We are now heading into week 2 of Ramadan and whilst I am fully into my new adapted routine, I know some desert girls are still in the midst of finding their feet. This time of year is always a funny one, it quickly shows me how much I rely on a routine, even though I don’t have a 9 to 5 to stick to, last week I had no idea what day it was, because my usual social diary was torn up, so I had nothing to pin point the weeks progress. Having said that I have enjoyed the longer mornings with Hubby, chats over a pot of coffee and the papers (albeit digital), slowing things down, finding time to breathe. During this moment of reflection and pace change, I do wonder how everyone else copes with these changes and I know it varies dramatically.
The start of Ramadan shifts by 10 days every year, due to the Islamic calendar based on the lunar cycles not our Gregorian one. As such there are some desert girls that have either missed the entire thing or only experiences a matter of weeks due to the alignment with school holidays. So this is the first year, they will be in Kuwait for practically the entire holy month and they have not found things easy.
Whilst I would like to say the majority of expats respect, recognise and accept that this is one of, if not, the most important periods for this Muslim country, there are some that just can’t get their head around the strict “one rule for all” Here even non Muslims have to adhere to zero consumption of food or beverages, anywhere in public, between sunrise and sunset. Even my friends back home are shocked to learn that this is enforced, but if you’ve done your research before arriving it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.
What I don’t like to hear is the constant negativity around it or people simply deciding to ignore the rules or think they are above them. I have overheard many a conversation over the last few days, where complete bashing and down right disrespect is being be banded about. Yes, the first year is it hard, yes you went to Dubai at the weekend and nothing had changed there, but you live here. All I can say is, like everything expat , adaption is the key, go with the flow and make it work for you. Also expats, let me remind you, this is your host country, so let’s have some cultural understanding.
In contrast, I have loved having a couple of pre Ramadan conversations with long term desert girls, who have married into local families. Hearing their take, as a westerner, experiencing the traditions of their husband’s childhood re-imagined is wonderful. Instagram is filled with pictures of family get togethers, Iftar feasts cooked by generations, bringing everyone closer. One desert girl told me that, even as a young college student in the USA, he fasted. He saw it as that immediate connection to his faith, Kuwait and his family, reminiscing and reinforcing a month of deep reflection. I guess in one way its like me and Christmas, there are plenty of us that don’t go to church all year, but this period brings us back to singing carols, Christian values, family traditions surrounding food and reflection on the year head. So yes, I get how this time can pull you back in, refocus on loved ones and what is important.
So obviously Hubby and I aren’t fasting but we do like enjoy some of the rituals of this time. We always have at least one Iftar meal out a week, get into the heart of the nocturnal buzz and be part of the traditions. We love seeing the huge family gatherings, the atmosphere and joy of being together to break fast. We of course have the traditional 3 dates, consumed before anything else upon the sun setting, which inevitably comes with Hubby’s annual joke that we are having a date night! We sit, eat, chat and take it all in.
Whatever your view of this period, even if you see it as an inconvenience, I urge you to really understand what this means to the country and millions around the world. See the communities come together, see the decoration adorned houses, see the quiet days as an opportunity to slow down and be present and when walking home listen to the sounds of prayers, singing around the city and be thankful that your adventures brought you here.