- Newsroom Magazine USA Edition - http://newsroom-magazine.com -
Feliz Eid Al-Fitr
Posted By Robert Butche On September 10, 2010 @ 12:00 am In The Human Condition | Comments Disabled
The lunar month of Ramadan began almost three weeks ago which means that observant Muslims are fasting from sunrise ( about 5:30 ) to sunset ( after 7:00 pm these days ). That means no food, no water, no sex, and most difficult of all, no smoking.
American Teacher Living In Syria
Today is Eid al-Fitr — an important Muslim holiday marking the end of the annual Ramadan fast, a period of purification celebrated by both Sunni and Shia Muslims.
Although Islam is an old and honored religion, neither the faith nor its followers are well understood in all parts of the world.
Newsroom Magazine contributor Mikael Blaisdell recently received a holiday email from his nephew Demetri, an American English teacher living in Damascus, Syria. Demetri Blaisdell grew up in northern California — later to become an avid traveler, great story teller and fluent in Arabic. He has traveled in nearly every Muslim country and made friends of ordinary people he met along the way.
Those of us who have Muslim acquaintances and friends, or who have traveled the Middle East know well the friendliness and courtesy of Arab families and communities.
Somehow the reality of Islamic family life and values has escaped popular media coverage in the United States which has contributed to misunderstanding about Arabic culture and Muslim beliefs and traditions.
When Mikael passed on his nephew’s family email to me, I thought it provided a decisively American view of life in Damascus even as it revealed the substantive values of Islamic tradition and an insider’s view of Ramadan and the Feast Of Eid al-Fitr being celebrated today by millions of American Muslims.
Feliz Eid al-Fitr!
Email Sent To Demetri’s Parents And Family
September 7, 2010
Dear Friends and Family,
While America fights over whether or not our president is a Muslim and the so-called Ground Zero mosque, Syria ( and the rest of the Muslim world ) has undergone a dramatic change. The lunar month of Ramadan began almost three weeks ago which means that observant Muslims are fasting from sunrise ( about 5:30 ) to sunset ( after 7:00 pm these days ).
That means no food, no water, no sex, and most difficult of all, no smoking. But in a majority-Muslim country, everything changes to accommodate the new schedule. All but the most high-end restaurants are closed during the day and you won’t find anybody eating, drinking, or smoking in the street. The one thing not cooperating is the heat, which has been over 100°F for the last three weeks straight.
In the half an hour before Iftar ( literally breakfast or the breaking of the fast ), the city grows increasingly quiet. Nearly every shop closes, traffic disappears, and even taxi cabs desert the eerily quiet city streets.
For the next hour, the city is almost silent as they break their fasts with traditional juices ( tamarind and apricot in particular ), dried dates, and a large meal.
Syrians eat this meal with family or friends before nearly the entire population emerges from their homes, descending on the city’s cafes, sweets shops, and sabara vendors ( sabara is a delicious cactus fruit sold here in the summer ). The ever-popular soap operas filmed in Syria, Egypt, and even Turkey release extra episodes to cater to the Ramadan schedule.
People stay out late, eating a very late dinner ( suhour ) at around 4:00 in the morning before going to bed and—work schedule-permitting—sleeping until late morning or early afternoon the next day. Even the American Language Center, where I teach, changes its schedule accordingly: The regular 8 AM to 8:30 PM schedule is compressed by an hour and a half by eliminating breaks and shortening the time between classes. As I teach at the end of the day, the effect on my students is noticeable. They are exhausted, unenthusiastic, and vacant by the end of a long day of fasting.
But despite the difficulties of fasting and the oppressive heat, the city is still wrapped in a holiday atmosphere, not unlike the buzz of the Christmas season in America. It will all wrap up with the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, where Syrians Muslims buy new clothes, donate meat and money to the poor, and feast with their families.
Apart from Ramadan, life goes on here in Syria.
About 6 weeks ago, the British rock/hip hop group the Gorillaz came to play a show at the Damascus Citadel. A couple thousand people showed up to see a really impressive act. De La Soul and Bobby Womack performed along-side the group and they put on an almost surreal show—for a variety of political and social reasons, big-name musical acts rarely make it to Syria.
We went on one other funny outing with some Syrian friends a month or so ago. A little ways outside of Aleppo, there is a large pool complex/water park, complete with water slides, a wave pool, and a high dive. It was a strange but fun day as I haven’t been to a water park in at least a decade. Afterwards we went to the swankiest mall in Syria ( oddly enough outside of Aleppo ) and basked in the glow of capitalism and globalization.
Finally, we ventured into Aleppo to show our Damascene friends the second largest city in their country. Somehow, these two Syrians in their mid-20s had never made it to Aleppo before. Perhaps this is best explained by the deep-seated rivalry between the two cities, at a social, cultural, and even linguistic level.
That’s everything from my end. We get this weekend off for Eid al-Fitr, so we’re heading up to the mountains for the holiday.
Article printed from Newsroom Magazine USA Edition: http://newsroom-magazine.com
URL to article: http://newsroom-magazine.com/2010/the-human-condition/feliz-eid-al-fitr/