Hello foodies! I am finally back from my Turkish vacation and happily several shades darker than my pre-holiday color. Doesn’t a good tan just make everyone look better?!
My thoroughly-tanned self is currently back home in Amman, lazing around the house and salivating about all manner of yummy food that I cannot have for another 3 hours. Last Friday marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan – the Muslim fasting month – which requires abstaining from all food and drink between dawn and dusk. Because the Muslim lunar calendar is slightly shorter than the standard Gregorian calendar, Ramadan shifts back about 11 days every year. As a kid, Ramadan was always a wintery occasion, but over the years it has shifted back far enough that it now arrives smack dab in the middle of summer…which means fasting through hotter temperatures and longer days. Quite the challenge. For me, the most difficult part to handle is the thirst, not the hunger, although I must admit that when the worst of my hunger pangs hit, I do find myself daydreaming about stuffing anything and everything I can think of into my mouth. Funnily enough, when the time to break my fast finally comes (dusk), I usually find that I have very little appetite left after having fasted for ~16 hours. Not the worst problem to have, I suppose. After all, Ramadan is intended to be a month of simplicity and modesty; a time to sympathize with the poor, to purify one’s body, and to tune away from one’s bodily needs and focus on spirituality instead.
Done right, Ramadan is meant to detoxify the body and, by extension, purify the mind and soul. I guess the mechanism by which this happens is similar to the science behind juice fasts (see my previous post here). Since the average human body expends about 70% of its daily energy on digestion, taking a break from eating frees up a lot of spare capacity for our bodies to do other “chores” that it does not always have time to do, like cell renewal and detoxification. Traditionally, Muslims are urged to break their fast with some water and a few dates so as not to shock the body with too much food. Admittedly, I do see a lot of evidence around me that most people do not seize this wonderful opportunity to give their bodies a break, and for many people, Ramadan has sadly become synonymous with over-indulgent fast-breaking feasts…not ideal. But the spirit of the month remains intact, and I must say that Ramadan always manages to conjure up a very special atmosphere here in Amman and throughout much of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Aside from being a very holy month in the religious sense -a month of prayer, spirituality, and thanksgiving- Ramadan has very much become part of the culture as well; a month that revolves around family, food, social get-togethers, and many a long night of very competitive card games.
What religio-cultural holidays do you love most?
In good health,