This is my first Ramadan, I’m not a muslim but I’m keen to be empathetic and understand the concept of going without – sounds like a good idea in our modern age of excesses I thought.
So here I am a week in and these are the things I’ve noticed (bearing in mind I’m not praying so I can’t comment on that aspect and what it might bring to the party).
1. Feeling hangry
Yes the first few days are hard, you do feel a bit hungry and angry at times – but it gets a lot easier as your body gets into the rhythm. Your stomach shrinks so you can’t actually manage as much food when it comes which is a disappointment when you finally ‘break-fast’ in the evening!
2. The joy of food
The joy of food as the sun-down prayer is called is kind of off-set by the lack of joy in the rest of the day, you realise how much you depend on those small moments of pleasure brought by a cup of coffee and a biscuit, or a nice breakfast. Its not that you miss the food itself, you can get used to not having it, its more the emotional and psychological benefits food brings in terms of reward, comfort, sociability etc that you miss. Sweet things tend to be the go to pre-Iftar purchase, you can see the fevered hands of staff piling up boxes of sweet treats at Pain Quotedienne in Marrakech after 5pm, it’s these sweet treats which mean that most people don’t lose weight during fasting!
3. Mental effects
You feel more sedate – things aren’t as exciting, and you get a slight dizziness and fatigue. The calls to prayer start to mean a lot more if you’re not a muslim (time to eat, time to stop) and sound a bit more haunting than usual – I think they are more passionately sung. There are more outward shows of prayer in the streets which creates a kind of hysteric atmosphere I think. People seem to change their mood also, just before the Ftour in particular the guys seem to get more combative and provocative in the street, kids become more energetic. Women, they look tired no doubt from cooking up a storm every night!
4. Goodness effects
Thinking of others is a key part of Ramadan, however of course we should do this all year round. I have noticed a bit more empathy but funnily enough less to the people more to innocent animals. I don’t know if it was an effect or coincidence but we adopted a small black kitten that was screaming with runny eyes in the Jamal Fna – it was a funny moment as we’d just watch the mass prayer and had a conversation about actually what believing in God is – about what you do not how many times you pray, and hey ho we adopted a kitten.
Health wise it is meant to be good for you fasting, however, the lack of water is an issue – surely your organs need water it’s our life force, its that I’ve missed most – even down to having drier eyes and not being able to see so well at times. Water also is a great energiser, it makes you feel less tired, so fatigue is of course a side effect which is a problem if you have a busy job – I can’t imagine how people with hard manual jobs fair.
I’ll update this article at the end of Ramadan with the ding dong which is Eid, now – where are those pastries…