Ramadan, Jeddah Style

With Ramadan approaching, I thought I would do a post about the general Ramadan experience in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

If you were to walk into a supermarket now, it would be evident that the month of fasting is near.  Displays are adorned with traditional, Bedouin-style cloth and posters of “Ramadan Kareem” and special Ramadan offers are already visible.

Of course, during the blessed month, the majority of the population here fasts.  But other than this, does life continue as usual?  People will await eagerly to hear of the sighting of the moon.  Once announced at the mosques and on the radio and TV, the masaajid (mosques) will prepare for the first Taraweeh (the voluntary night prayer) of the month.  Generally 8 raka’aat are prayed unlike the 20 at the Haramain in Makkah and Madinah.  The chorus of Imams reciting verses from the beginning of the Qur’an is heard all over the city, welcoming the month of Ramadan.

Working hours change as do school timings, although with Ramadan falling in the summer holidays, this doesn’t apply.  Most shops remain closed during daylight hours with the exception of the supermarkets.  Soon after the ‘Asr prayer the supermarkets and other eateries begin selling fried samboosa, pastries filled with cheese, spinach or meat and sweet treats like kunafa and basbousa.  Areas of Jeddah that are dominated by other ethnicities will have their traditional Iftar snacks on sale.  Typically Saudi families will gather to break the fast with dates, juice and soup (like a soup of meat and oats) and then pray the Maghrib prayer, leaving dinner for much later in the night.  After Maghrib, Jeddah streets are deserted.  Going anywhere at that time, brings to mind, “the calm before the storm”.

Shops re-open immediately after the  ‘Isha prayer, but many people choose to stay for Taraweeh to partake in this extra worship.  Cars from the average to the luxurious, block the streets surrounding the mosques and prayer halls are filled to the brim if not over-flowing.  As soon as the prayer is over, traffic jams begin.   After the slumber of fasting, Jeddah comes to life.  Families visit malls and restaurants and most establishments remain open until Fajr (dawn).  In a way, night becomes day!

Surely staying up all night and sleeping the day away is contrary to the spirit of Ramadan.  But although this is the norm here, there are those who will avoid this.  Seeing ordinary Muslims that happen to be security guards or immigration officers, snatching a moment to read from the Book of Allah during the day, is somewhat common ma sha Allah.  Many in Jeddah will also try and go for ‘Umrah during the month to gain the reward of a Hajj.  And wherever you happen to be when the adhaan for Maghrib is called, you will be offered dates, or even Iftar boxes outside the bus station or at the traffic lights ma sha Allah!

In sha Allah I will be writing more Ramadan-related posts on my blog but for now, do share: Do things change during Ramadan where you are?

Jazakillahu khayran for having me here, Amber!