One of the advantages of time-zone change is the ability to wake up at just that right moment whether it is desired or not. In this case as I look out the hotel window onto the hazy world below this awaking couldn’t have been better timed. It is slightly before sunrise and I feel duty bound to take in breakfast before the full sunrise. It is the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, a time when all healthy adult Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, sexual relations and bad habits during the daylight hours. Well taking the month as the opportune moment to eradicate those bad habits altogether.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is fourth of the five pillars of Islam observed by Muslims around the world. It starts on a crescent moon and lasts about 29 days until the next crescent moon. It was during this month that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and Muslims observe it by fasting, attempting to read the entire Qur’an by months end, and attend special services in the Mosque. The abstaining reminds Muslims of self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. Makes great sense actually, as one of the other pillars of Islam is to giving to the less fortunate. The fasting reminds us all; even non-Muslims, that there are those who constantly go without proper nutrition and exist in poverty and deprivation.
The before sunrise meal, what this morning I called breakfast, is articulated to me as Suhoor in Arabic which resonates a lot more elegantly to the ear. Truly the whole Arabic language has a poetic flair, a sophistication matched by no other. I studied it in University but never to the mastery or level that which I would have preferred, but being here seems a good prospect to right those wrongs.
Heading out to start the day I can feel the blast of heat outside as the sun rises, a big golden disk in the eastern sky. The perfect circle triggers the imagination to muse Ra, scarabs, and mythology of a long ago time and place west across the Arabian Desert and Red Sea in the land of Misr. The warmth and colors blend perfectly and the sensation most welcome on the skin as I start taking in the day. The sky a hazing bluish yellow augmented by a slight breeze swaying the palms. Not the worst heat I have ever been in, but enough to remind me that it may be a long day ahead without food and water.
As the day carries on, my thoughts turn to those men and women who for hundreds of years observed Ramadan, fasting and praying, without the advantage of climate control. I have made it through for a day. For those fasting the whole month year after year I gain a deeper respect, appreciation, and understanding. Soon all will gather in the evening for Iftar, the sunset meal, and friendship. I too will thank Allah for health, strength, self-control, and moreover the opportunity to be here at this particular time and in this place.