The Ramadan Plan

Trip Start Sep 22, 2006
1
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14
Trip End Jan 2007


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Flag of Qatar  ,
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

No matter which country I've been in the last few years I can't seem to escape the media hype covering the numerous new fad diet plans on the market - from the South Beach Diet, to the Zone, from Mr. Atkins to Dr. Phil it seems that everyone has an opinion on the best way to shed some pounds. I've always kind of tried to go with the radical 'balanced diet and exercise' theory and when I saw that even the rather fleshy Dr.Phil - I only believe his claims of being 'big boned' to a limited degree -- was putting in his 2 cents worth I'd pretty much had enough of hearing about these crazes.
And so I couldn't have timed my arrival in Qatar any better as I became an unwitting member of an eating regimen, which could hardly be called a 'fad', as it traced its roots back thousands of years to the days of the Prophet Mohammad, and is quite popular with about 1 billion people participating in this plan for a month. Yes I had unwittingly enrolled myself in "The 30 Day Ramadan Plan".

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic Calender and the holiest month as this was the month during which the revelation of the Koran began and the conquest of Mecca occurred. I wasn't exactly sure when The Ramadan Plan would start - the month officially begins with the sighting of the new moon, so if it is a particularly cloudy night and the powers that be cannot sight the moon then it is possible the month will start the next day. In much the same way it's difficult to predict exactly when the month will end as the moon must be sighted at this time as well. As it was, Ramadan was expected to start September 24th (the day after my arrival) but in fact occurred on September 23rd - I had no idea that the moon that I saw from the plane window was so significant. The sight of that moon meant that muslims all over the world would begin their 30 day fast. Pretty powerful stuff when you think about it.

The general plan involves eating or drinking nothing between sunrise and sunset, followed by a fast-breaking meal called Iftar at the end of the day. And when I say no drinking I mean nothing - no water, no juice, no coffee. And no chewing gum. For strict muslims it also often means no brushing of teeth and definitely no sex. In fact, no thinking about sex. Or even thinking that you're not thinking about sex. For this reason, women are required to dress even more conservatively during Ramadan - no arms showing and preferably skirts or pants reaching well below the knees, preferably to the ankles.

So what is a day in the life look life during Ramadan? For muslims, the day starts around 3:30AM before the morning call to prayer which is around 4AM. They must have eaten breakfast prior to the sunrise and before the first prayer, so it makes for a pretty early start to the day. My Egyptian workmate Amir was telling me that he and his family all get up and eat together at 3:30AM then head back to bed before getting up for work.
Our work hours during Ramadan are reduced to 6 hours a day, from 8AM to 2PM. I've been waking up around 6AM daily and trying to do a bit of yoga in my room before I head to work. I grab some breakfast and have a coffee at home before getting a shuttle bus which takes me to my office.
It is illegal in the Gulf Countries to eat, drink, or chew gum in public during Ramadan and you are subject to arrest or a fine if you are found doing any of these activities. And that includes if you are a passenger in a car and driving down the street.
Once at work we are not allowed to eat or drink in any public areas either. There is a tea room on each floor and 2 Sri Lankan men who generally walk around the floor making coffee and tea for all the staff. Obviously this doesn't happen in Ramadan, but they are still employed, so basically they sit behind a temporary partition in a small corridor outside their 5 foot x 5 foot tea room waiting for any non-muslims to come by and sneak a quick cup of tea or glass of water in the kitchen! Apparently yesterday there were 10 people at one time crammed into this room trying to grab a bite to eat. They are so nice, cheerful and always up for a bit of a chat so its actually a nice excuse to have a break and tea with them!
The last week I've been coming home after work and having a light lunch and then a big dinner in the evening. Food has become the focus of many people's thoughts all day at work, however we're not even really allowed to talk about eating in front of Muslims. It's all a bit of an adjustment, like so many other things here!

Otherwise business hours can be a bit frustrating - we finish work at 2PM but no businesses are open until at least 8PM to give people time to pray, break the fast at sunset and then start work. This means that bank, clothing shop, mobile phone office, all pretty much all other business hours are from about 8PM to 1AM! Restaurants open for business at sunset and then if you need to buy anything or do any banking you have to wait until after dinner, and then join throngs of people trying to get their errands done at night!
It's a pretty rigorous regimen for people observing the fast as keeping in mind they have to be up at 3:30AM for their first meal!

So 1 week into this plan I've decided that the starvation/bingeing technique probably won't result in any weight loss either! Eating nothing but a granola bar and apple all day and following it up with a massive Shawarma at 8PM...now somehow I don't even think Dr. Phil would recommend that one.
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Comments

karmafi
karmafi on

sheiks and shawarmas
wow.... great entries so far, I'm actually going to print them for people at work to read... funny enough I met a palestinian doctor the other day who was observing ramadan fasting and asked him a few of the particulars, noting that you were in qatar at that very moment most likely tucking into something hot - it was after sunset there for sure!! i am trying very hard to get through to you by phone but it's very difficult - WHY??? I would love to chat with you.
love fiona xo

canicometoo
canicometoo on

Fantastic
Man, this has got those flimsy, blue air-mail letters that take weeks to arrive, beat by a long-shot. Absolutely fantastic. I'm going to have to get help from my techie to hear the video - the haunting sound of the call to prayer is probably one of the best parts of travelling in a Muslim country. I'm looking forward to the next update. To quote Kim, as she responded to another of your 'tales from away' - 'Well, I'm off to Walmart now' (too funny, Kim). Cheers, Andrea. Stay safe. May the wind be always at your back.

canicometoo
canicometoo on

Fantastic
Man, this has got those flimsy, blue air-mail letters that take weeks to arrive, beat by a long-shot. Absolutely fantastic. I'm going to have to get help from my techie to hear the video - the haunting sound of the call to prayer is probably one of the best parts of travelling in a Muslim country. I'm looking forward to the next update. To quote Kim, as she responded to another of your 'tales from away' - 'Well, I'm off to Walmart now' (too funny, Kim). Cheers, Andrea. Stay safe. May the wind be always at your back.

Hugs,
Sandra

gaildever
gaildever on

Happy Thanksgiving from Montreal
It is so great to read about your adventures. You write in such an entertaining way that it is almost possible to see what you describe. You should be writing articles for a newspaper.

Since it is Thanksgiving, we will be feasting on turkey tomorrow... not fasting. But this diet plan you describe is most interesting, albeit very strict.

Take care and keep writing.
Gail (cousin)

cheesecake
cheesecake on

Greeting from a Qatarist.
Hello there.
I saw and read your acticles about my country,Qatar. Thank you for posting and share with the others abt how and what the Qatarist are doing. Yes, we are going to be one another modern arabic countries in the middle east. We welcome foreigners and talents around the world to compete and join venture and business in our region. Yes, i agree with one of the commentor below, ur articles abt the explaining and the daily routine life here in Doha, do add some curiousty,detail of informations and funny too. Thank you.
And i agree with u too, that there was a number of times, i do feel choke living in doha and be a Qatarist. I always find that we are abit slow in modernise our city. But to think of it again, after i watch the television,i do find out some big and modern countries like in Japan are too fast and always in the high competitions. Which maybe some of the Japanese forget what date is today and cant remeber their own names. Hehehe.im not commenting nor giving them the bad image but just think it again. Dont u think.. taking one step ahead a slightly slower is gd enough. No stress and no pressures.. Im proud to be Qatarist. Oopps! i write to much, guess i better stop now. Thank you for posting this. :)

Hug
Shariffah

hiya
hiya on

Re: Fantastic
DEAR SANDRA:

I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT CALLING FOR PLAYER TIME IS NOT HUANTING AND I AM AUFENDED BY WHAT YOUR SAYING.
ITS NOT HUANTING ITS HOLLY AND SPIRITUAL .

THAT DOESNT MEAN THAT I HATE YOU.

FROM HIYA (A MUSLIM)

mabsoota
mabsoota on

Re: Re: Fantastic
HIYA,
I think you misunderstood what 'haunting' means - it can be a good thing and looking at what Sandra wrote, she was meaning for it to be good ('the best thing about...'). And... it IS haunting - it is very melodic and similar to the monks chanting in parts of Europe. So, no harm done, but just wanted to make sure to point that out to you in case you hear that from other people and get unnecessarily offended.
Andreadd, thanks for this post - Ramadan is my favorite time of the year and while I have only celebrated it in the US, I look forward to when I can celebrate it in a Muslim-majority country.
On another note (and I'll have to look through your posts), how to you find the Eid al-Adha? I have been in your neck of the woods twice for that holiday and I love it! I'm with family, but just going around and all of the stuff on tv with the lambs and the pictures of lambs around make me laugh so much!

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