Hi, I’m Susan!
Experiencing customs and traditions from around the world has always been a great passion of mine. This is probably why I am such an avid traveller! Having recently joined the TLP team as marketing manager, I have the pleasure of listening to stories from ladies all over the world and curating them to demonstrate the magic of our community for women around the world looking to make friends and connect through English. You could say it is a dream role! I really love joining in on conversations inside The Ladies’ Project and hearing about the opinions, traditions and experience of our members!
I am from Perth, Australia (where I am currently living), but prior to this I lived in Dubai for 16 years as an expat (expatriate). Throughout my time in Dubai, I learned a lot about my new host country, and the many different people from all over the world that live there. Dubai is known for being multicultural – in fact, I worked and lived alongside almost 200 different nationalities in this time! I have always thought it is fascinating to learn about, and participate in (when appropriate), foreign cultural traditions. One that stood out for me during this time was Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. As we are just entering into Ramadan now, I thought I would share this experience with you.
For those who aren’t aware, Ramadan is a time in the Muslim calendar that is considered holy. The Muslim calendar is based on the moon, and so the month starts and finishes with the new moon. It changes approximately 11 days every year because it doesn’t line up with our calendar months. During Ramadan, Muslims fast (no food or water) from sunrise to sunset. They also keep their thoughts and actions pure, and it is a time for community and charitable actions.
Often when we think about religion, we may feel we cannot experience the practices associated with it if we do not follow the beliefs.
I have always found Muslims to be very welcoming and happy to share the traditions and customs associated with Ramadan.
Dubai is very tolerant of other religions, and although you should show respect to those fasting, as a non-Muslim you are permitted to eat and drink during the day. But you are expected to do it discretely, as the majority of the population are Muslim and fasting. I have never fasted for the entire month, but I attempted it many times for a day or so at a time. It gave me so much respect for my Muslim friends and colleagues. It is really hard to do, especially not drinking any water!
One of the main features of the month is the nightly meals called Iftars in Dubai, which is when they break their fasts. Iftars are joyous occasions and are often shared with the community. Banquets or lavish feasts are common in Dubai every evening, where everyone is welcome, whether you are Muslim or not. If I was attending an Iftar I would make sure I was fasting too throughout the day so I could genuinely share the community spirit when we broke the fast. I have to admit, I would normally cheat and take a few sips of water though!
The other part of Ramadan that I really loved was the charitable aspect of the month. As I understand it, the main reason that Muslims fast is to experience what it is like to be without. This lends itself to having empathy for those that are less fortunate than yourself. There are many charitable initiatives during Ramadan that you can take part in; giving away ‘Iftar boxes’ to the poor so they had a nice meal was one of the most common.
This is one of my favourite aspects of Ramadan – I found it both beautiful and humbling to learn about this custom where people actively consider others less fortunate and are grateful for what they do have for an entire month.
Overall, during Ramadan I found the separation of religion and creed disappeared somewhat and a strong community spirit was adopted. I really enjoyed my time in a Muslim country during Ramadan and was very happy to learn about another way of life. I am also very happy that through The Ladies’ Project I can keep interacting with women from all over the world and learning about different cultures and customs in our interesting conversations.
We would love to hear about your experience with Ramadan! If you are Muslim, do your traditions differ much to those in Dubai? Or maybe you are also a non-Muslim who has had interesting experiences. Let us know in the comments below!