By Cori Cummings
Students from all over the world spend their summers studying abroad in predominantly Muslim countries, such as Jordan or Morocco, where the culture as a whole observes the fast of Ramadan. Muslim and non-Muslim students alike enjoy experiencing Ramadan where virtually the entire population and culture keeps the fast for the whole month.
Here are some practical ways to have the best Ramadan experience this summer in Jordan or Morocco:
1) Make some simple adaptions. Of course it’s not expected of non-Muslim visitors of the country to observe the fast, but eating and drinking in very public places may be considered disrespectful. As a study abroad student, your hope is to assimilate to the culture and not appear ignorant to what’s going on around you. Bringing water and snacks to class is fine, but eating them around others who aren’t observing the fast in a more private setting would be best.
2) Join friends as they break their fast in the evening. Sharing an iftar meal with a family or a group of friends who have fasted all day long is an amazing experience. It’s a time of thanksgiving and celebration- like a mini party every night of the month!
3) Learn to embrace an adjusted schedule. Since the vast majority of the population won’t be eating throughout the day, they’re much more active during the evening and night hours. There’s often a central location in downtown areas where people eat together, listen to live music and participate in henna and other fun cultural activities.
4) Ramadan is more than just fasting. The holy month of Ramadan is most widely known as a month for fasting, however, there are many other religious implications that go along with the holiday. Concepts such as Taqwa (the bettering of oneself mentally, physically, and spiritually), generosity, charity, and receiving blessing and forgiveness from Allah are also tenants of fast.
5) Spend some time learning about Islam. If you’re studying in the Middle East it’s likely you already have some understanding of Islam, but if you’re not a Muslim there’s always something to learn! It might be helpful to watch YouTube videos, films or read articles. This way, you can be sure to educate yourself on the traditions, etiquette and greetings that happen during Ramadan.
6) Join in for a few days. Even if you’re not Muslim, Ramadan is a very interesting aspect of the religion and culture to experience. Pick a week where you fast from sun up to sun down to experience what millions of people around the world are doing together.