Friday, September 29, 2006

Letter from Juffair - 4

The weather is a lot better today. In fact, the last two weeks have seen a remarkable turnaround in the weather. This makes it easier to not only step outdoors but, also, to undertake some of my legendary 'long walks'. Sauna like climate and long treks in the urban jungle somehow don't go together. A little light breeze and a gentle caress of the wind on one's face makes all the difference. It certainly does.

It's quite likely that it'll take, at least, a month for all traces of summer to vanish, and winter to slowly set in as the shamal (or north wind from Iran) makes its presence felt all over the country.

My Muslim friends, in particular, are quite relieved by the general coolness all around. It's already a week since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and it would have been terrible if the weather had persisted in remaining hot and humid. Muslims are expected to fast from sunrise to sunset everyday during this month, and undergo a period of inner cleansing and spiritual pondering. Just thought I'd add this little bit of info., for those of you (living outside the Gulf) who may not know what Ramadan is).

As Bahrain is an Islamic country and majority of its residents are Muslim, its natural that Ramadan has an impact on general life, work patterns and lifestyles. For one, eating and drinking in public is not allowed, and most non-Muslims follow it not only because it's a law but out of respect for their Muslim friends. The other thing is, there are shorter working hours as it leaves Muslim workers enough time to go home and prepare for iftar (breaking of fast at sunset) as well as spend some time in prayer. And lastly, there are numerous Ramadan tents open in different hotels and clubs offering special Ramadan buffet and these are popular with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Many companies use this month to organise special ghabgas (post-iftar meal) as a means to forge greater cohesiveness with their employees as well as develop better ties with their clients and business associates.

Far from being a month of austerity, Ramadan is, in fact, one of the most pleasant months in the year. Lots of get-togethers, fun time for children and families, closer interactions with neighbours and relatives are some of the main highlights of the month. Shops and malls, also, offer special discounts for those wishing to go shopping this month.

Just like the end of Lent is Easter so, also, Muslims look forward to Eid Al Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan. We get three days holiday and if a weekend falls in between, then, obviously, we get five days altogether.

I am quite glad that Ramadan this year is a lot cooler because for the low wage workers outside who toil day in and day out, it is something of a relief. Their life is, in anyway, an abstinence from all the simple pleasures of life, and for them to fast in boiling temperatures would have been a real pain.

But seriously, if anyone deserves heartfelt respect then it is these workers who fast during this month despite the harshness of weather, living conditions as well as miserably low wages. To remain committed to one's religious tenets and to be devoted to one's faith irrespective of life's circumstances is something worth emulating... and worth thinking about.

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