Yesterday was the first day of Ramadan in the UAE, and I realised that because we’ve missed it for the past few years, the children don’t actually know much about this holy month of reflection and prayer.
This was brought home to me at our local shopping centre, as Son2 begged me to let him eat a doughnut. I’d slipped into a curtained-off coffee shop to buy him a treat as an end-of-term reward, and warned him he’d have to wait until we got home to eat it, but kids have a short memory, don’t they? Especially when it comes to sticky chocolate doughnuts.
We told Son1 that some of his friends from school were probably fasting, and that a polite way to greet a Muslim who is abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours is to say ‘Ramadan Kareem’, which means ‘Have a Generous Ramadan’.
“But how is not eating generous?” asked Son1. (Good question, I thought.)
“Well, people give to the poor,” I explained. “You’ll see charity tents and there’s lots of good will. There’s also some great sales on at the mall.”
As sunset approached, we decided we’d introduce the children to iftar (the meal eaten to break the fast, of which there are many laid on across Dubai). Apart from the odd speeding car driven by hungry fasters anxious to get home, the roads were eerily quiet (due to working hours being reduced), and, en route, we watched the huge orange sun sink below the horizon.
My DH, who’s spent a lot more time in Dubai during Ramadan than me, mentioned that we’d know exactly when the sun had set, because smokers who’ve been without nicotine all day collectively roll their car windows down to enjoy their first cigarette.
At iftar, we sampled the dates – traditionally eaten to break the fast – and enjoyed a fantastic hotel buffet meal while also attempting to feed the boys a few more facts about Ramadan (ie, music is banned; night becomes day; and it’ll go on all month, until the moon-sighting committee spots the new moon).
I really thought we’d made some progress.
“So you know what iftar is now?” I asked.
Blank looks. “Is it the name of the restaurant, Mummy?”
Well, I suppose, when we talked about ‘going to iftar’, it could be construed as that – especially if you’ve got a short attention span.
Ramadan Kareem to all who celebrate!