You may be surprised to find out how many people that live in Kuwait aren’t Muslim. When you think of any Middle Eastern country, you immediately picture this scenario:
While the scenario is prevalent, you should also open your mind up to this:
A large expat population means that there is a huge number of people from other various religious faiths. Regardless of your beliefs, if you live in Kuwait, or any other Muslim country, Ramadaan is going to be a part of your life whether you like it or not. I know a lot of expats complain about this time of year but its wholeheartedly better for you if you focus on the benefits during this time (yes there are benefits) rather than, what you perceive as the negatives. Also, the way I see it, Muslim people are doing a great job putting up with drunken behaviour and pork on every menu in other countries, the least people can do is be respectful to them during Ramadaan in a Muslim country.
It is day 2 of Ramadan here in Kuwait so here is quick little lesson for those not in the know:
How Ramadaan affects you if you are living in Kuwait but not fasting?
Shorter working hours
Its Kuwaiti law that you AT LEAST start work an hour later and finish an hour earlier meaning that the working day in Kuwait is shortened by a minimum of two hours. Some companies may give you more time like my school which has us working from 9am to 1pm. Oh and this is for EVERYONE not just those who are fasting.
Its a magical time of year
Life slows down in Kuwait during Ramdaaan. As you drive at night, you will see houses strung with fairy lights; homes are perfumed constantly with the mixed smells of food and burning incense. The uninterrupted chanting of Quraan verses emanating from the nearby mosque officiates the absolute solemnity of Ramadan. You would think it would be rather stressful with remembering not to eat or drink in public and trying to not to offend anyone but that isn’t the case. You feel more relaxed and it is a time for introspection. Don’t expect much to get much done during this time (in terms of paperwork), because people are on a literal ‘go slow’.
Traffic is crazy just before sunset
With most of the locals rushing to be home in time to break their fast when the sun sets, the roads are absolutely crazy at this time. Try to avoid being on the road at this time because this is also when people would be at their crankiest so road rage would be quite prevalent. On the plus side, many restaurants have ‘Ramadaan menus” which means new dishes, good service and exciting dining options waiting to be sampled. If you love choices, most hotels in Kuwait have a Ramadaan buffet each night such as the Jumeirah Hotel, Marriott Hotel, Crowne Plaza and many more.
Note: Shopping during the week before Ramadaan starts is a bad idea. It looks like a mad dash of grabbing at random items and hurling food into over-flowing trolleys that require at least two SUVs to transport their contents home.
There are a lot of do’s and don’ts in Ramadaan in Kuwait as one can see from the above warning picture distributed by the Ministry of Interior. However, I am working on the premise that my readers are intelligent humans; I know you aren’t eating in public, dressing provocatively or blasting loud music in your car in Ramadaan. But there are more insidious things you need to avoid like asking certain questions… be aware of what you are saying. The one thing you can easily do is to avoid asking the following questions:
“WHAT? WHY AREN’T YOU FASTING?”
Very young children, people with severe health issues, pregnant women, menstruating women and women who breastfeed are not obligated to fast during the month depending on their circumstances. Maybe they are not fasting due to other, more personal reasons. The rule of thumb here is that unless someone brings it up first, do not ask. Many women don’t want to share their menstrual cycles with anyone – and many of you probably weren’t looking to find that out, either.
Are you hungry?
Yes they are hungry. Reminding of them it is just rude.
But why are you doing this to yourself? God wouldn’t care if you ate.
And you know this how?
How do you do it? There is no way I could do it!
No one is asking you to habibti.
Are you doing Ramadaan too?
No one ‘does’ Ramdaan. Ramadan is the name of the holy month, not a synonym for fasting. You fast in the month of Ramdaan.
Not even a glass of water?
When fasting during Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sundown. Yes, this includes water.
But DO ask questions about the significance of ramadan, family customs and traditions! Muslim people love to dispel the myths that Islam is a scary and incomprehensible religion. This link offers more detailed information about Ramadan from a religious perspective and also, highlights some questions you can ask your Muslim colleagues or friends for their personal experiences. Oh and if you are lucky enough to be invited to a local’s home for iftaar, go!
Lastly, if you want to say something thoughtful on the subject of Ramdaan to someone you know is Muslim, let’s avoid saying, “Happy Ramadaan!”. If you are living in a Middle Eastern country, you should have a little more cultural awareness. If somehow, that ship passed you by, try saying one of two things:
“Ramadan Mubarak” and/or “Ramadan Kareem,” which roughly translates to wishing someone a Blessed Ramadan or Generous Ramadan, respectively. The Americans may call it cultural appropriation but I never met a Muslim person who wasn’t appreciative of hearing those words especially when coming from someone unexpected.
If you’re in Kuwait or any other Islamic country, enjoy the experience of Ramadan and have a blessed month!
For a more comprehensive list of things to avoid doing in Ramadaan please click here.