May you have a glorious month of Ramadan
We are currently in the Holy month of Ramadan. About half way through now as it started with the evening call to prayer on the 5th June at the first sight of the crescent moon. It will be over by July 6th this year and the dates will shift slightly for next year.
Ramadan was a word I had heard often before I moved to the Middle East. Back then I just associated it with the hot, humidity of August (as it fell in August back when I first really heard of it) and expats fleeing the Middle East because everything was closed. The first time I heard it mentioned here in Qatar was during my orientation week at work. We had a representative from the Fanar centre come and induct us on Qatari culture. One of the most useful and fascinating presentations I heard since my arrival. The presenter was British who had relocated to Qatar. He had a great sense of humour and certainly laughed in sympathy for us teachers, who were going to have teach kids during the month of Ramadan this year, as it fell during term time. Since then I had feared the arrival of this month. I expected the hot and humid weather that I felt when I first arrived but coupled with a dry mouth, hunger and frustration.
Thankfully, it has been nothing of the sort. With the build up to Ramadan, I started to get a bit more excited as my students were getting more excited about it. It has been explained to me as the Christmas of the Islamic holidays, the same excitement children get for Christmas is how Muslim kids feel about Ramadan. I was touched by the efforts my students (who are 6 and 7 years old by the way) went to, to explain the holiday to me. Taking their lead we made Ramadan lanterns one day for an art lesson (I’m not entirely sure what the lanterns represented but I liked how pretty they were).
In turn, I found myself taking more of an interest in the holiday for purposes of learning about a new culture. I started to learn more Arabic through my students and even wanted to go to an Iftar buffet. An Iftar meal is the first meal Muslims eat at sunset to break their fast. Suhoor is the meal they have in the middle of the night, and is meant to be a bigger feast of food.
Many of the hotels were participating in putting on special Iftars and Suhoors, so my husband and I took this opportunity to treat ourselves to some decent food in Doha (something that is hard to come by and costs a lot). We decided to go to the W Hotel in West Bay, as they had a Michellin star chef visiting and international food stations which would appeal to us both. They also had music entertainment and the Euro cup showing, so win win for everyone.
The food certainly didn’t disappoint and I’m glad that day just happened to be a day that I didn’t eat that much to begin with. We enjoyed plates from the Indian buffet, the Arabic buffet, an Italian buffet and an Asian buffet. Nothing disappointed. And to end of with, the cakes were just stunning! On top of that I thoroughly enjoyed a mint lemonade drink, which has to be one of the most refreshing drinks I have ever tasted and something I will certainly have to recreate when we leave the Middle East. We also tried a tamarind drink that didn’t look too appealing with it’s muddy brown colour but tasted cool and sweet like rose water or something to that effect. I ended off the night with Turkish coffee. Delicious! For more information about the best Ramadan tents, check out Qatar eating.
Unfortunately during Ramadan, you can’t consume alcohol, so there were no fancy cocktails to be had. However the beverages we had didn’t make me feel like anything was missing.
Other things that are forbidden during the month of Ramadan is eating and drinking in public from sunrise to sunset. In Qatar it is actually illegal and if caught, you could receive a fine. Much to the dismay of my husband- smoking is also banned in public from sunrise to sunset and that has certainly affected what we do and how long we stay out during the day time.
With the heat and lack of being able to quench a thirst, it’s not easy to be out of the house during Ramadan. However, I have really enjoyed learning a bit more about this culture and religion by experiencing the Holy month of Ramadan. And I’m quite proud I survived in the souq for 3 hours without a drop of water- something I wouldn’t have been able to do 10 months ago! For more information on Ramadan in Qatar click here. Stylist also did a fab article on Ramadan in the west which is worth checking out as well.