The next month will be a learning process
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.