Ramadhan: Joy of the Countryside [Archives:2001/50/Culture]

December 10 2001

Yasin al-Zikri
Cities bid goodbye to many of their citizens in the Holy month of Ramadhan, and in the remote parts of the country, villages receive new returnees everyday.
Ramadhan in the Countryside
In the morning children go to school. Workers leave for their ‘rocky’ work. An hour later, roads are half-deserted, except for a few travelers to or from the city. Classes seem hard for children in this month; many drop out. Doors and windows are shut. Harvest is over. There are vast areas for children to play and run freely. But they should be aware not to disturb the sleeping people.
At noon, many of those who left homes in the early hours return. Voices and sounds start to mingle and rise; knocking at doors, loud calls and yells, doors and windows open, children’s cries of hunger, etc.
As noon approaches, car engines gear up. All cars move in one direction; the market. The number of cars coming and going from the market increases during the last quarter of the day and reaches its highest level as the night draws near.
People return from the market. Children run towards them. “There should be some chocolates in one of those full plastic bags,” think Ahmad and Hanin.
At the time, housewives are busy preparing the iftar. Some dates, water, juice, coffee and soup will do. Children help their fathers or elder brothers carry what is brought to the kitchen and leave quickly to the house yards, impatiently waiting to hear the Adhan.
In the mosque, a man sits quietly reading the Quran and from time to time will look at the clock on the wall. When the right time comes, he has some dates and rises up to rise the adhan, announcing breaking of the day-long fasting. Children cheer up and rush inside their houses. A few minutes later, family members go to pray, while children carry some dates and water and stand in front of their houses to present iftar to passer-bys.
Some people pray in the mosque, others on roofs of their houses. When they finish, they stand for a while talking with others and agreeing on the place of the maqial (a get-together to chew qat.) Inside, enjoying watching TV or listening to the radio, they have another light meal.
On the way to the isha and attaraweeh prayers, all interesting events of the day are narrated. Inside the mosque, they greet and shake hands with one another, especially with those who have returned from the city. Some religious anthems in praise of the holy month are repeated after the prayers. Then, approximately at 9:00 p.m., they return home for supper, which is similar to dinner on ordinary days, added to it some kinds of sweets. While chewing qat many topics are discussed, social, political, sports, etc.
Saber al-Qu’aishi is a shopkeeper, and for him Ramadhan is the busiest month. “A lot of people come from the city. They come here to spend the nights watching TV or using my telephone,” he said.
After 2:00 a.m., people return home for the sahur meal. They gather together in front of the TV until the housewife finishes preparing sahur. Some may continue watching TV. Others may quit to read the Quran, while others just go to sleep.
At the time the dawn prayers are called, some people are still awake. Many go to the mosque and go back to sleep after that. Masons, farmers, etc., go to work. Students sleep for some time until the time for school comes. Calmness covers the area again.
Ramadhan in the city
So many people live in the city, but the facts are not what they appear to be. A lot of people come to the city in order to work, study, etc. Local governance is still a new experience that has not yet yielded all its fruits. People still have to go to the city to finalize even easy procedures. Still, all procedures are connected with the city and the capital as well.
As the holy month of Ramadhan draws near, people start heading for the countryside. Shops stay open. This month is the busiest season for them. With the passing of the days of the month, the number of people in the city starts decreasing until the city becomes half-deserted.
People here break their fasting upon hearing the iftar cannon, which is followed by the call for al-maghreb prayer. Plenty of accidents take place at this time, as everybody rushes home at a crazy speed. People run here and there to the mosque, homes, or restaurants. After a few minutes, streets look empty until life comes again about an hour later. People go to the mosque. Others go the market, especially the qat markets. Workers go to their work.
After dinner, men meet in groups to chew qat. A good number of people work for the private sector in society. These go to work. Students meet to study, and some of them go to language and computer institutes. Women go to the market, and many meet with other women to chew qat, sing and dance.
The cold weather in Ramadhan is not always suitable for many people to go for a walk. “It is very chilly outside. TV live programs are expensive, so we just stay at our homes watching TV,” said Wahib Seif. The cold weather affects not only people, but even the price of qat, which is more expensive during Ramadhan than it is in other months. Numan, a qat seller, said the cold weather of winter decreases production of qat trees, and this helps raise the prices sharply because the demands are more than what is offered in the market.
Midnight is the time for many people to go back home, whether to sleep or to watch TV until 3:00 a.m. The time between 3:00 to 4:00 a.m. is the time for having the sahur meal, which some have at home and others in restaurants. After that, they prepare for their needs for the day. All refrain from eating and drinking after the adhan of the dawn prayer has risen.
At 9:00 a.m., schools open for students. So do universities. Mostly standouts are noticed in the street between 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. “We have to walk a long distance to reach the university,” said Marwan Abdu. “Not many buses work at this time,” he added. Not many students attend lectures during Ramadhan, especially during the second half of the month.
At 10:00 a.m., work commences at government offices and institutions, but most of their general managers do not come. All important papers are sent home for them. There, they study them more carefully and sign them. Some shops also start opening and buses start to appear.
Starting from 5:00 p.m. onwards, many streets become crowded. Some people are nervous at this time. People reserve tables in restaurants in advance. Others carry some food to the mosque, and others go home with a lot of sweets. The iftar meal in the city often contains dates, juice, soup, sambusa and some sweets.