While going to Iftars is an awesome experience of good food and spending times with (new) friends and family, 12 days of Ramadan passed before I decided to experience the spiritual, trying process of fasting.
All of the girls in my apartment have been fasting since the very first day of the Holy Month, and for some reason or another, I picked July 9th to be the day that I would go from sunrise to sundown without food or water. I am really happy to say that I was entirely and wonderfully surprised by the experience I had, and that it was probably much easier than the experience of those who have been fasting daily for almost two weeks now, and I will probably participate in the Fast several more times before the end of Ramadan.
Fasting during Ramadan is definitely a lot easier being located in a country that has an overwhelming majority of Muslim inhabitants. During the day, almost all of the restaurants, cafes and stores are closed to accommodate the fasting public. At sundown, after the Edhan sounds and the fast is broken (around 7:50pm every day), restaurants open for Iftar and coffee shops, stores and a variety of other places for leisure are open until the early hours of the morning, when people have their Suhoor (around 3:30am) and then do not eat or drink until Iftar the next day.
Ramadan definitely works wonders in changing one’s daily schedule. Our classes continue during the mornings and afternoons but I’ve spent many days coming home to sleep after class, doing some homework and then heading out past 9 to eat, shop, etc.
So that’s basically the jist of Ramadan. Here is the story of my experience fasting.
My alarm went off around 3:20 am so that I had time to roll out of bed, make a big pan of scrambled eggs with my roommate, and then proceed to fill myself with eggs, dates, yogurt, bread with jam, Arabic sweets, juice and bottles upon bottles of water to the point that I thought I would burst, all before hearing the Imam at about 3:48am. The yogurt helps with thirst, according to one of my friends, and the dates have fiber which is supposed to keep you full for the long day ahead. Though the mad rush in the middle of the night to fill yourself with food for the next day is pretty hectic, I really loved the sense of community that’s grown between all of the Georgetown students who are fasting to have Suhoor together, and it was awesome to take part in this meal with them.
I will admit that I was struggling all morning. My throat started drying out and hurting after talking for half an hour in my first Arabic class, and I had to gargle once or twice to get through it. But miraculously, a little bit before noon, I forgot all about my thirst and the hunger didn’t even dawn upon me. As I’ve heard some of my friends and roommates describe, my body actually felt lighter and I was in a really good mood all day. I took a short nap after getting home, and after a few hours, went to meet up with my language partner Hiba, her sister Maysa and my friend Rabia once again. This time we decided to cab to Jebel Webde (Web-dai), one of the mountains of Amman that is famous for having interesting artisan shops, art galleries and hip cafes. This was the part of my day I was most worried about, after making it through my 10 minute presentation earlier that day in class on the Arab League’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
To my incredible surprise, I walked around talking with my friends, peering into shop windows that would open at Iftar time, and even successfully maneuvered our little group through Webde to the cafe that Hiba wanted us to eat at.
Evening and the Search for Iftar:
Originally, Hiba had a great idea to eat at a quirky place in Webde perched on the side of the hill that had couches and tables placed between plants, trees and flowers on wooden platforms at different levels. It was almost like being in a giant, open-air treehouse. But the restaurant was mahjooz, or entirely reserved for the evening. This was my first attempt for getting to eat the Iftar that I had fasted all day for – the first Iftar that I rightfully deserved.
We managed to get a cab down the hill from Webde which was a feat of its own, since many cab drivers do not want to be driving across the city without water or dates to break their fast. We took the taxi across Amman to a busy street of restaurants and cafes next to the University of Jordan, to a Turkish restaurant that both Jordanian girls kept telling us was extremely, extremely delicious. Though it may have been delicious, this restaurant was also mahjooz. Slightly frustrated but still in a fantastically good mood, we began a long walk to the third candidate for our final destination.
While walking alongside the giant University of Jordan campus, we saw young men giving out small cups of bottled water, factory sealed with aluminum lids, and small packages of dates to the cab drivers in plastic bags. We walked by their operation and picked up these Ramadan goodie bags. Which was lucky, because I spent my first deserved Iftar walking through the middle of the University of Jordan campus. The irony of the moment, as well as the pleasant simplicity of 2 dates and several well-deserved sips of water is something that I will not forget anytime soon. It was a great breaking of the fast though, because the giant campus was absolutely empty of people except for us four girls cutting through to finally get our meal.
The third and final restaurant was not one that took reservations, but we did have to wait for about 10 minutes before a table to fit all four of us cleared out. And by 8:20pm when we ordered, there was already not beef left in the whole establishment. But I wolfed down my kebab sandwich and soup and fries when they came, and even though I was about to fall down from my food coma, Rabia and I split a twix McFlurry afterwards. It was a glorious Iftar.
And that is a day in the life of an non-Muslim American student fasting for Ramadan in the Middle East! I have an Iraqi carp Iftar to get to now, so I am off, bye!