As you all know, I've been in Oman for the past 2 months studying Arabic - and I'm returning to the U.S. in about 2 weeks, inshaAllah. Generally speaking, I've had a fairly good time, and I know I'm going to miss it. I'm glad I got to spend all of Ramadhan and Eid here, and I've learned some fascinating things about the culture and society and people here.
I spent half of Ramadhan 2011 and half of Ramdhan 2013 in Jordan and Morocco, respectively, so spending Ramadhan in a Muslim country hasn't been a new to me (although when I did it in Jordan, it was after some 12 years of being in the U.S. and I'd dearly missed observing the holy month and the holy holidays to follow in a Muslim society). When I visited Pakistan 3 years ago, it wasn't long enough to spend a Ramadhan and/or an Eid, so. But this is the first time in 15 years, after migrating to the U.S., that I'm observing all of Ramadhan and Eid in a Muslim country. I'm so incredibly grateful for the opportunity, and I'm so, so happy right now. Alhamdulillah.
Also, Eid Mubarak to everyone! May God accept all of your fasts and other good deeds during Ramadhan, and may we all get to see many, many more Ramadhans and Eids in our lifetimes, aameen.
Oh, and I don't have but a couple of photos in my phone (because the quality sucks), so I'll share the Eid photos later on when I get home, inshaAllah.
Ramadhan in Oman
I'm sure you guys have been following my posts about Ramadhan in Oman. Though I've mainly been writing about how generous the people here are especially during Ramadhan. The atmosphere becomes more religious and spiritual during Ramadhan, naturally, even so that (as in Pakistan), mainly religious shows, movies, programs are played on TV; Bollywood, which is more popular here than you might imagine, is shut off during Ramadhan. Women here don't show their hair in the privacy of their homes let alone in public, but we American females were told that a man's fast breaks when he sees a woman's hair and feet; it's a popular belief here that I have never heard before among other Muslims, but that doesn't mean other Muslims must not share the same belief. Families visit each other, neighbors, and relatives after iftar (fast-break time during sunset), lots of delicious food is cooked, sweets become more common than usual, and most people don't really sleep at night because 1) they're trying to avoid hunger during the next day's fast so they are eating constantly through the night, and 2) they're like, "What's the point in sleeping when you'll have to wake up before sunset to eat and drink to fill up their tummies for the next day's fast?" So a typical day in Ramadhan is like this: Once you break your fast around 7:10pm and go to offer the maghrib/evening prayer, you keep on eating little by little and then have an actual meal called suhoor (peshmaney in Pashto, sehri in Urdu) before sunrise, any time before 4am--you cannot eat during the time between sunrise and sunset--go hungry and thirsty throughout the day, break your fast around 7:10pm, and continue the cycle till the last day of Ramadan. On this last day, you don't eat as much for iftar because you won't be going hungry the next day.
Also, work schedule is different here during Ramadhan so that work hours are from 9am to 1pm (this is particularly for those who have governmental jobs; I'm not yet sure how it is for others). So people sleep a lot during the day time. The last ten days of Ramadhan, which are the most essential of the entire month because the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the last ten days--specifically on the 27th of Ramadhan--people are off from work. Mainly also because of something called i'tikaaf: in the last ten days of Ramadhan, some Muslims go into a state of worship in which they do not do anything but worship God through prayers and dhikr (remembrance of God); talking generally and uselessly is forbidden, but if absolutely necessary, they may speak here and there if compelled to. The best place to perform i'tikaaf at is the mosque, but since this would be difficult for (most) women, I know women who have do it at home.
You get the idea. Religion and good deeds become even more important during Ramadhan than outside of the month - 'cause the month of Ramadhan, as the Qur'an says, is ahsan min alf shahr ("better than a thousand months"), and good deeds are multiplied by tons and tons.
Eid in Oman
Pre-post: 1) Muslims celebrate two major holidays slash festivals, both called Eid. One is right after Ramadhan and celebrates the end of Ramadhan and goodness and is called Eid-ul-Fitr, but also known as "Little Eid" or Warrukey Akhtar in Pashto; the second is about 2 months and 10 days after the first Eid and is called Eid-ul-Adh'ha, or the Eid/Festival of Sacrifice (also knonw as "Big Eid") when Muslims sacrifice animals in celebration of hajj (and the pilgrims who have just finished making the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mekkah), goodness, gratitude to God.
2) "Eid Mubarak" is the expression used by Muslims to wish each other a good, merry Eid; it can be summed up to mean "I wish you a blessed Eid!"
3) Eid officially and Islamically lasts three days, but it may be longer for some communities.
As for Eid, it's very similar to what I remember my Eids being like in Pakistan. But I was a child then, and eids everywhere are more fun for little children (especially girls) than they are for boys or for adults. In Oman, as in Pakistan and I want to say most other societies, adults give children what is called an eidi, money - but it can also be a gift or present, though money is more common. There's also festivals around, although I didn't get to go to any of them here (my host family doesn't really do it; when we tried later in the day, we didn't make it on time so instead ended up visiting the friends of our host father's on the way to the festival). In Pakistan, we kids would go around to each house, wish everyone, especially the adults, an Eid Mubarak to get some money out of them (usually not a lot, but it depends on the child's age; the older the child, the more money she/he gets), and then head out to the amusement rides and to the sides of the roads where young and older men alike would be selling sweets, kheers, zalobai (jalebi), mithais, and other unhealthy delicious dessert-stuffs. The adults, especially the males, mainly go visit their sisters, female cousins, other important female relatives, and friends to wish them a mubarak Eid.
|Hennah stickers. You fill up those blank spaces with hennah.|
All houses are cleaned up and sometimes decorated for visits/guests, and great food is prepared. Everyone is supposed to wear new clothes, including new shoes, and everyone's supposed to take a shower/bath in the morning before wearing their new clothing. In Oman and Pakistan, the men head off to the mosque for the Eid prayer (women don't go to Eid prayers in Oman, I'm told - and it looks like they really don't) while the women prepare foods and stuff for guests.
|See? The stickers weren't so bad.|
In Pakistan, at least when I was there, the women didn't really traditionally visit neighbors and relatives the way they do here. We woke up around 5:45am and left the house around 6am to visit the host family's neighbors and relatives. Ate lots of stuff (mainly halawiyaats slash sweets), and we were done visiting people by 8:30am. I hadn't slept at all that night because ... oh God, this is a long story, but to make it short, the girls and I were busy putting hennah on each other. Lots of fun!! Here, apparently, girls go to salons to get their hennah done; doing it at home isn't as common as I had expected. So we bought these hennah stickers ('cause none of us yet have the talent to pain hennah on each other, hahahahahahhahahahahahahah. No), put the stickers on each other, and filled in the blank spaces. It came out quite well, actually! It was my first time and their first time, and we enjoyed thoroughly! Alhamdulillah for girls and for Eid and for fun.
The rest of the day, I slept a little bit (like 4 hours in the day time, hah) and chilled with host family, entertained some guests, and then later went to see a festival, but we were too late for it so we visited the host family's friend in the area instead.
|This hand was done at a salon, though.|
The second day of Eid, Omanis sacrifice an animal in celebration of Eid. It's Islamically not required (as it is for the second eid), but they do it as a social obligation. This isn't something I think most other Muslims do, though. So I woke up around 6:45am to be taken to see the animals being scarified by our host family and their nearby relatives. A few families partake in the act, sharing an animal (usually a cow and/or calf). I took pictures, but I imagine that'd disturb a lot of people.... No, I'm not proud of myself for having seen a live animal being taken hostage and then killed in front of my own eyes and then cut into pieces and later being enjoyed by other animals (humans).
In the afternoon of the second day, a few families in the neighborhood gather around a tandoor/tanoor (underground oven, you can call it) that they share, and pile up their bundle of meat there. This mean has been prepared a special way to be cooked in this oven and will not be ready until two or three days later. I won't be here to taste it, so I couldn't describe it for you.
Our lunch during the second day of Eid consisted of meat from the animal I saw alive this morning and that was killed in front of me:
The third day of Eid, they do sheesh kabaabing - from the meat of the animals sacrificed the day before. Since I won't be here tomorrow, the host family is preparing me some tonight for dinner. It's small pieces of meat with all the spices necessary placed on skewers over fire until they're ready to be eaten. When you do this with fresh meat, it's heavenly! The last time I had this style of meat was in Pakistan for an Eid-ul-Adh'ha, which would be over 15 years ago.
That should be all, folks.
Happy Eid to all!
P.S. As I type this, I'm served kinnafeh, my favorite pastry ever! My host mother knows how much I love it so she's been making me a lot of it. God bless her family with good health and peace, aameen!!