Sunday, August 08, 2010

Fasting, part three

I asked some colleagues about “sawiq” to break the fast and they told me it was not a requirement by any means to eat sawiq, in fact traditionally one breaks your fast with dates. So I purchased a bunch of dates (three different varieties, there's a wide variety of dates here and they do have different tastes to them), some figs, and some dried fruit. I'll be sure to keep a small plate of them by my bed each evening for my pre-dawn meal.

Now the pre-dawn meal, I believe called Sohour, can range from as simple as a few dates and some water, to lavish multicourse meals. One of my colleagues typically has dates, water, and some yogurt for his meal, one of my Qatari friends will have that and some toast, and another mentioned beans as a good meal because they take longer to digest. My Qatari friend also mentioned that if he is with his family his mother will usually cook something for Sohour such as scrambled eggs. There appears to be no specific food item for Sohour, though everyone seems to have dates.

Qatar is also preparing for the holy month and the Government has incepted mandated prices for about 150 food items to ensure that there is no price-gouging. Grocery stores are required to prominently display the list so that customers can be aware of the mandated price. I saw the list the other day and it appears to be primarily basic foodstuffs (milk, yogurt, cooking oil, some types of meats like chicken, household items like tissues). Dates are not one of the mandated things -- there are so many different varieties of dates, with different prices, that there be no way for the government to mandate one price for them. Grocery stores have huge displays out piled high with dates, figs & nuts. The bakery section also has certain desserts commonly served during Ramadan. I'll try to get a picture for next blog.

As for me I'm on one cup of coffee a day now so it shouldn't be too difficult to turn the caffeine tap off in a few days. I've gotten mixed reviews about how well this will work; some have told me I will struggle while others have said that if I change my sleep schedule accordingly it shouldn't be too bad. One of my Muslim colleagues is going to send me an Internet link to a chart so that I can determine when I need to wake up in the night for my last (first?) meal. When I receive the link I'll post it here.

So far I believe this is how my workday schedule will look:

~3:00am: wake up for Sohour meal
3:15am: go back to bed
6:45am: wake up for work
7:30am: start work
2:30pm: work is done, head home
2:45pm: go to bed
~6:00pm: wake up for Iftar (breaking the fast)
6:30 – 12:30: live a life
~12:30ish: go to bed

Of course this schedule is likely to change. Waking up for Iftar will depend on whether I'm going to be joining other people (in which case I will need to get up earlier) or staying at home. I think it will be a challenge for me to sleep for three hours in the middle of the afternoon, something I've never done unless I'm sick. If I have a nap in the afternoon longer than 45 minutes I usually get a bit of a headache. I'll ask my friends about what to do with medicine, hopefully it'll be okay to take a paramecatol or something.

I think the weekends are actually going to be more of a challenge than the weekday. On the weekday as I have work to keep me occupied, on the weekend I might just be sitting at home in which case the temptation to eat snacks or drink some water will be far worse. I'll have to talk to my friends about what they do to resist temptation or distract themselves, unfortunately it is summer so going out for a walk or going outside would make things even worse -- you could die walking around in 45+ degree heat without water. And anyone who's followed this blog regularly knows I am susceptible to heatstroke.

Finally, there've been a few comments on my blog providing me with either support or quoting some Hadiths, one of which indicated that it doesn't "count" to Allah without converting, or something along those lines. Let me make this clear -- I am not a Muslim (nor do I play one on TV ;-) ). This is an attempt at experiencing part of the culture to which I am currently living in, and by blogging about it perhaps introducing non-Muslims, especially Westerners, to an objective view of the experience. The West misunderstands the Islamic world to an extent I could not fathom until I moved here. At this point in time the Islamic world and the West are at a crossroads, and resolving the problems between us will not work until such time as the West at least makes an attempt to understand the Islamic world and to not stereotype it based on news reports from Afghanistan or Palestine. Whether it's scaring Swiss voters into banning minarets with visions of niqab-clad women, banning burqas in France, or wrongly assuming Arab feminists are obsessed with veils as "symbols of oppression”, the West is clearly showing the Islamic world it has a lot to learn, and our proud talk of “freedom” will continue to ring hollow. Until such time as the West is willing to meet the Islamic world halfway, to stop projecting our assumptions of what is "wrong" there, and instead make an honest effort to understand their cultures, we will never be able to resolve our differences. I am here in the Middle East and so I will take this unique opportunity to try to understand a Qatari view as best I can. Fasting is just one small step in the process.

I will end with a quote from the recent issue of Time Out - Doha magazine, which has an interview with Mr. Mohammed Ali Al Ghamidi from the Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre, discussing Ramadan and whether non-Muslims can attend Iftar banquets:

“Of course it is permissible to attend an Iftar. Actually, we recommend trying the fast, and breaking it in the company of Muslims, to gain a sense of the community and belonging.”

Thank you Mr. Al Ghamidi, I truly hope to do so.


Anonymous said...

you don't have to take a nap during the afternoon unless you reeeeeally need one! usually many people do so they don't fall of exhaustion before the Taraweeh prayer at night!

Glen McKay said...

I'll keep that in mind, thanks. Somehow I expect that I'll be so hungry sleep will be a better option than wandering around for a few hours trying not to eat or drink anything. We will see though.