Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Ramadan experience. Quite pleasant, actually.

A few days before Ramadan, I was having a coffee with a Muslim friend. She asked if I was freaking out about Ramadan. 'I wonder', she said, 'how difficult it is for you guys, if you are not fasting? It seems to me that all non-Muslim expats are dreading Ramadan?'

I just shrugged my shoulders. I had no proper Ramadan experience yet, in the three years of living in Doha, simply because I was never here when it started. As soon as the school was finished, we would be on the plane and out of here. Not just because of Ramadan but because everyone else was away, and the heat was killing us.

However, this year, Ramadan started almost two weeks before the end of school year. And you know what? It is actually, bizarrely, unexpectedly...not that bad!

  • Firstly, the heat…I don't know what it is, but I guess, I have acclimatized to it. A lot. Yes, it is hot, but I do not feel like I am going to collapse and die anymore. I thought about that today, as I was walking from my car to school, wearing jeans. I mean, I never! wore any type of trousers in summer in Qatar before. Ever. The fact that I can walk from the car to school at 12pm wearing jeans is simply staggering. 
  • Instead of avoiding the heat altogether, I still go to the pool. Even last summer, it might have seemed insane to me, but this morning, I spent a whole hour reading a magazine and enjoying a swim; and the best part was, I was completely alone. Because everyone else has buggered off. I used to think it would be eerie and unpleasant in the compound with mostly everyone away. But, in reality, I am so rarely alone, that I really enjoyed it. I forgot how important, how therapeutic it feels to be by yourself sometimes. No music, no Internet, no people. Definitely no children. It was just me and an occasional pigeon. 
  • The traffic is great. That might not mean much to you if you don't live in Doha and drive here on a normal day. Every morning, on my way to school, I think just how peaceful the streets are. Mostly everyone is either asleep or away, and those who are on the roads, even the really bad drivers, seem to drive in this relaxed slow motion. So you have more time to react to their dangerous moves when they attempt them. 
  • As for the cafes and coffee shops being closed, after the initial shock to the system, you start seeing clear advantages. Temptation removed, I don't stop almost every day for latte or Paul bread, which of course is not only great for my finances but also for my diet. 
  • And, speaking of coffee and other hmm…beverages that of course we, non-fasting expats still consume in the daylight, there is something really nice about the fact that, should you want to see a friend, you just have to invite them to your home. You remember? That old-fashioned, sitting in your kitchen with a cup of tea way? At the moment, we spend a lot more time BBQ'ing and having drinks inside the houses, which makes the whole experience a lot more personal, somehow. 
  • During Ramadan, you make new friends, or see more of the friends that you might not see as often during the year. Yesterday, a friend who lives and works in West Bay, dropped by after work. Ha, I told her. I know why you are here, all the way in suburban compound, far away from your glamorous West Bay! All your other friends are gone for the summer, aren't they. But, the truth is, in the busier times, with family, school and work commitments, she might not have been able to sneak out and simply sit in my garden, chatting for a few hours. 
  • Finally, Iftar. A bunch of us, the hardcore who are still here, are planning to go to the evening buffet next week. Somewhere nice, you know. Feel a bit naughty, as we are not fasting, and still are going to eat a lot in the evening, but will justify it by telling myself it is an important cultural experience for the children. In reality of course, I just love eating in fancy restaurants. And eating at night is my favourite.

So there you go. Ramadan has not been that bad for me. But, I am, of course, excited about my summer break, which by the way is somewhat different this year. We are not going back to the UK, but visiting family friends in Canada. And then, after long six years, I am taking my girls to Baku! ( If you are reading this, Azerbaijani secret services, please don't arrest me. I am NOT a political blogger, as you can clearly see here.)