It has been a strange Ramadan for me this year as it doesn’t actually feel like Ramadan. Why? Well I’ll give you my Ramadan experience from Abu Dhabi and then describe my experience so far here in Libya, to provide a better understanding to the statement I made.
Ramadan in Abu Dhabi
Considering that the company there didn’t provide lunch, I really felt the pinch of Ramadan. No restaurants were open. Nowhere to eat. Usually lunch consisted of the following options: Either go home for an extended lunch (i.e. cook something to eat) or go to a garage shop and buy and awful little sandwich.
For the start of Ramadan, I only worked until 2:30pm, which meant that I went home and has something light to eat and then slept until Iftar. Towards the end of Ramadan I was put on another project which had me working full days again. But regardless of the working times, I almost always went out for Iftar. And most of these iftars were spent with friends in restaurants full of families.
Iftar was actually my favourite part of Ramadan. I was lucky to have my brother visit me for a few days during Ramadan, so for a couple of days I actually had family (joined by friends) with me for Iftar meals and always followed by a good shisha.
The city itself (by night) looked very festive as it there was coloured lights adourning buildings and street lights.
Ramadan in Libya
Here, lunch gets provided to us every working day, so we still get ‘food’ (not sure what we eat qualifies as food) during Ramadan, the only difference is that the canteen is practically empty as only the non-Muslims are eating, which is a minority here. So no difference in the routine.
I’m working normal hours here as well, with the only difference being that I basically have to leave at 5:30pm and can’t really stay in until later if I wanted to, as it would require to sort out my own transport back home. So no difference to the normal routine, except no long days.
Considering the compound I’m living in right now is in the middle of nowhere and doesn’t have any transport links to the city, I haven’t really experienced anything remotely Ramadany. Even Evening meals consist of a small snack and that’s it. No Iftar buffets on this compound. The lack of transport meant that I haven’t been able to see what Ramadan evenings are like in the city. So difference to the normal routine, except food shopping has to be done at night after 9-10pm
The drive home also gives no indication of Ramadan. There’s no decorations anywhere on my route, so it doesn’t even look like this is a special time of the year. That’s why I am curious to go to the city to see what things are like there.
I think that if I was living in Tripoli itself it definitely would felt more like Ramadan. I have vivid memories of Ramadan in Abu Dhabi. It felt festive. After Iftar the city came alive after its short daily hibernation. I haven’t experienced this here yet.
My favourite part of Ramadan (last year) was Iftar. Considering that most of my happy memories from Ramadan were associated with Iftar. I was also fortunate to have my brother visit me in Abu Dhabi for a couple of days during Ramadan. It meant for a couple of days I had family with me to actually share in the Iftar experience. Most of our Iftars were spent at the delicious buffets followed by a good shisha and most of the time in company of good friends.
Though, there are two Iftars that stick out in my memory, for very different reasons.
The first of these was when my friend Amjad’s dad invited me to iftar at their house. It would be my first Iftar in a Muslim household. It was such a good experience because it was one of the few times I felt like I was part of a family, while in Abu Dhabi. I wasn’t the only guest over as another family had joined them for Iftar (which is normal), but being around that table felt nice. It felt like I was back home at a family dinner where I had an aunt trying to force me to eat more food by filling my plate, while an uncle would ask if I had a girlfriend and if so when I intended marrying her. This strange cross cultural similarity was fun and not to mention the food was absolutely amazing.
The second Iftar that I have fond memories of was actually in Beirut. I won’t go into too much detail, but it was roughly a six around dinner (and shisha) with some really good company. It was by far one of the most memorable nights I had last year and one that marked my Abu Dhabi experience.
I know it’s stupid to compare Abu Dhabi and Libya (Tripoli), though I’m doing this less than I did before, this drastic difference between the Ramadan experiences has left me, once again, very nostalgic about my time in Abu Dhabi, just when I was getting used to life in Libya.