Monday, August 24, 2009

Living Ramadan Vicariously through Leftovers

As I am not Muslim, I am not actively participating in this cultural celebration. But that doesn't mean I'm not affected. First of all, everyone on the road is just a little bit crankier and in more of a hurry, as they haven't smoked, drank or eaten in several hours. This added to the already fabulous driving done by most taxi drivers is enough to make anyone a little nervous when venturing out. Also, eating or drinking is now illegal in public, so no sneaking sips of water out of my water bottle unless I am safely indoors.

If that weren't weird enough for an American, a good 95 percent of all the restaurants are closed during daylight hours. No forgetting my lunch this month. A few more Western places and many expensive hotel restaurants stay open, but for the most part, it looks like it's leftovers for me. Even more inconvenient, some of the restaurants (like the used-to-be-convenient shwarma place down the block from us) close for the whole of Ramadan.

On the plus side, however, Amman is gorgeous at night. Many residents put up Ramadan lights, which look suspiciously like Christmas lights to me. Some of them are even icicle shaped. Some colored lights in festive shapes, such as moons and stars, do have a personality of their own, however. And the roads are completely empty, so it's much easier to catch a taxi or cross the road, sometimes without even looking. Another plus is that as soon as that minute hand touches the sunset minute, everyone becomes a lot more jolly. Every person I've talked to at night is all kinds of happy, from the jolly cashier in the convenience store who talked to us for a good ten minutes and was tickled pink when we told him, "Ramadan Kareem" to the happy restaurant owner who practically wouldn't let us get in a taxi he was having so much fun talking to us. If this is how fasting makes you feel, I'm all for it.

As Heather mentioned in her Ramadan post, it is also a great time to sample some of the food that only comes around during Ramadan. Two nights ago, Heather and I headed down the street to grab a shwarma for dinner only to find they had closed up shop. Undaunted, we hit the bakery. Instead of the usual bread, deserts, etc, we found pancakes. Thousands upon thousands of pancakes. Score! We grabbed a plate of them, headed home and scarfed them down with syrup. How fresh-off-the-boat of us! We found out after we ate that these pancakes, called getayaf, are supposed to be stuffed with nuts or cheese, then dipped in a sweet sauce and eaten. Ramadan social faux pas number one. Oh well. They were still good as pancakes.

And Heather and I won't totally be devoid of all the Ramadan fun. We told the guys next door that if they picked a day, we would get up at 3:30 a.m. for sahur, fast all day and eat iftar with them at night. For one day. Just to get the total Ramadan experience. Sure hope I don't need to use my inhaler that day.

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