Ramadan Arrives

Within the Muslim world, the period of fasting known as Ramadan has come. We heard the signs of its arrival on Thursday with intermittent fireworks popping in the sky. When we walked down the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City in the daytime, many Islamic shopkeepers stood wobbling on ladders, stringing up (“Christmas”) lights over their stores. Gateways, like the Damascus Gate (Bab el Amud), had a different, festive, look, especially once the sun set.

Obviously, I’m not Muslim so it is difficult to fully appreciate the moment. The arrival of Ramadan ushers in a period of introspection, marked by abstinence. Food, water, (and possibly sex) are reserved only for the hours between sunset and sunrise. Since Ramadan is a lunar based holiday, it slides around our (solar) calendar. Celebrating Ramadan in the summer months (like this year) is even tougher, given the length of daylight and the heat of the afternoon (remember no drinks may touch your lips while the sun is up!). This discipline is said to encourage self-control. I’m sure it would give me a headache.

Despite what would seem (to me) to be a miserable stretch of time, the month is welcomed by many. Thursday night (the night before Ramadan begins) is viewed as a special holiday (an Islamic Mardi Gras?). Parents give money, buy toys and clothes for their children, the kids themselves carry lanterns about the streets after dark, and lights are strung from every pole.

Vicki and I couldn’t resist. We went out to catch a few shots. Night photos are always a gamble for me, but fun to try. We did find a group of youngsters with lanterns.

The holiday officially begins tonight. We’ll keep our eyes on.

But in the meantime, if you are somewhere out there in the Muslim world, buy your bread and eat it while you can. Do your best to stay out of the sun and avoid a low-blood-sugar headache. Don’t be too crabby please. I will be patient with you because I know you are hungry and thirsty. Sunset is coming, and with it, a party.