Arab Gulf: How my friends helped me survive Ramadan

Ramadan is a very holy month and a time for fasting for Muslim people. In the Gulf and Saudi Arabia the tradition is very strict. No restaurants are open and no one is to eat or drink anything. (Our office had no Muslims so the head colleague declared our office a "Ramadan Free Zone" so she could have an excuse to smoke when we closed the door of the office). I so vividly remember when the call to prayer came during the day which broke the concentration of all of us at work, and the older member in our group would get up and announce it was prayer time. I would watch the guys quarrel and push to get into the small prayer room to show who could orchestrate the loudest prayer sounds,
 whilst a few others quietly scurry off with their mobile phones, unseen and unheard. 

It was difficult to maintain my strength at times, (my blood sugar would crash easily) and would wear long sleeves to secretly sneak a bite of cookies, etc. Once I came out of a supermarket and was opening a Kit Kat bar


 and started to eat it out in the open and forgot it was Ramadan! I quickly tossed the remaining bit of it in my bag.

My friends taught me how they survived the tradition. When I opened the door of my flat, they would usually do the traditional greeting "Salaam alaykum wa rahmatallah...) and kiss my cheeks 3 times as I kissed theirs. This time they quickly pushed me aside, no greetings at all! I went up to my flat and saw them with chocolate cake, a naughty movie on my TV, boxes of chicken, and they even took off their thobes (traditional dress) and sat with their underwear on in the sitting room!

If I were lounging across my sofa, one would push me further into the sofa to share it - lounging together next to me. I really learned how affectionate some Arab guys can be, once you really know them. Other times a bunch of guys and I would drive into the desert

 with food and enjoy eating, (even smoking something "exotic") and enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioned luxury car and the back seat space of the car  until the sun begin to set and as tradition has it that one could no longer tell the difference between a strand of a black thread from a white one, and officially when the cannon sound went off, which meant time to go home to their family and break the fast, again.

 For many people, religious traditions are difficult to keep at times.   Although difficult to keep, It is fun to daringly and blatantly create new traditions, especially among friends, away from prying and judgmental eyes. If no one is getting hurt  then there should be no pain or misgivings.

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