Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims across the world join in refraining or fasting from anything that gives pleasure, which means no food, drink, smoking, or marital relations during the daylight hours.
Living in North Africa, it’s always interesting to see how life changes during this time. Most restaurants and cafes close down completely, while other businesses such as stores and banks open late in the morning and close in the early afternoon. People choose to sleep much later, allowing you to walk freely without much of crowd around you in the mornings. Some days this is easily welcomed, while others, it can seem almost eerie. What used to be the time for rest after the lunch hour has now become the busiest time to buy anything in the local market as everyone is shopping for the evening meal.
Once night falls, what was already a night culture becomes an even greater one, as cafes and restaurants open back up and stay open until close to 2am. Many nights you can hear groups of kids singing in the street and it doesn’t take long for the smell of cigarette smoke to waft through any open windows.
These are just a few of the culture changes that happen during the month of Ramadan. But for me one of the most significant times in the day is when the sun is setting and ‘fatour,’ the breaking of the fast, happens.
As the day nears its end, the streets become practically desolate with everyone rushing to get back to their homes for the traditional meal of soup, dates, and different types of bread. At the start of sunset, a siren goes off signaling to everyone that the daily fast is over and the feasting may begin. If you are quiet, you can hear the sounds of neighboring televisions playing a popular show and silverware clinking against bowls and plates as food is devoured.
This story is an account from a Cafe 1040 team member in North Africa during the month of Ramadan. It is incredible that our students and staff get to experience this Islamic holy month in the heart of a Muslim community.