Pre-Ramadan madness

Published on 8 July 2013 in Culture
Sara Al-Zawqari (author)

Sara Al-Zawqari


Ramadan has not yet arrived but our roads are busy. It feels like there isn’t a single person at home. Everybody is out buying goods, food, clothes, and practicing staying up late before Ramadan.

If you ask the ladies what is the best thing about Ramadan, they’ll tell you, “We can stay out shopping late, and no one will tell us anything.”

And don’t even try passing by a street that is near a supermarket! These roads are blocked, cars are parked miles down the road, and the shops are overcrowded.

Usually wives start preparing their husbands mentally, emotionally, and financially months before Ramadan arrives.

When you see the amount of people inside supermarkets, you’d think that the country is going to war. Every inch of the supermarket is filled with products: on the shelves and on the floor. Just roll up your sleeves and start pushing and fighting!

All you see is a bunch of octopuses—hands grabbing things and throwing them on top of the mountain of goods in the shopping carts. The lines at the cashiers are so long. When you stand in line you can’t even see the cashier.

Preparations for this holy month mainly center on thinking about food. Logically, we should be consuming less food since we fast during the day. In the month where we are supposed to feel for the hungry, the opposite happens, we waste food and squander money left and right.

If you ask anyone d why they fast, you’ll get this answer: we fast to sympathize and feel for those in need, and to discipline ourselves. Everyone memorizes these two lines, but most people don’t mean it. Are you sure you are showing sympathy and that you understand what they go through every single day, when you’re pushing two shopping carts full of food? When your cupboards and refrigerators are so full that you have to find a new storage place for food? When you throw food in the trash?

 And to those who seek to diet, or stop chewing qat or smoking during Ramadan, they spend the weeks before Ramadan overdoing everything. If they want to lose weight they’ll eat sweets every day, and if they want to give up qat, they’d chew day and night and if they want to stop smoking, they smoke double their usual amount.  This is one of the worst ways to try to quit something.

Ramadan is the season for TV series and soap operas. More than 100 series are played during Ramadan. The previews for the series have been airing for quite some time.  

Ladies specialize in taking notes—writing down the names of the shows, the timing and the channel they will be aired in. Then they discuss with their friends what series they will watch, then the discussion shifts to the house. After long arguments, each person in the family chooses one show.

I always hear people complain about the influx of shows in Ramadan, which they say act like a distraction from religious requirements. Whose fault is this? Production companies wouldn’t spend millions if they knew they were not going to get watched. They know their market.

Many needy families end up taking out loans, and end up spending the rest of the year paying off their debts. Who said that Ramadan compels us to spend money, and throw food in the bin? Ramadan’s demands are simpler—but perhaps harder to actually meet—we are asked to empathize with others, to become better people.

Hear more of Shahi Haleeb weekdays on Radio Yemen Times, aired 2:00—3:00 p.m. and 10:00—11:00 p.m., Saturday through Thursday. Tune your dial to 88.8 and thanks for listening!