Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ramadan in Saudi

Saudis are not tolerant to all faiths. Non-Muslims are not required to follow Islamic practices during Ramadan, but there are customs and regulations that should be observed by everybody. It is in this month that observant Muslims refrain from food, drink, smoking and sexual relation from morning till afternoon. And they require expatriates to strictly observe daylight fasting in public and offices.

Ramadan commenced last Thursday and everyone has to endure the anguish of not taking any food or liquid from dawn-till-dusk for 30 days. Muslims will be offended if you intentionally show them that you are taking some food or liquid and worst if they don’t like it, you will end up in jail and receive not less than 20 lashes.

However, some Muslims are considerate with others. If they saw you eating unaware, they won’t bother to call your attention.

My Muslim Jordanian manager is very considerate with us, non-Muslims. During their long praying time (duahs) at noontime, he allows me to take 30 minutes break outside the office which prompted me to take quick lunch.

My office desk is near the reception entrance and 25 meters away is the mosque inside our building, over flown by Muslims during prayer. If I won’t leave before Azhan (announcement of prayer), I will be stuck on my seat and no chance of alleviating my hunger. So during duahs at noon time, I must go out, with a sandwich/ tetra juice kept on my pockets then finds a surreptitious area where I could finish my lunch in 5 minutes. This has been my routine for several years during Ramadan since it is very tough to ignore the hunger pangs.. Fortunately, I haven’t been caught by anyone.

Aside from fasting, Muslims also abstain from any sexual activities, which is a quandary for my friend Roda (Rodel) who was into “pa-booking-sa-mga-Arabo”. Every month, except Ramadan, Roda earns double his salary on this trade. An average of 4 bookings a week made him richer. “Lakas ng loob, tibay ng sikmura at diskarte” are Roda’s cleverness to sustain his being the most-sought prosti in Riyadh. Actually, he’s been in and out of jail for several times, if not for his “sponsor”, allegedly one of his “client”, probably he ended up with so many lashes and face deportation already.

But then, after Ramadan, everybody will be looking forward to a one-week vacation (October 12-18) and most Arabs share their “Hadea” (gift) to people they considered special. This time, Roda confides to me that he is expecting a laptop from Hakeem, a Carrera watch from Fariz and a Damascus necklace from Ahmed because they are Roda’s regular customers for almost 2 years now.

Aside from being so generous, Saudis usually refurbish their houses with new set of furniture, carpets, beds, household items, etc. before Ramadan ends. You can see rolls of used carpets, sofa furniture, etc., outside houses in minor roads (mostly in subdivisions) and if you like to get these stuffs, load them immediately in your car. Don’t delay a little longer and wait for the Baladiah trucks and street cleaners, they are smarter and faster than what you think.

By the way, car accidents usually happen from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on the road as people fast-drove back to their homes very impatiently to catch up for their “Puthol” (break-fast) or Iftar. Last Thursday afternoon, on our way to Aldanah Compound in Nasim District, we have spotted two car accidents in Khurais Road.

Independent eating establishments will not open until sunset; many stay open into the early morning hours.
Saudis are wide awake for their usual daily activities till 3:00AM and you can also expect that streets will not be empty.


Richard Lionheart said...

Hehe :)

Paano ba yan? Hehe :) Mukhang hindi ako tatagal diyan kapag isda lang ang kailangang kainin.. hehe :)

Pihikan kasi ako sa food...

Anonymous said...

hi chard,

actually when they go on fasting, wala talagang intake ng food or liquid (and raw meat of course!) from 5:00am to 5:00pm. Pero after ng 5:00pm, puwede na silang kumain... as in super lamon talaga kahit anong pagkain!

chase said...

wow, i didn't realize this ramadan thingy...
thanks for the insight