Thursday, May 17, 2018
Ramadan Kareem everyone! Ramadan was announced last night so for the next 28 or 29 days things change throughout the country.
All of the Muslims (i.e. most of the population) will be fasting through the day and life changes to accomodate that. Restaurants are closed until after sunset, you are not allowed to eat or drink in public, and the liquor store is closed for the entire month and no alcohol is served in any of the hotels. The working hours are also shorter for most people, where I work we've gone down to a five-hour work day. An eight-hour shift when you can't eat or drink anything would be pretty brutal and by late in the shift most people wouldn't be very productive.
Things come alive in the evening. When the sun sets everyone has their iftar meal, a small meal to break the fast. Then it's prayer time and Muslims go to the mosque to pray (the men anyway), there's a set of special prayers called "tarawih" that you perform during Ramadan. These usually end by 9-9:30 pm. That means that people don't generally start going out shopping, meeting friends, or dining in restaurants until after 10pm. Yep, 10pm is when you head out for the evening. Stores do open earlier, like 7 or 8pm for the non-Muslim shoppers, but they are typically open until midnight or 1:00 AM. Final meal is at 3am before going to bed.
It's a bit strange getting used to it. The change in timings was one reasons why I started fasting as well, so that I would be more "in sync" with what everyone else was doing. It is also a good way to experience a very important religious and cultural event in Qatar, akin in importance like Christmas or Easter is to Christians. The fasting started today and surprisingly I was so busy at work I didn't really notice the hunger or thirst. Got home, had a long nap, searched the Internet a bit, the next thing you know it was time to prepare dinner. Unlike many of my Muslim friends I spent the past week slowly decaffeinating, reducing the amount of caffeine I drink every day, and I don't get any caffeine withdrawal at work. Most people just take some Panadol instead.
I hope it will be an exciting month, tonight I'm meeting friends at a majlis for a Ramadan meal, and so far there are two sohour meals at hotels scheduled in the next couple of weeks. I am making an effort to not go too crazy with food.
I'll miss having a morning coffee though.