As HOME for Summer goes to print this year, Muslims around the world celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from the first light of dawn until sundown.
They fast as an act of obedience to God, to abstain from worldly comforts and to empathize with those who go hungry. The month is cherished as an opportunity to grow in faith and spirituality.
Two young Lebanese women, all in their 20s, who are celebrating Ramadan outside of Lebanon this year, shared their experiences of Ramadan abroad.
Here are their stories:
Ramadan in London
Marianna Sabeh Ayoun Hachem, 26, grew up in Saida. She married six years ago and moved to London with her husband.
In London, Marianna fasts and it feels like she is on her own. Her husband, an orthopedic surgeon, is not often HOME at iftar, when she breaks her fast. Neither are her Muslim friends and neighbors.
She fondly remembers Ramadan in Saida. “I miss the Quran readings, the prayers said before iftar and also the taraweeh prayers at the mosque in the evenings. I miss the whole Ramadan atmosphere!“ she said. “I miss family gatherings the most. It’s such a special time of year in Lebanon. It builds such a nice bond between people.”
“Ramadan and Eid were always special family events,” she said. “On the Eid, we usually used to gather at our granny’s house on the first day, and then have a specially cooked lunch. Then we visited all our relatives. As a child, we had new clothes, gifts and fireworks. Unfortunately, there is no Eid atmosphere over here.”
Marianna and her husband do their best to make the Eid special for their daughter Elena, 5. “We’ll get her new clothes and gifts, and treat her to a special day out,” Marianna said.
“We try our best to make it as special as possible.”
“The only good thing about fasting in London is the weather,” said Marianna. “Although it’s a long day , the cool weather is such an advantage!”
Ramadan in the United States
Nour Arkadan, 25, is a Lebanese- American “with deep Lebanese roots.”
She spent eight years of her childhood in the United States, spent five years in Saudi Arabia, then lived in Lebanon during her high school and university years. Now she is back in the U.S., working as a school special education teacher. She has experienced Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Lebanon.
Nour remembers unique aspects of celebrating Ramadan in each location.
“In Saudi, you feel the Ramadan atmosphere in the entire city, with Ramadan decorations and lights on the roads at night, and people stationed at each traffic light with free water and dates for people running late for iftar,” she recalled. “Literally no one is eating in public during fasting hours. Restaurants and fast food shops are closed until after iftar, then they are opened till sunrise. And every restaurant is serving a special menu. Even KFC provides dates and yogurt with every meal!”
Her memories of Ramadan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, include community iftars at community centers that were melting pots for international cultures to meet and “fuse,” she said.
“It was fun eating iftar with community members that you would have never met otherwise .
And all that delicious international food!
“The business-as-usual atmosphere in the U.S. made me really experience
Ramadan in a more profound way .”
Now a young professional in Boston, Nour finds that busy days help her forget the long fasting hours. She appreciates her work colleagues, who check on her all day and are eager to treat her to a meal after iftar.
But there is no place like Lebanon. She misses extended family gatherings; shorter days and longer nights; decorations on the streets; “delicious, delicious sweets from Saida;” hearing the cannon go off for iftar; listening to the “beautiful prayer calls echoing from multiple mosques;” numerous reminders of charity and volunteer opportunities; taraweeh prayers; manayeesh and shawarma for souhour (the before dawn breakfast); and souks in Saida opened until sunrise for the last-minute Eid shoppers.