Ramadan in Qatar through the eyes of an Expat

I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.

It’s almost Ramadan and this will be my first time seeing it celebrated from a Muslim country.  Sure there are Muslims in the U.S.A that I know and yes they participate in Ramadan but I’m assuming it’s a little different from seeing it up close from the Middle East.

Since I am not Muslim, I will not try to educate you on the holiday but you can find more information by clicking here!  These are just my observations…

11/05/17 (This is the way the date is written over here: day/month/year)

2 weeks before Ramadan: Today my school had a small celebration called ‘Alnafla’.  I never heard of that before this week.  The way it was explained to me, it’s like a countdown to Ramadan.  The schools’ common areas were decorated, students wore their national dress and colors and brought in traditional food.  All week, students bought in donations for Syria as well.

15/5/17- A Qatari speaker came to my class today to talk with my students about Ramadan.  I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying but as they spoke in their native language, I grew a new found appreciation for the value this holiday must hold for them. I grew angry at how prayer has been taken out of the schools of my home country.  Qatar has such pride in their religion, how could prayer in schools be bad?  My students were so quiet at times and so engaged at others.  I only wished I could comprehend.

20/5/17- Yesterday would be the last alcoholic brunch until Ramadan, so I decided to accept an invitation from the BSoQ group I am a member of on Facebook and join them for brunch.  We went to Bubbalicious at the Westin.  It was my first time having brunch there and it was definitely a party.  People were yelling and dancing and alcohol was flowing.  There was even a soul train line going through the restaurant with a bunny.  I ate so much seafood and drank too much beer, wine and bubbly.  I met some really nice people and will be more actively involved with this group.  I had a ball hanging out with them.  We were the last to leave the brunch and me and another girl got in trouble because we thought it would be fun to abandon our heels and adulthood and jump in a bouncy house in the middle of the hotel.   Who does this?  I’ll tell you- two drunk girls who were just enjoying life.  In between being laughed at and recorded by a couple enjoying some food in the lobby and security waving us out, the air was let out of the bouncy house as well as the air out of our sails.   I just hoped our shenanigans wouldn’t land us in bigger trouble.  Afterwards we went to La Cigale hotel to smoke Shisha.  I had another engagement to attend with some coworkers, too tipsy to drive, so I left my car at the hotel valet and took an uber to the third affair of the day which was at the Radisson Blu hotel.  Since I was so late to that party, I hugged everyone, enjoyed another beer- you heard me- and we all hopped in a car headed someplace else.  One of my girlfriends picked up my car from the other hotel and drove it to their house.  After the fourth affair we went to my girlfriend Jennifer’s house where I crashed.

I usually do not drink that much because I hate over hangs and that is exactly what I had this morning.  As I drove home, I prayed that I’d make it home without throwing up into my handbag.   It was not one of my finer moments, but it was fun.  Needless to say, I probably will not be drinking again, any time soon, so the QDC (liquor store) can stop sending me text messages of the last day to purchase alcoholic beverages before the store closes for Ramadan- about a month.  Not today Satan.  I don’t need or want any of your spirits and fruits.  I wonder how many other people had a night like mine, trying to get that last celebration in before the holiday.

FB_IMG_1495195220920
New friends in Qatar
20170519_150551
Soul Train line with a bunny
20170519_150544
Getting done
20170519_171732
Having fun
20170519_175554
In the bouncy house. Don’t judge!

28/5/17- Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak is how people greet each other during this special month.  (Sort of like Happy Easter or Merry Christmas)  Ramadan officially started yesterday.   I heard the sound of the Canon last night.  It is a way they communicate that it is time to break the fast for the day and Iftar may begin.

FYI:

  • During Ramadan, work hours are reduced for most people.  For us teachers, work starts at 8:00am and ends at 1:00pm.  This is also the school hours for students everyday except for Tuesday.  On Tuesday, students get out at 12:00 pm.  This is wonderful news.  No more getting up at 5:00am for the rest of the school year, 3 weeks to go! Today was the first day, unfortunately, my body is so used to getting up that at 5:15 am I had to use the bathroom.  I was so irritated at myself, but I managed to get back under the covers and fall asleep for another hour.  It was lovely.
  • Adults are not allowed to eat or drink in public, not even in their car, from sun-up to sun-down.  Many restaurants don’t even open.  Fortunately, you can order take away from some places and delivery from others.  You can get a fine if you are caught eating in public or even jail time, whether you are Muslim or not.  It’s about respect and consideration for those who are fasting.  You can eat and drink in private places, like your home.  Yesterday, I went to the nail salon and was surprised that I was offered coffee and tea.
  • Children below 4th grade generally are not required to fast but they can.   Of my 12 students that came to school today, 2 of them partook in lunch, the others claimed to be fasting.  I made it clear to them, not to judge those who were not.
  • In the evening, most families have a huge meal, called Iftar.  Some even give food away. Yesterday at the Corniche, police officers were giving away food.
  • I’ve heard that the malls stay open very late and if you go, it will be like Black Friday at 2 in the morning, as parents purchase gifts for their kids for the end of Ramadan celebration, called Eid.  I’ll let you know my experience when I go late at night.  My son and I went to ‘The Mall’ yesterday and it was an absolute ghost town.
  • It is such a delight seeing men run to the mosque for morning and evening prayer, some running into the mosque and some simply praying outside in groups.   I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.   It is really something.

20170526_115241

Last night, my friend Jennifer held the first Iftar.  We enjoyed a light dinner and each other’s company.  I have 3 more Iftar’s that I will be attending this week including one with my job and another with friends from the BSoQ facebook group.  Ramadan is indeed a special time in Qatar.   Sadly, I will not be here to see the whole thing play through as I will be headed on some more adventures on my way home to the states.

FB_IMG_1495986668040

Ramadan Kareem everyone from Qatar!

Advertisements

Finally some Familiarity

I knew that if anyone would come to see me overseas it would be my big sister and the day finally came…

I knew that if anyone would come to see me overseas it would be my big sister and the day finally came on Friday, January 31.  She traveled a long way to see me and the boys and I wanted her to enjoy herself, so I had a lot planned.  As soon as I picked her up from the airport, I took her to our villa, we changed clothes and I whisked her off to brunch.  Brunch is a big deal in Qatar and I wanted her to experience it.  After brunch, I took her back home so she could rest because Jet Lag is no joke.  On day 2, we went to the Villagio Mall and walked around. We grabbed some food and headed home because Jet Lag is no joke.

On Sunday, my hubby arrived and life was grand.  We grabbed some breakfast at Ric’s Country Kitchen and took a stroll down on the Corniche.  Later on we met up with some friends at Souk Waqif.  There was a festival happening there.  We grabbed some dinner, watched the parades and enjoyed a shisha.  Afterwards we walked back over to the Corniche and took a Dhow boat ride through the Gulf.  I’ve seen these boats every time I’ve gone down to the Corniche but never went on so this was something new for all of us. We had a great time.  We played our music, danced, talked, took pictures and enjoyed each other’s company.  It was actually one of my favorite days in Doha.

[But there was a small mishap that occurred that I feel the need to mention.  It was pretty crowded in the souq and as we pushed through the crowd to make our way out, a young man who was walking with some other guys, yelled at my husband, “what’s up Nigga!”.  Pause right. WAIT, WHAT!  My husband stopped in his tracks and turned toward the guy.  He was ready to fight, so I wrapped my arm around his, turned to the guy, yelled, “watch your mouth”, and pulled my husband away.  After discussing this issue and calming my 6 foot, 215 lb, black, husband down, we summized that maybe, just maybe, the guy was being cordial.  Granted it was extremely disrespectful and inappropriate but the guy’s face was total shock when he saw my husbands demeanor change, and the way he said it was not disrespectfully. Of course he was not African American, nor did he look white but you don’t say that to a Black man if you are not black yourself.  You don’t say that to a black man if you are black and you all do not have that type of relationship.  Unfortunately, it is in the music and people that don’t know any better think that, this is okay.  IT IS NOT OKAY! In fact in America, you pretty much get your ass whooped or killed for saying something dumb like that out of your mouth.  But we are not in America, so some things you just have to shake off and not take personal.  You learn a lot here!] Moving on…

The next day I was hosting my first get together at my villa.  I did it for several reasons. One big reason was because I wanted my sister and hubby to know that we are surrounded by support and we are ok.  Also we were catching our flight to the Maldives at 2:00 a.m. (be sure to read my blog on the Maldives) and I wanted to get the party started early.  The get together turned out really nice.

While Darryl and I were away, I left some money with the boys so they could take Ericka out.  On Friday, Feb 3, it was Ericka’s birthday and I had planned a surprise dune bashing event for her.  Unfortunately, it was a sand storm that day but they said they had fun. When Darryl and I returned, I got really sad because they would be leaving me in two days.

On Sunday, everybody left, and the house got real quiet.  I had finally had some familiarity here with me in Doha and for a short while, it really felt like home.  Depression can set in really fast when you are overseas.  You have to work hard to not fall into it.  Blogging helps me as well as planning trips and planning for my husband’s next visit.  I have to remind myself why I’m here, but I know I wouldn’t trade it for going back home.  It’s not easy every day.  Some days are better than others.  Some days I feel really sad and melancholy. The first few days after they left felt like pure torture. I could not get rid of the lump in my throat.

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-7-30-00-pm

But there are way more days, that I’m happy.  Like when I recall all the traveling I’ve done since I’ve been here, and the traveling I will do that I would not have been able to were it not for this fantastic opportunity.  Or when I look at my American debt decreasing.  Or when I talk to my husband every day and realize how much stronger our relationship has grown.  Or when I look at how much my son has matured over the last few months and learned.  I think about all the people I’ve met and new friends I’ve made and I smile because I have no regrets even when I’m sad.

Having visitors helps a lot.  Having my sister and my husband here at the same time was God sent.  I was super happy that week.  Darryl will be back in April and I can’t wait.  Let the count down begin!

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-7-30-36-pm