Ramadhan: In between fasting and shopping

(From October 13 to Nov 13, the entire nation of Islam refrained from food and drinks from dusk till dawn as we wound our way through the Middle East — majority muslim countries of Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Travel remained relatively hassle-free although this holy period did give us some interesting experiences…..)

During Ramadhan,

one of my favourite times of the day is SUNSET. They bring everything to a complete and total STOP.

At dusk, if you are still outside, you basically RULE.
The daylight hours are shorter in winter in the Middle East but the days are longer and get broken in two.

Before dusk, every fasting Muslim wanders around lacklustre, zombie-like and disinterested to do any real business.

The same people, after two hours rest in the evening,

turns into ravaging shoppers and shopkeepers, and sets the scene for some of the liveliest bargaining I have ever seen illuminated by neon light bulbs.

But that is awhile after dark.

We are often around just as the sun sets and traffic drips to almost non-existent state, even in busy downtown cities like Aleppo.

We proved this one evening by standing in the middle of the road, earlier unseen due to the crowd of donkeys, cars, buses and vans zooming by.

Now, just half an hour later

it’s just us, jaywalking, munching our fallafel in strangely new found peace.

Two of my favourite sunsets
were also in Syria — in Tartus, where I stared at the sun melting into the Mediterranean sea and on top of a hill in Hama, where the sun disappeared behind the distance hills.


A loud explosion usually follows soon after the sun disappears. Signal the breaking of the fast…

and then smoke clouds in the sky, which were shocking at first but becomes a expected ritual eventually.

Our day would not be complete without following this ritual end to it.

Azans, muslims calls to prayer

will ring out soon after the explosion, and then dead silence for half-an hour or so, as most good Muslims start to EAT.

Then, an hour of prayer follows from the mosques, wailing and off-key singing, presumably calling the faithful to prayer.

Most Syrians, especially women

we suspect will however take this downtime to put on that make-up, or iron that blouse for another night of shopping frenzy awaits and there is bargain to be seeked out. Then….

It’s 7pm…. COME OUT AND PLAY!!!