Iftar at the Red Sea in Jeddah
We are a few days into Ramadan, and we asked readers to send in their experiences of the month of fasting in Jeddah. In this blog post, Delina Partadiredja from aMuslima.com writes to Jeddah Blog about her very personal experience of Ramadan in Jeddah, describing the ambience of Ramadan for families at the Corniche.
Spending Ramadan in Jeddah, for me, is very special. Although the weather is really hot, reaching 42-50 degrees in the summer-time (July-August), all people both Muslims and non-Muslims respect the Holy Month. All cafes and restaurants are closed during the day, and open from Maghrib to Sahoor (before dawn), when Muslims are allowed to break their fast. I think we will not find this privileged treatment in other countries, especially outside the Middle East.
Saudis and other Muslims usually invite their friends for Iftar because according to Islam providing food for people who fast gives great rewards. Sometimes Saudis invite close family not at the end of the fast (Iftar), but during Suhoor time (the last meal before beginning the fast).
Office schedules in Jeddah are also adjusted. Usually, companies will start late (around 9am) and finish early (around 3pm). The reason for this is to give every Muslim enough rest as they wake up early for suhoor, and give them the opportunity to read the Qur’an or perform some other Sunnah to get reward from Allah (swt). All schools are closed, however, because July-August coincides with the summer break for International schools, whereas Arab schools usually are closed from the end of May until Eid ul Fitr.
In the Month of Ramadan, all the way along the Red Sea coast, the Jeddah Corniche is usually packed with families who not only enjoy the beautiful sunset, but also gather to break their fast together. Many children run to and fro, romping with their brothers and sisters or playing on swings, slides, and trampolines. Ponies and camels adorned with red cloth on their backs also attract children who want to ride them down the beach. The air is warmer with breezy winds adding to the beauty of the afternoon. How I love this moment! Some families bring carpets or mats, thermoses containing Arabic coffee, dates, and shurbah (a porridge made of oatmeal mixed with onions, tomatoes, and chicken or lamb) which is usually prepared as an appetizer.
Traders pace the Corniche, offering merchandise in the form of kites, toys, or snacks. Sights like this are actually not exclusive to the month of Ramadan. All year round, at the end of the week, many Saudi families gather with other families and their children. Sometimes they bring barbecue equipment, or bikes to be ridden by their children.
But the most memorable moment for me in Ramadan is when we are waiting for the call for the Maghrib prayer to reverberate. When sunset arrives, there is a voluntary call to prayer. Muslims and Muslimas vying for the reward of feeding those fasting for the sake of Allah pass around an appetizer, either dates or cookies, to be shared with the people who are fasting. After breaking their fast, they usually perform the Maghrib prayer in congregation in the open air. That is the beauty of togetherness in the month of Ramadan.