Ramadan Iftar

So we have entered the holy month of Ramadan here in the kingdom. It has high religious significance for Muslims but it means that most of the country goes into semi shutdown mode.

Anyway, one of the traditions here is iftar tents. They offer great loads of food and are usually a fun, social evening as everyone breaks their fast together. Last night I went to the Leylati tent as a guest of a good friend of mine. It was beautifully decorated and the amount and choices of food were mind boggling! And the sweets, my favorite part of any meal, were amazing!

This is the tamarindy guy. He is serving tamarind juice from that huge container on his back. He leans way forward to get it to pour out of a spout on the front.

Below is video of a guy preparing Arabic ice cream. It is ashta and is a cheese based type of ice cream. It has a delicious creamy flavor and often has pistachios on top. It is a really hard, frozen block that is made up of layers of the cheese. The guy beats it with the stick to flatten and separate the layers. Then he serves a layer into each bowl.

Above is the block of ice cream in the bottom of the frozen compartment.

Below is my take on fasting in this country. I have many acquaintances here who may not agree with my opinion on how it is done here. Feel free to not read it. It is an opinion, we don’t have to agree and I’m not interested in an argument around it. It is a unique event here in Saudi from the way it is done by Muslims in the rest of the world.

In Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to fast from sunup to sundown. In this country that means that all the food service places close down and many stores don’t open until after the evening prayer (at 10 pm.) As it’s a huge pain in the rear end to get food, and as I get invited to quite a few Iftars (the evening breaking of the fast meal) I decided to fast along side everyone else this year. In the past, I only fasted on days that I had an invite to an Iftar.

Tomorrow will be a week. It isn’t really all that difficult. The first few days were tough without water but at this point I’ve become acclimated to it. It’s an interesting experience to me because I chose to do this in an effort to empathize with the people doing it. From my perspective, when I was looking in, it seemed very challenging.

But, being on the inside of it, it’s really no where near as big a challenge as it is made out to be. The custom here is that people only work for limited hours, they sleep a LOT, they don’t work very well even when they go to work, the driving is aggressive and awful. Schools close down completely! Can you imagine? The British school is the only school holding onto academic rigor. The American school even shortens their school days by two hours and they moved some of the end of school year events weeks earlier (which isn’t best practice for the kids) because adults regularly say “it’s Ramadan, we will be fasting.” Forget trying to get any paperwork done at a government office, etc. so I thought that this would be a very challenging thing based on the way people act during this month and I wanted to be able to experience it from their perspective. I’ve found it to be not all that hard and I am working my full hours every day. So I’m not very empathetic! And still feel frustrated that I can’t get my errands done in a reasonable time of the day.

Long story, I haven’t yet sorted out why Ramadan makes things so difficult here. Which was the entire purpose behind my fasting. I’m planning to stick with it, for a while anyway, because I’ve started and I’m not a quitter.

Ramadan Kareem to my friends near and far. I hope this month brings you peace and enlightenment.

Jeddah Diving

I am loving diving. To think that I moved to Saudi and then got to learn to dive in the Red Sea! What a treat. There seem to be loads of clownfish here and I get such a kick out of them. They are not at all shy and actually seem to enjoy coming over to touch your hands or get a close up in your mask. Today my friend caught some silly photos of me goofing around with them.