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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Ramadan diary: Why a non-Muslim observes the fast in Qatar, three years in a row


Part two of our Ramadan Diary series comes to us from Glen McKay, a non-Muslim Canadian expat who has lived in Qatar for six years and has fasted for the last three Ramadans here.

By Glen McKay

Whenever I tell people that I’m fasting for Ramadan I inevitably get a puzzled expression, whether from Muslims or non-Muslims, followed by, “You are!? Why?”

It’s a good question. I’m not Muslim, so why would I spend a month not eating or drinking anything during the day?

I moved to Doha from North America around six years ago. Like many non-Muslims I met the arrival of my first Ramadan with a hint of trepidation.

Wait, what?

“What do you mean all the restaurants will be closed during the day? Huh, the bars will be closed the whole time!? What’s up with that?”

This original bewilderment would be followed by the next step commonly followed by non-Muslims: heading to an airline website to book a vacation. After the initial shock when Ramadan occurred I would go about my usual routine but I saw how things changed in Doha.

In the early evening streets would be largely empty and it was only later that the city really started to awaken…while I was getting ready to go to bed.

By sticking to my usual routine I was getting out-of-sync with Qatar and what was happening around me. So three years ago I decided to fast as well, following a similar routine as my Muslim friends and colleagues, so that I could better understand the Ramadan experience and what my Muslim friends go through.

I learned about the timings of the fast (yes, I wake up at 3am to have my pre-dawn meal), the foods people commonly ate, and joined friends at iftars and other functions…

On Day 2 of this year’s Ramadan, McKay blogs:

The problem is that once you break the fast and start eating it’s difficult to stop. You will eat everything that’s around. This is why I’ve been trying to have Iftar at home as much as possible where I can control the portion size.

Two years ago I was always going out with friends to restaurants and wound up stuffing my face.

The downside of being at home though is once I finish my food I start raiding the fridge. Tonight I still feel like I ate too much, I’ll try to have even less tomorrow.

I got a call around 5pm from a Qatari friend of mine to go with a buddy of his to the Corniche and drive around. There was even more people out this time and lot of people had brought out their flashy cars for the occasion.

It sort of looked like a car show. My friend said that over the next couple weeks it will probably get even busier.

So for those of you who want to see it had down to the Corniche from five o’clock onward. The area between the post office and the Sheraton seemed to be where everyone was hanging out.

We invite your submissions for our Ramadan diary feature, in honor of a month that affects all Qatar residents.

We are looking for anecdotes, thoughts, reflections and experiences on Ramadan. These can be good/bad/black/white/gray and come from non-Muslims and Muslims. We ask only that the submission relate to Qatar in some way.

Submit your reflections here.

Credit: Photo by leosaumurejr

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