Ramadan Mubarak!

July 10, 2013 10:10 am

ramadan sign

Ramadan begins today in South Africa, tablets and I’m super excited to celebrate the Muslim holy month here in my new adopted country — it’s home to a vibrant Muslim community, neuropathologist mostly of South Asian or Far Eastern origin, and though their numbers aren’t large, their cultural influence spreads far. Much of the food in South Africa is halal, in line with Muslim dietary practices, and many malls even have prayer rooms for Muslim patrons to slip away for one of the five daily prayers. And check out this sign in the middle of the Cavendish Square mall wishing Muslims a happy Ramadan — malls and shops are filled with notices like this these days. I loved seeing it displayed behind a man playing lilting classical melodies on the piano. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

So what is Ramadan? For 30 days, Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, and fill their days with even more prayer and reflection. While this may sound difficult — and it is! — it’s also a wonderful time to reconnect spiritually, and really brings communities together. People love getting together for fast-breaking meals (iftar) each evening, and even sometimes meet at all-night diners before sunrise for their suhoor meal before the fast begins. I wrote a post for Travel + Leisure a few years ago that gives a rundown of the myriad ways Muslims from all over the world observe this sacred time.

In some parts of the world the fast can be 18 hours or longer, in sweltering summer temperatures. We’re pretty lucky here in South Africa because it’s winter right now, so the fasts will be just shy of 12 hours, and in cool weather at that. For once I can’t complain about missing out on summer this year! But since Muslims follow the lunar calendar, the month moves a little earlier each year — I’m making a mental note to move back to the States by the time it gets back to the middle of December.

I’ll try to post some observations from The South AfriKhan’s first South African Ramadan this month.

Ramadan Mubarak, everyone!

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