Yes, Ramadan Kareem to everyone. I know this comes a bit late, since it’s almost over now, but I’ve had a few thoughts about the Holy month on my mind so thought I’d share them with you.
I’m not going to talk about Ramadan and what it means or what happens as it’s a bit late for that now this year, and there’s heaps of information around on that anyway and I don’t want to reiterate the obvious or for those who already know. But there’s a few things that have struck me about Ramadan, so here goes with my Arabian musings:
Firstly, Ramadan is otherwise known as ‘the Holy Month’ – a time for self reflection, prayer and all round general peace and love. A wonderful sentiment indeed and one observed as it is meant by many I’m sure, though I am a little sorry to say that I don’t see much evidence of this on the roads. I’ve talked before about the standards of driving here in the country, (here and here) and I certainly don’t expect these to magically change during Ramadan or anything, though I do expect that given some of the values of the month that people might be less aggressive and more respectful on the roads. I’m sad to say that it often seems to me that this is not the case, and I have seen many instances where road user behaviour positively appears more aggressive and angry than usual. This can partly be attributed to the phenomenon frequently known as ‘the fasting and the furious’. I can of course understand that having fasted all day long can contribute to impatient and erratic behaviour on the roads, especially around sunset and when people are rushing home to break their fast, but as far as my knowledge and experience of Ramadan from living in the region so long has taught me, I have been led to believe that it is exactly this sort of behaviour and negative feelings a person is meant to devote more time to avoid and to do one’s best to deal with during Ramadan. I guess self improvement is an ongoing battle with old habits at any time of year and some days are more successful than others perhaps.
Secondly, I recently had a clear out as I wrote about in My Abu Dhabi Life #2 which I did just before the start of Ramadan. Since then, I have noticed quite a few clothing and used item and food donation bins around the malls. It struck me that you don’t tend to see these at any other time of year (which can be quite annoying if you need to have a clear out at any other time). If I’m being honest, my original train of thought on this had been ‘why on earth is charity so much more encouraged during Ramadan than any other time of year?’. I mean, why wouldn’t they put emphasis on it all the year round instead of just one month? I do also realise that although there is more emphasis on charity during Ramadan, I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist the rest of the year. Charity is a very important part of the religion here, and of course there are many people who still give regularly to various causes throughout the year, there is just certainly more emphasis placed on charitable giving at this time of year. Not that it’s a bad thing of course, but wouldn’t it make for a nicer world if we all focused more on these positive values all year round? On chatting about this with Mr. Arabian Notes, he raised an interesting point that I had never thought of before. In our countries, (UK and Australia) we are used to charity shops on every street, donation bins in supermarket car parks and collection tins at numerous checkouts every day and charity collectors almost every weekend in the malls or on the high streets. So when we thought about this, and the way we often deal with them at home – I mean, let’s be honest again – how many of us go out of our way to avoid the exuberant street collector with the clipboard in the street or justify our not giving with ‘you can’t give to everyone all the time’? It’s easy to get charity fatigue or overload when you are faced with it all the time on every corner you turn. So when I compared the two different scenarios between the UAE and home in the western world it made me think – the Ramadan focus on charity may be different to the way I’m used to doing things, but since it’s only once a year it occurred to me that perhaps it might actually be a better way of doing things. I wonder how much the average person actually gives to charity across the year at home when constantly bombarded with charity donation collections – it would make an interesting experiment to see whether people actually gave more if there was one single month that had more of a focus on giving.
And finally, Ramadan and Vimto – what’s that all about? For those that don’t know, Vimto is a fruit cordial drink manufactured and originating from England. Most British people know of it, though it’s never been quite as successful in the UK as some other famous British soft drinks. I remember having Vimto ice lollies from the ice cream van on occasion but that’s about as far as my Vimto knowledge and dealings stretch. So, imagine my surprise when I moved to the UAE and every Ramadan, out come the giant displays of Vimto on the supermarket shelves. It’s a bit like Cadbury’s Creme Eggs in the UK, they’re hard to find any other time except Easter – and here, Vimto is the same. It always comes out around Ramadan and is immensely popular here and associated with the season. It’s one of those random little quirks that makes you realise what you had grown up knowing as ‘the way things are’, are not often the same way that things are elsewhere. And that in itself, is a wonderful thing to realise – to be able to question what you thought you knew and to open yourself up to learning new things and accepting new ways. And who’d have thought that something as inconsequential as Vimto could lead to such a profound idea?! But that’s the most wonderful thing about experiencing a life overseas or away from your comfort zone – you never know where these thoughts or realisations are going to spring from, but spring they do.
Eid Mubarak everyone for next week!