Yes, I’m one of those Doha residents. You know the ones. Those who came here for a couple of years, planning to return home in a blaze of glory with a fattened bank account and a sense of moral superiority.
I’m happy to say, I’m now marking my 10th year in Qatar and all of those pretensions have dissolved. Each year brings a new experience and a new challenge.
I should start this piece with what Ramadan is “not” to me. It’s not something I have to “endure”. Yes, it’s hot. And yes, the bars are closed. And yes, the driving is, at time, maniacal.
But honestly, I didn’t drink alcohol for the entire month of Ramadan last year – it felt pretty good. I start work earlier and leave earlier – driving drama averted. The heat? We have aircon.
I had come to enjoy this time of year – primarily because it’s a chance to put the brakes on and catch up.
But it has seemed in recent years, Ramadan has coincided with some of the most traumatic and life changing events I have faced. In 2015 my mother died. Last year, during the Holy Month I faced another set of deeply personal challenges.
This year I am hitting the hard reset function on Ramadan and getting back to basics.
While I am not a Muslim, Ramadan is now part of the cycle of my life – no longer something I have to “manage” rather something I kind of look forward to.
One of my favorite Ramadan experiences is sitting and waiting each evening for the Ramadan cannon. It’s a set marker to end each day.
This year is a chance to start my Ramadan experience afresh.
Last year I fasted for almost the entire month. It was a struggle to be honest, especially working full days. My concentration level waned and found myself taking more naps than usual.
I threw myself instead into cooking elaborate meals for after Iftar. I perfected a lentil soup, I made complicated braises and stews. I cooked my way through Damn Delicious.
This year I won’t be fasting. I have a trip planned in the middle of Ramadan, but I plan to take the spirit of Holy Month with me. You see, I have my own list of things to achieve tis month:
- Cook more and share more: AZ loves my cooking and I have been collecting recipes on Pinterest for Ramadan. This year I will also invite more friends, new and old, to share these meals.
- Move more: I say this every year but this year I have the time and the head space to do it. I am planning to exercise every other day and be more consistent with my eating habits. I’ve spent the last two years putting my health second, third and fourth on my priority list. Time to change that.
- Complain less: Yep. I will. Ramadan is a time to reflect and appreciate the life we have. I’m a lucky girl.
- Plan better: Meals. Travel. This blog. Life generally.
- Waste less: Food and time. I have become conscious lately of the amount of food I waste – those fresh veggies I forgot about because I ordered takeaway, the prepared lunches I didn’t eat because something more interesting came up.
- Give more: Money, time and love.
Ramadan is about traditions as much as it is about family and friends. This year I am going to start my own traditions. It can be as simple as lighting a candle or lantern at sunset. Sharing iftar. Reading that book I have been putting off.
We are just two weeks away from the Holy Month. Time to put these big plans into action.
What does Ramadan mean to you?