Friday, July 12, 2013

Ramadan Kareem

It's our fourth Ramadan here in Jordan. The first started days after we arrived at post, and it was pure awful: no friends, no car, all of the shops were closed.

I was miserable.

By now, though, I understand the rhythm of the city at Ramadan, and it doesn't seem so foreign, so frustrating. I still don't understand how my Muslim friends can seem so full of joy during their fasts - I'd be cranky and miserable if I attempted to go without both food and water from sun-up to sundown in the July desert heat, but they all smile and seem at peace.

I was in the gym yesterday evening, and the trainer, Raed, was in there working with a client. He and the client were both sweating buckets, as was I, working out nearby. I was chugging water throughout my workout - the gym is on the Embassy compound, so I'm not worried about offending the locals. I was surprised to see Raed there and asked him, aren't you fasting? Of course, he beamed at me. He explained that he works with clients all afternoon, then goes for his own 2-hour workout in the evening, exercising until the sun sets and he can finally break his fast. There I was, gulping water between every set, and he hadn't had a drop since the sun came up, yet he was smiling and working out just as hard as ever. Amazing.

This morning I did my shopping in a nearly empty store. Most people stay home during the day, resting and avoiding the midday heat. Afterwards, I walked from the store to Coffee Bean - it looked closed, with the outside tables stacked up, shades drawn and lights out. But my own darling husband, before he left for Baghdad, had gone in to ask if they'd be open during Ramadan. (When he was here, he used to bring me a drink most Friday mornings, so he wanted to make sure I was covered when he left. Damn. Gotta love a guy who plans ahead.)

They told him back then that, yes, they would be open during Ramadan, for take out only. I tried the door, and sure enough, it was unlocked. A single barista sat in the dark inside, half-napping, but he happily took my order when I stumbled in from the street.

I thanked him and wished him a Ramadan Kareem before heading back outside, squinting against the sunshine. Noon prayers had ended while I was in the shop, so I sheepishly walked past hordes of fasting men who were leaving the mosque, hiding my contraband coffee inside my purse.

I drove home on empty streets, furtively sipping my drink. Along the way I passed two mosques. Cars were parked two and even three deep around the first mosque - traffic typically gets heavy near the mosques on Friday afternoons, but it's especially crazy during Ramadan. No one on the streets, anywhere, except by the mosques, where there are crowds of men in white and brown thobes, vendors selling vegetables, cars haphazardly parked all over the roads. A lone policeman stood in front of the mosque, gun casually slung across his back, sweat dripping down his face. As I passed, he took off his cap and slowly wiped his forehead with his hand, the rest of him unmoving as he watched the crowds. A skinny man in jeans and t-shirt sat in the bed of a pick up truck stacked high with tomatoes, head in his hands, making no effort to attract any customers in the noontime heat. Young boys chased each other in circles on the sidewalk under the bright blue tiled dome of the mosque while their dads and grandpas chatted in clusters.

I drove carefully - there was little room to squeeze past - and I took in the scene, just one bustling corner in an otherwise sleepy, thirsty city.

It felt like home.


Candice said... [Reply]

Donna, I found your blog through A Daring Adventure. My daughter and her family are on the last year of their first post in Istanbul, so I'm learning much about their lives in the FS. You are a lovely writer and I've enjoyed reading past posts. Just stopped by to say hello.


Lindsey said... [Reply]

Home follows us....thank goodness.

Los Skarks said... [Reply]

That's really beautifully done, and made me miss "home" even though we left a year ago.

Please. Write your own stuff.