The next month will be a learn­ing process

7 Days in Dubai - - NEWS -

s a new­comer to the UAE I have to ad­mit that I am com­ing at life here, like a stereo­typ­i­cal Westerner, from a po­si­tion of ig­no­rance. I’m learn­ing, of course, ev­ery day that I live in this amaz­ing coun­try and now one of the most im­por­tant times on the Mus­lim cal­en­dar has ar­rived.

Need­less to say, I’ve al­lowed my­self to col­late all kinds of lazy clichés in my mind about what Ra­madan ac­tu­ally is and what it means for us all.

One of my big­gest fears, as a non-Mus­lim, is that I will for­get my­self and end up deeply of­fend­ing some­one. I can see it now, get­ting out of bed late, not leav­ing my­self time for break­fast, barely know­ing what day of the week it is and grab­bing some­thing to eat from the Metro sta­tion on the way to work.

I will have the sug­ary crumbs of a dough­nut smeared all over my face while blun­der­ing down the es­ca­la­tor swig­ging cof­fee to the hor­ror of those around me, be­fore end­ing up with a fine.

That fear aside, my mis­sion with this col­umn is to chal­lenge my pre­con­cep­tions and em­brace the Holy Month.

So the first thing you might ask is, will I try fast­ing? Yes is the an­swer - at least for one day so that I can gain at least a lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of what my Mus­lim friends and col­leagues are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

I feel this col­umn would lack au­then­tic­ity if I didn’t.

But how else can I get in­volved?

The truth is that since I ar­rived in the UAE three months ago I haven’t ex­actly im­mersed my­self in the lo­cal cul­ture. It’s been a cy­cle of work, Net­flix and the odd brunch. This col­umn will of­fer me the chance to change that.

It would be disin­gen­u­ous of me to la­bel Ra­madan as be­ing the Mus­lim equiv­a­lent of Lent. Yet in some senses there would ap­pear to be sim­i­lar­i­ties.

Both, it would ap­pear, en­cour­age you not sim­ply to ab­stain from some­thing, but urge you to re­flect and think about how your words and ac­tions im­pact on oth­ers, es­pe­cially those close to you, be they fam­ily mem­bers, friends or col­leagues.

So, how will I em­brace Ra­madan? Through­out the month I will be vis­it­ing a mosque, spend­ing time with a Mus­lim fam­ily and, of course, sam­pling if­tar - even though I have al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced a few preif­tars, some­thing that is a lit­tle hard for me to get my head around. To me, these events, with­out the small mat­ter of fast­ing all day, would ap­pear to be brunches with­out the al­co­hol.

Help­ing me through the learn­ing process is the fact that I know I am not alone - there will be many peo­ple here also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their first Ra­madan.

If you are also new to the coun­try, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the ways that you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this spe­cial time.

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