A Ramadhan Day in the Life of a Yemeni Woman [Archives:1998/02/Culture]

January 12 1998

By Khairia Al-Shabeebi
Almost everything changes during the Holy month of Ramadhan – from waking to working hours and daily habits (both physical and moral). Many people become more religiously observant. Women in particular have extra duties during this month. After following the day of four ‘typical’ professional Yemeni woman and mothers, a few differences and many similarities have been revealed.
Umm Salah: My son Salah wakes me up at 9 AM, asking for his breakfast. I do some cleaning around the house and prepare a few things for iftar (breaking the fast) later on in the day. I perform the noon prayers, and prepare to go to work at 1 PM. On my way to work, I drop Salah at the nursery. After finishing work at 3.30 PM, I return home, perform the afternoon prayer, and start cooking the iftar meal – shurba (boiled oats with milk and sugar), shafoot (pancakes mashed in yoghurt and mixed with spice and herbs) , and samboosa (ground meat and herbs in a triangular pastry envelope).
The whole family gathers around the table just before the sunset call for prayer. Following the Prophet’s (P) tradition, the fast is broken with a date followed by a simple dish. Then we do the sunset prayers either at home or at the mosque. Eating the other Ramadhan dishes follows after that. The men of the family stay at home for a while watching TV, while, I do the washing and cleaning. At the evening prayer, men usually go to the mosque and women either pray at home or go to the mosque also. Then we prepare supper for the men when they come home from the mosque at around 7.30 PM. This meal includes rice or pasta, meat or fish, salad, Zahawiq (crushed tomatoes with ground black pepper), and bread. I later clean the house and put Salah to sleep. At 10 PM we go out to visit friends and relatives , go shopping or stay at home to watch TV. Following a two-hour sleep, I wake up at 2AM to prepare suhoor (the last meal before sunrise) which usually consists of coffee or tea with pancakes and zahawiq with cheese. Following this meal we read the Holy Quran until the time of the sunrise prayer after which we go to bed and sleep until 9AM.
Umm Jameel I wake up at noon, perform the noon prayer, and go to work. On coming home at 4 PM, I perform the afternoon prayers and start preparing for iftar. Our iftar meal consists of bajia (fried balls of tiny crushed horse bean-like legume), qamruldeen (dried apricot drink), rice, shafoot, tabeekh (mixed vegetables with gravy), hilba (phenigree with gravy), and bread. We break our fast with dates, qamruldeen, hilba , shurba and white radish. Following the sunset prayers, we resume our meal. I do the house work after the evening prayers after which time I chew qat with my husband and watch TV until midnight. Suhoor usually consists of what is left from iftar with some beans, zahawiq with cheese, and mateet (yoghurt simmered with flour). After suhoor, we read the Holy Quran, perform the sunrise prayers, and go to bed.
Umm Ahmed I wake up at noon, do the noon prayers, clean and tidy up the house, and go to work. Returning home around 3 PM, I do the afternoon prayers, and start cooking for iftar. Following iftar, the sunset and evening prayers, and the washing and cleaning up, I settle with the rest of the family in front of the TV. Otherwise, we go out to visit friends and relatives or go shopping, especially on Thursday night. I give our visitors orange juice, qamruldeen, or other soft drinks and cream caramel. I start preparing suhoor at 1 AM. We have our suhoor, read several verses from the Holy Quran, do the sunrise prayers, and go to bed.
Jmeela I stay awake watching TV until 7 or 8 in the morning, and sleep until 12.30 PM. I perform the noon prayers, and go to work at the school where I teach. In between classes, I read the Quran or talk with my colleagues about issues related to our students and other administrative concerns. I return home at 4 PM, and immediately start preparing the iftar food with my mother and the rest of my sisters. My parents go to the mosque for the sunset prayers, then come back to have supper with the rest of the family. Tidying and cleaning up is followed by the evening prayer, watching some TV programs, or going out visiting. I read the Holy Quran until 1.30 or 2 AM, have suhoor, go to bed, or read a prayer book.
Some Facts About Observing Ramadhan * Fasting during Ramadhan is the duty of every Muslim once he or she reaches puberty – around 15 years old. However, children should be taught to fast for half a day starting at the age of 7 up to 9. Once they are 10 years old, children should be taught to fast for a whole day – not necessarily for the whole month. This is quite helpful for the children so that they will be able to endure fasting the whole month of Ramadhan once they are 15 years old. * A sick person is permitted not to fast until cured. He or she can then fast the same number of days after Ramadhan. * Old people who are unable to fast can give alms to the poor as a substitute for not fasting. * A menstruating or a post-natal does not have to fast, but has to fast the same number of days after Ramadhan. For menstruation, 7 to 10 days are allowed. * Zakat, or holy tax, is levied from the rich to be given to the poor during Ramadhan. When the month is over, rich people usually give fitra such as flour, sweets, meat, dates, money, etc.