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رمضان مبارك

     The month of Ramadan is considered to be the most sacred lunar month of the Islamic calendar, and according to one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Muslims are obliged to fast during its 29-30 days each year. From sunlight to sundown they must refrain from consuming any food and drink as well as from smoking, and it is not until the call for the evening prayer that a ceremonious iftar can be consumed to break the fast. In Jordan, it is in fact illegal to eat or drink in public during daylight hours. Although tourists are often excused from these rules, I tried to abide by them during my stay in Jordan out of respect for those fasting. As you can imagine, this can make it incredibly difficult to travel... No water in 40 degree heat? I spent many lunch hours in bathroom stalls, scarfing down granola bars and other snacks, or gulping down entire liters of water to quench my continuous thirst.. I came across a few tourists who strove to follow the fast themselves, but for me the amount of physical exertion that comes along with travel and sightseeing coupled with the outrageous heat was too much to handle without any nourishment (or you could maybe say my faith is simply not strong enough?). After all, the laws of Ramadan supposedly exempt those who are travelling, right? Nor am I Muslim in the first place, but mad respect for anyone who fasts during the Ramadan.
Meal at Hashem Restaurant in Amman
     However, if you're in Amman during Ramadan and you're hungry for a solid meal despite the Ramadan - don't worry, not everyone in Jordan manages to fast, anyway, - there is a joint called Cairo Restaurant, at which the waiters hush you up to the 3rd floor if you are looking to dine in so that the cops don't catch them serving food. Otherwise, there are many locales open at which you can buy food for take-out, or grocery stores to buy fruit or snacks. At night, restaurants open up but if you're looking for falafel, keep in mind that it is considered to be a breakfast food and is therefore rarely served during the month of Ramadan. Nevertheless, Hashem Restaurant in Amman fries up what is considered the best falafel in town for the best price. For a couple dinar you can get a large pita on a napkin of a plate, along with an assortment of bean dips and a tomato salad, which is enough to keep you stuffed for hours.

Market in Amman
     Even though I did not participate in the fasting during the time I was in Jordan, I found the experience of Ramadan to be very special. People were exceptionally friendly, and learning the simple phrases of "Ramadan Mubarak" and "Ramadan Kareem," - translated as something along the lines of "have a blessed Ramadan" and/or "Ramadan is generous," respectively - always elicited many appreciative smiles. As it is illegal to consume alcohol during the entire month of Ramadan (including the night hours), I felt a lot safer as a woman as I was never hassled by men who'd maybe had a few drinks and found their inner philanderer.
Bustling streets of Amman by night
     During Ramadan, the nighttime is by far the liveliest time of day. At dusk, people would gather in restaurants, order their meals and wait, perched over the table, for the evening prayer to invite them to dig in. I imagine some men would be pacing with cigarettes hanging from their lips, awaiting for permission to light them up, considering the amount of chain-smoking that went on in the nights! In contrast to the sleepy daylight hours, the night fell with a cloud of smoke and the awakening of otherwise dormant liveliness. Families paraded on the streets, shopping, snacking, hugging, rejoicing. Shops opened their doors and their keepers gathered inside, smoking cigarette after cigarette with their neighbours. Children laughing, dogs barking, juicers whizzing with fruit after fruit thrown in; the world spun faster at night and it felt truly magical.

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