Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ramadhan in Jordan: Ramadhan Kareem!

So I have the privilege of experiencing Ramadhan in a Muslim country after twelve whole years!!! I’m grateful for this! I’m impressed, so amazed by the number of CLSers (students in the Critical Language Scholarship award) who are fasting (there are hardly 5-6 Muslims of the 61 CLSers), y’all! From what I understand, they say that they want to experience the culture through fasting. According to one of them, "Everyone tells you Ramadhan kareem—and kareem means ‘generous’—during Ramadhan. But you don’t really know what that means, you don’t really know how kareem Ramadhan is until you fast, go hungry and thirsty for the whole day, and then someone offers you a date or water at the end of the day, and you are so grateful." (Possibly not his exact words, k?)

Before I continue, lemme point out that there are different ways to wish someone a blessed, happy Ramadhan. The most common one here is “Ramadhan kareem!” (Ramadhan is generous.) And the response to it is, “Allah akram!” (God is even more generous!) “Akram” has now become my favorite Arabic word :)

So, some of the students do what they like to call “baby fasting,” which means they drink water during their fast (with Jordanian heat, hell, I totally understand!) but don’t eat anything. They wake up during suhoor time, which is around 3:30am here, to eat, and they go back to sleep after suhoor – only to wake up for classes at around 7am. It’s so inspiring, people. It’s really inspiring. I’m amazed by their strength, their humility, their appreciation, their energy, their enthusiasm—everything. It puts to shame those of us Muslims who like to complain about having to fast. But then again, these non-Muslim fasters realize that they’re not required to fast, and that makes it a bit easier, y’know? I mean, when you do something out of your own free will, without being told that you’re obligated to do it, it feels more … what’s the word … well, different than if you did/do it because you must or else. They don’t have to worry about any consequences if they don’t fast.

Nonetheless, I dedicate this blog post to all those people who have so much love in their hearts, whose hearts and minds are so open that they are willing to try something as difficult as going without food and water for over 14 hours just to understand something they care so deeply about, just to develop more respect for a people who are among the most misunderstood people in the world (world = media in this context) – people who can tell their friends that “Um, no, my friend. Fasting is not a violation of human rights.” Kudos to y’all! Kudos to freedom of religion!  You make me think we do have hope for a better, safer, and more peaceful future!

Anyway, so as far as Ramadhan in Jordan is concerned … *all* restaurants as far as I’m concerned are closed during the day! I’ve been told that a couple will stay open, but they have to have a special license that allows them to serve food during the day. Otherwise, restaurants are officially and legally forbidden to be open in Ramadhan.  Before Ramadhan, some friends and I used to go to a mall near our Language Center for lunch, and it had sooo many awesome restaurants on this one floor, right. Well, I went yesterday to check the place out, to see how it looks – and lo and behold! All of the restaurants were closed. But, man oh man, during Iftar (breaking of fast) time, most restaurants are packed with people! You have to make reservations ahead of time to ensure yourself a spot.

People are also not allowed to eat or drink in public.  Not sure exactly how this works for non-Muslims / tourists / etc., so I’ll have to ask about this before I can say more on it.

The roads are almost empty around 8am when we’re going to school!! :D They’re also half empty when we’re returning home, which is around 2-3pm. *However*, a couple of hours before iftar (breaking of the fast) time, roads are ridiculously busy – why? Because everyone goes to work and leaves work at the same time. It’s the country law that work times be shortened during Ramadhan :)

In my dialect class the other day, our teacher was telling us about some of the habits of Jordanians during Ramadhan, and among them are those involving taxi drivers: though they honk unnecessarily every other minute under normal circumstances, they grow worse during Ramadhan – and in addition to their honking, they yell as well. I, however, haven’t experienced this with any of the taxi drivers yet. I’ve been taking taxis lately just to see how they are during Ramadhan, when they’re fasting, but fortunately, they’ve been pretty calm and cool.

Annnnd … people are just so happy, so jolly, so friendly, so kind during Ramadhan! Especially after Iftar! It makes your day, man! It makes your day! (Of course, there are also those angry fasters who are just angry at the world because they can’t smoke or eat or drink!!! But overall, my experience has been pretty good with most of them.) I mean, get this: A few hours ago, a friend and I were trying to get a taxi to go to this Indian restaurant, right. And so, this couple in a car had just made a turn from their street into the main road, and they stopped and asked if we needed a ride! Since there was a female in there, we didn’t feel too uncomfortable accepting their offer, and so we hopped into their car, and even though it took us a looong while to get to the restaurant (‘cause all my friend and I knew was the restaurant’s name and its neighboring hotel), the couple was like, “We are not going to drop you off just anywhere. We’ll make sure you get into this restaurant before we leave you.” It was so very kind of them that I’m looking back now, wondering how I can repay them!

Oh, and yo!! Over 70% Jordanians smoke, right. So, guess what: *no one* smokes in Ramadhan :) (It’s forbidden to smoke while you’re fasting.) They tell us about how they quit a couple of weeks, or a few days, before Ramadhan to prepare themselves for the no-smoking period of the year! This works amazingly with taxi drivers, man. ‘Cause virtually every taxi driver smokes, and it’s not like they’ll roll the window down or ask you if you’re okay with their smoking or whatever – no, they don’t give a damn. They’ll just smoke in your face, and you have to deal with it. Cover your nose or don’t breathe, but you have to sit there and bear the miserable experience of sucking up such polluted air.

Okay, now, folks. This should be all for now. I have so much more to say and to update y’all on, like always, especially my trip to this really cool place where I spent the night with other CLSers at a desert camp – and then some of us went camel-riding the next day!! :D:D It was ammmm-aaaa-zeeeeng (amazing)!!! Only 1.5 more week left of this program, of my stay in Jordan, and I’m so sad!!! I mean, I miss my Kashmaloo, and she’s worth leaving everything in the world for, but I don’t wanna leave Jordan yet :(

k, more later!
Buh bye – and Ramadhan kareem!


  1. Wow! It's amazing to see non-muslims taking on the fasts, though it's a great way of respecting the land they are in, I suppose it's also somewhat easier in a way because everyone else is fasting too and there is no food in sight all day! Maybe countries like Pakistan should learn a thing or two from Jordan :P

  2. LOL! Pakistan certainly could learn a thing or two from Jordan!

    And actually, the program has food (lunch) available for us, so the students do get to eat if they want to. The program also provides us with this amazing iftar (they've always offered dinner 5 days a week, though). But you're right - it's easier to fast in Jordan because everyone else around you is doing it. In the U.S., it'd be difficult for most, if not all, of them. I return in a few days, and I'm not ready to face it there already :(

  3. Allah Akram, Becky! Thanks for the wish :)


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