Aceh Diary: Ramadan

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Central_mosque I could really use a drink. Of water, I mean. I'm also starving, but given the choice, I'd rather take the water. I haven't had anything to eat or drink since about 5:00 AM, and 13 hours later, I can really feel it. But in about 30 minutes I will be eating a fabulous, home-cooked meal with one of my colleagues, and the thought of this keeps me going.

Why is this? It's Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that ends this Sunday. A spiritual time, marked by fasting, reflection, and an effort to improve oneself. The closest thing in the Christian world would be Lent, but there really is no comparison. Ramadan isn't just observed, it's experienced. My experience so far, and a few more pictures, after the jump.

Here's how it works. At 4:30 AM, you wake up and have a meal. In my case, a cook prepares the meal the day before and my colleague, Tris, gets everything ready. If I doze off she calls my cell phone to wake me up. Today we had a delicious chicken curry soup, a glass of milk, and some spicy shrimp. I do my share by clearing the table. Then at 5:00 AM a siren goes off from the central mosque, which is nearby (and pictured above). The sound continues for about a minute, which is enough time to suck down a couple glasses of water. Then prayers start, and there will be neither food nor drink until sundown.

As a non-Muslim, I don't have to do this. My colleagues think I'm a little crazy, and joke that I want to become a Muslim so that I can have more wives. Initially, I decided to do this out of respect for my colleagues (I'd feel guilty stuffing my face in front of starving people) and because restaurants are all closed in the daytime. But I also want to experience it. Ramadan is clearly a special time for my colleagues, and I want to understand it better.

I'm not doing too badly. As a student I fasted every year as part of an Oxfam fund-raiser, and I managed fairly well. This is harder because you can't drink anything, even water. If you are a nicotine addict, you have to hold off. And you can't have sex either, I'm told.

My only previous exposure to Ramadan was through my good friend Shaela, the former Blogmistress of the Aceh Diary. Being a Muslim, she always fasts during Ramadan. It must be hard for her in Washington because food and drink are everywhere. When there is no food, and nobody is eating, it's much easier.

The cooks have finished their work, and in a few minutes the siren will sound. I will join Tris for the evening meal. I know I will be very grateful to eat it; perhaps that's a part of what it's all about.

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Authors

David Lawrence

Communications Consultant

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Grace Georges Breidy
October 18, 2006

The closest thing in the Christian world would be Lent, but there really is no comparison. Ramadan isn't just observed, it's experienced.

Lent is experienced from within deeply in the heart & soul. It is meditating silently on the Lord passion and love and thinking thoroughly!

October 18, 2006

My dear friend: Nothing wrong in experiencing other religions traditions and rituals. For your information, every religion on earth has a sacred time in a year where the believers reflect on their faith and believes.... My question to you is, if you were a Christian, how much do you know about your religion, faith, church, etc., and how many times did you do the Lent and how?! Because, if you do it right as the Orthodox Church, then and only then you would know if "there is no comparison”. With all respect to our Muslim friends, I would like to ask them how much do they know or care about other religions, and how much do they respect, understand and tolerate others of different faiths without offending them?! My friend, go and get to know more about your religion and faith, at the end, nothing better than being a believer in GOD and His commandments, and live His word by loving everybody on earth. And remember Jesus Christ’s teachings about LOVE and PEACE and how much He focused on these two virtues. Isn’t Jesus Christ’s words also when He said “Peace be with you and upon you” to all the people, no matter who they are or were?!