Ramadan

August 25, 2013 - Mombasa, Kenya

Only a few days after I moved to the new family, Ramadan started. For the sake of the Holy Month and out of respect I decided to wear the Bui-Bui during this month. The black gown Muslim women usually wear. Since then, people started greeting me “Asalam Alaikum” and I have to greet back “Waalaikum Salam”. It was like testing me, whether I know the Islamic greeting.

Just to inform you: this entry will be full of new words.

Muslims follow the lunar-calendar this is why their months are different to the calendar we are used to. The month called Ramadan is considered holy because the Holy Qur’an was revealed in this time. Nowadays Muslims have to fast in these days to remember the suffering of the poor. The fasting is different to what I understand of fasting. They are allowed to eat until the sun comes out. There are timetables indicating the exact time when it’s allowed to start eating in the evening and to stop eating in the morning. Since Ramadan started there are “Ramadan Kareem”-wishes everywhere.

When the Muezzin (there are different spellings) starts calling for prayers - “ALLAH AKBAR!” - at around 6:30pm in the evening, it’s allowed to break the fast by starting to eat dates. This procedure is called Iftar. The same thing happens in the morning but then it’s called Suhur. It was hard to wake up at 4:15 to eat something. I couldn’t do it the whole 30 days.

In this month even ladies go to the Mosque. There are special places for them to pray. When the Mosque is small, they can pray on the roof. Male and female are not allowed to pray in the same room.

Since I stay with Muslims I hear some words very often: Alhamdulillah can be translated as a kind of gratefulness. When someone sneezes the person says it to thank ALLAH (it’s not allowed to write this name in small letters) to be free of the feeling one has before sneezing. When someone is happy or satisfied he/she says MashaALLAH. For example after eating.

In the June-Entry I already mentioned the meaning of Insh’ALLAH – In Gods Willing. People say it all the time but mostly when they want to meet the next day. My personal translation is Insh’ALLAH = Maybe.

In this month Muslims show how strong they stick together. They help each other and give what they have. With one of my host-aunts and her friends I joined them on a visit to a prison. We brought things like sanitary towels and toothbrushes. It was only for jailed Muslims. They told us some of their cases. Many stories just showed how corrupt this country is.

By the way – Kenya was voted 4th in the list of corrupt countries.

Back to the subject. Every evening the whole family went to the Mosque for the Taraweeh-Prayer. It went on for 1,5 hours. I somehow enjoyed this alone-time. Even though the loudspeakers of the Mosque are like shouting inside our windows and the Imam has a piercing voice I enjoyed this alone-time. I could watch the news and learn a bit about what’s happening outside. I needed this after the trouble at the first host-family and the noisy kids.

The last ten days of Ramadan is a crucial time of more blessings. During this time the Imam was praying loudly six times a day. It started at 2am in the middle of the night. The next at around 4am, another at 5am, next at noon and this one went on from 12 until 1pm. The 5th prayer from 4pm-5pm and the Taraweeh in the evening. Lucky for me that I’m used to the loudspeakers nowadays.

The cooking for Iftar needs the whole day. And it’s the unhealthiest food one can imagine. Only sugary things and the salty dishes are all deep-fried in oil. Even though it’s a time of fasting – people tend to gain weight.

Towards the end of Ramadan people were preparing for Eid. It’s the celebration that follows the fasting. The last days before Eid we could walk around in Old Town until very late. Some even stayed out until after Midnight. All the shops were open and the houses decorated with light bulbs. It reminded me of Christmas and the Christmas-Market. Everyone tries to find presents for the loved-ones and to redecorate ones home. It’s a time of excitement.

Eid fell in the first days of August but I’ll still describe it in this entry.

Breakfast consisted of the sweetest things existing. After that people went out to visit their family and friends to wish each other “Eid Mubarak”. Everyone was somewhere else or had visitors over. The kids went round to sing and collect money or sweets (comparable to Halloween but no costumes). There was a funfair for the kids open until late at night where they could enjoy carrousels and other things. The streets in town were crowded with people cars and Tuk-Tuks. The Eid-Celebration goes on for four days.

After that people often fast for another six days. The reason: Instead of saying “Goodbye” to someone on the day of Eid, they can wish the person “A good fast” to avoid being rude.

 

The first day of Eid was pronounced a public holiday.


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