Eid Mubarak from Kuwait! The last month has seen many more firsts for us here in Kuwait as we have experienced our first Ramadan, Gergean and Eid. It has been quite the experience and we feel a sense of accomplishment to have made it through (I can’t imagine how good it feels for our Muslim friends who have been fasting throughout). Here are a few things that have been quite different this past month for us as we have lived in Kuwait during Ramadan.
No food or drink outdoors in day light hours – This is the LAW!
I have memories of Ramadan and Eid as a child, but it is honestly so different when you live in a Muslim country during this period. Ramadan is a sacred time for Muslims and definitely means so much more when not only are all your friends at school, neighbours and everyone around you are celebrating it, but also that it is written into law here that there is no eating or drinking between dawn and sunset (subject to fines and imprisonment if broken) even if you are not Muslim. What this means is that even though we haven’t been fasting with our brothers and sisters here, we have observed the law while out and about, and refrained from food and water/drinks whenever not in our apartment during the day. As the weather heats up, this at time has been hard, and also even deterred us from going out when we might usually have – I have such an increased respect for those fasting and going out and about to work etc.
The exceptions to this law is children who have not yet reached puberty, pregnant or breastfeeding women, women who are menstruating or still bleeding after pregnancy, mentally unwell people and also the elderly.
Ramadan here has meant limited working and school hours
Everyone in the country has reduced hours during Ramadan (to help them have less demands while fasting and also because the children are up very early to eat before dawn). What this has meant for us is that the kids have started school at 8.45am instead of 7.20am, and finished at 1pm instead of 2pm for the month. During school hours, the children who aren’t fasting have assigned classrooms to eat in, that have blacked out windows, so not to be seen by those who are fasting.
I think the kids will have a shock tomorrow when they return to normal hours!
Iftar is the fast breaking meal for Muslims and out of respect, when out to eat at this time, we have waited for the prayer that marks this, before consuming any food. We were grateful to be invited for an Iftar picnic at Naif palace in Kuwait city with some Muslim friends. It was very special to see a canon let off to mark Iftar, followed by prayer. We also joined them in eating a date to “break the fast”. This was a special tradition we were thankful to be included in – the date not only prepares your body physically for food after fasting, but also follows tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) who broke his fast with dates. It was nice to see their traditions of going to Mosque and just being with their families at this special time.
Iftar meals are extremely popular here in Kuwait and most fast food restaurants have had Ramadan specials too on their menu. We have enjoyed bargain family meal deals as well as date night for an Iftar buffet at one of the finer hotels here – it was lush!
Gergean is a longstanding Kuwaiti cultural tradition that is celebrated on the 13th, 14th and 15th day of Ramadan (midway point), and it is to celebrate that children have been fasting for 2 weeks, and encourages them to keep going.
Their friends and teachers brought in goody bags with sweets and nuts in. And everyone brought bags of sweets to hand out. It is so much fun for the kids and reminded us of Halloween on steroids (only so much more wholesome of course).
The kids absolutely loved their first Gergean’ here in Kuwait and we couldn’t stop laughing at how much they brought home! They said everyone dressed up in Kuwaiti clothing, and the boys turned up their dishdashas to carry the treats in (they wear trousers under don’t worry). And that all the kids just race around the classrooms of primary and secondary collecting and handing out treats to each other! By far one of the best days ever!
People serving and doing nice things
Ramadan encourages people to serve and be kinder to their fellow man (and women obvs). And it was inspirational and lovely to witness strangers doing lovely things for those around them. We frequently saw people handing out meals at Iftar for others, and one evening on the way to the supermarket, we were on the receiving end of this generous act (we enjoyed chicken and rice with water, dates and oranges that evening). We also saw people feeding cats, and generally helping others more. It is a lovely thing to have around you.
We haven’t been as involved with Eid celebrations as I guess we would hope. We have seen that a lot of people travel for Eid and have family parties. Our kind friend came right before and did Henna for me and the girls, which we loved, and is something I remember from my childhood during Eid – so this was definitely something a little extraordinary this month. We also have enjoyed a week off school for the end of Ramadan and Eid!
This last month has been so different to how Ramadan in the UK would be (us being detached and carrying on as normal). It has been so great to be involved in it, and observe laws and customs, be a part of cultural tradition and of course, drink so much vimto (the Ramadan drink)! We have enjoyed Ramadan specials on food and family time, realised we like dates, learnt so much and loved supping “Ramadan juice” (which we still don’t know what that is – but it’s rather different and tasty).