to stand in front of women and look only at them. Gradually, the men are mixed in more during presentation time and they are required to make eye contact.

    You need to understand that I teach the very low levels….the students who have just arrived from their countries and are in culture shock and homesick. YOU CAN BET THAT I MAKE IT AS EASY ON THEM AS POSSIBLE!!

    I also don’t push the shy Asian students to speak louder and more or to ask questions or give and defend their opinions until they’ve had a chance to grow accustomed to the idea.

    I’m easier on the students from South America who take (what Americans consider to be) a much too relaxed attitude towards timeliness, whether it be arriving on time or turning in assignments on time.

    I’m careful to draw out any Korean student who I suspect was made wangta in their own country and help them to socialize again.

    I don’t just teach English. I help my students learn about American culture and become a part of it as much as they can/want to, but gradually and without force.

    And I personally don’t see how having hungry/thirsty Saudis sitting in a classroom where they smell food and see people drink water helps them to focus and learn….especially knowing that they walk to and from school in 100+ degrees, some of them with a 40 minute walk one way. I want them to learn as much as possible while they are in class and any teacher worth her salt would make the class environment as conducive to learning as possible. Ever hear of the affective filter?

  6. Okie,

    After reading your posts, first thought that came to my mind was “WOW”! You are more sharia compliant here in the USA than most islamic countries are. Kongrats :)-

  7. X, and the really funny thing is that I’m a rabid atheist! 🙂

  8. Wow Okie, you are truly a wonderful teacher to have. If only there were more like you!

  9. Very Nice carol, and very touching.. i love the part where you bond with your MIL, it’s rare and lovely.

    We don’t do anything different during ramadhan. Here i get up a bit early since i like to sit with F while he has breakfast in the morning. otherwise its so quiet.. so he has a regular breakfast with a bit mre water and more fruits. and i sit and sip a cup of tea and chat and then we go about our routines, work etc., i have to cook and get food ready fro my kids, so smell of cooking is there, luckily now it’s school break for my daughter , so she stays home an dstarts on dinner prep, everyday it’s diff 🙂 whatever she experiments with, i insist that there be lentils and veggies apart from that i leave it up to her. of course i pack a light lunch as usual and fruits, F cuts down a bit, he doesn’t go into the OR after 2pm. that’s when he’s flagging, it’s a pain but that’s a good time to catch up on paperwork and he teaches more .. we get home as usual an di help with dinner, actually he gets home befor eme , cleans up and starts helping my daughter with dinner. he usually break fast with lemonaid type drink, some dates and slowly have dinner around our usual time. then he has a quick prayer time and we usually go for a post -dinner walk, chat and lecture my daughter 🙂 and hit the bed right on time … well a bit late now since olympics is on…
    so for us no change in routine, F doesn’t eat during the day and that’s all there is to it. we all continue our life as usual . In saudi it was very diff. since i never faster, F did an dthen went to once or twice to his parents place for iftar. i sometimes accompanied sometimes not. there was too much meat there 🙂 , not many vegetarian choices, so he just did a quick iftar and bought me back desserts !!!
    we all went for Eid to his parents place and it was nice. again i had trouble with food a bit .. but in all it was very nice. I never let on that i didn’t fast and my in-laws never asked. when i visited i made sure not to eat or drink anything and that was that.
    Here onthe weekends F hangs out inthe hammock during lunch time
    🙂 actually sometimes he makes us sandwiches too , our eating food doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

  10. Such beautiful sharing from all!

    Okie – I really enjoyed reading your interactions with your students. I have another dear friend who also teaches differing levels of English and she follows a lot of your same techniques. The subsequent relationships that have developed are lovely.

    Radha – you and F truly have worked out the ideal arrangements and logistics as a bi-cultural couple of differing faiths and eating preferences!

  11. Okie, thank you for explaining. You are I am sure not just a teacher but a warmhearted supporting friend to all your students.

  12. I agree with Aafke about Okie. It’s nice that you are so considerate of your students.

  13. I would share with you this youtub vidéo. Alia explain very well what is Ramadan for Morrocans.

  14. I am surprised you posted this video to explain what is Ramadan since you were very much skeptic about Ramadan being a month to feel empathy for the poor’s hunger whereas the woman in the video explained Ramadan as exactly that!

  15. hi naseema. thx for sharing this wonderful video. it was very informative. at least for me it was. blessings …

  16. You badly understood my message. Maybe because I express myself badly in English and I use a translator.
    I share how is Ramadan in Morocco that’s all. it’s like she says.

    but I steel never heard about not having to fast if we are poor???? all the poor people around the world fast even if they are starving like in somalia, Ethiopia….

  17. @Louise,

    you are welcome.

    and Alia also shares Ramadan recipes.

  18. Thank you Aafke and Susanne~ 🙂

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