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Ramadan is the most important holiday in Islam. It’s probably most like the Christian Lent, but the two don’t really compare. Ramadan symbolizes when the Qur’an was revealed to Mohammad. It occurs every year in the 9th month of the 12-month lunar calendar. Lunar months are shorter than Gregorian months by 12 days so Ramadan is earlier in each Gregorian year.

This year Ramadan is 9 July, 2013 – 8 August, 2013. But the bottom line is: Ramadan requires abstention from food, drink (even water!), sex, and smoking. During daylight hours. The point of it is to show devotion to Allah and to become a master of self-discipline.

Some people view it as recognizing the hunger and thirst that the poor feel every day of the year and to suffer it in silence and, hopefully, to become a kinder person for it. But from what I gather, it ends up being a contest with oneself or others of endurance! The weather is particularly hot during Ramadan and in 2012 it seemed to be nearly unbearable even in the beginning, only getting worse as the month wore on. Old people, children, pregnant women and others are exempt from this practice of abstention, but I notice from stories I’ve heard that even they press on out of devotion or whatever drives them…

The fast is broken when the sun officially sets and is broken usually with dates and milk. Or harira and dates. Harira is a soup made from tomatoes and lentils. It is served in Morocco year-round but is especially popular during Ramadan. A few more meals are eaten throughout the night so that everyone is nourished for the next morning when the whole thing starts all over again.

Everything moves at a different pace during Ramadan. And from what I’ve heard, people become edgy, groggy and increasingly irritated. All of this is followed by Eid Al Ftar, a festival to break the fast for the year. According to Wikipedia, here’s some more information I find interesting:

“Typically, Muslims wake up early in the morning—always before sunrise— offer Salatul Fajr (the pre-sunrise prayer), and in keeping with the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad clean their teeth with a toothbrush, take a shower before prayers, put on new clothes (or the best available), and apply perfume. It is forbidden to fast on the Day of Eid. It is customary to acknowledge this with a small sweet breakfast, preferably of the date fruit, before attending a special Eid prayer (known as salaat).

As an obligatory act of charity, money is paid to the poor and the needy (Arabic: Sadaqat-ul-fitr) before performing the ‘Eid prayer:
To show happiness
To give as much charity as is possible
To pray Fajr in the local Masjid
To go early for Eid salaat
To read the takbirat in an open field.
Go to the Eid prayer on foot
Do not speak one word other than words that remember Allah or anything Islamic terms before and after Eid Salaat. You can speak once you’ve left the Masjid, or Mosque or any other place you were praying
Say ‘Eid Mubarak’ to other Muslims
Muslims recite the following incantation in a low voice while going to the Eid prayer: Allāhu Akbar, Allāhu Akbar, Allāhu Akbar. Lā ilāha illà l-Lāh wal-Lāhu akbar, Allahu akbar walil-Lāhi l-ḥamd. Recitation ceases when they get to the place of Eid or once the Imam commences activities.
Muslims are recommended to use separate routes to and from the prayer grounds.
The Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, community centers, etc. or at mosques. No call to prayer is given for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two units of prayer with an additional six incantations. The Eid prayer is followed by the sermon and then a supplication asking for God’s forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for all living beings across the world. The sermon also instructs Muslims as to the performance of rituals of Eid, such as the zakat. Listening to the sermon at Eid is a requirement i.e. while the sermon is being delivered; it is prohibited to talk, walk about or offer prayer. After the prayers, Muslims visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances or hold large communal celebrations in homes, community centers or rented halls. Eid gifts, known as Eidi, are frequently given at eid to children and immediate relatives.”

So this is Ramadan and the celebration of Eid afterward to break the fast. It is both eagerly anticipated and dreaded. While people are reverent, they also become impatient, irritated, edgy, and angry. It is, it seems to me, a month of extremes. Extreme heat. Hunger. Thirst. Exhaustion. A month of prayer. Gorging. And whatever else goes on when it’s not daylight.

I admire the dedication to this holiday. And I’d like to see just once if I could do it. But it seems impossible to not eat or drink water when temps can rise to 45 degrees! (over 100). I can’t even see me lasting two days, honestly. But someday I’d like to try.