Libya: The Ramadan Special

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, begins in all parts of the Islamic world. Depending on where you are located, it could have either started, will start tomorrow or even Tuesday in some areas.

The Libyan blogosphere is being populated by Ramadan posts and while most of them are of a congratulatory nature such as this example from the Alwafy blog run by the duo Hassen and Hana, others have a different flavour.

WEDA 4 All revives the beautiful Libyan traditions of her Benghazi city and she takes us on a virtual tour of the Fish Market (Soug al hoot) which she used to visit with her parents.

“you can't be in Benghazi in ramadn & u don't go there…..really you'll miss alot… you go there you'll see the crowed which starts at abut 2pm..alot of home made libyan bread “tanoor”, harrisa, emsaer, boreek, olives, knafaa,…etc..& of course fireworks.[sic]”

There is another touching part to her post but you'll need to go read to understand.

Then there is PH from My Personal Space who highlights several negative societal aspects in the Arab world associated with Ramadan and which apply to Libya as well. These come as a result of – in my opinion – the very fast loss of values which is plaguing our region lately. I cannot pinpoint what brought it and when it began exactly but I admit it is forming a part of the mosaic of our society and culture. So the extensive number of cartoons he has posted reflects: preoccupation with Ramadan TV programmes, extreme socialising of youth instead of spiritual quests, hypocrisy and addictions, bad timekeeping and other bad practices at the office, greed and lust, soaring prices, conspiracy theories from satellite providers and the ‘West’, and not forgetting that it would not be PH without the odd political insinuation and so we have the Arab street looking the other way at Arab hot topics and my personal favourite is the cartoon with the US military arresting the Mesaharati (aka the person who traditionally wakes up Muslims so they can have their suhour i.e the Ramadan breakfast before sunrise) and accusing him of terrorism intention.

On the edge, an American married to a Libyan is counting down to Ramadan. She shares with us her Ramadan preparations while her husband went to the beach:

“[…]stayed home to spend the day in the kitchen cooking food to freeze ahead for Ramadan. Ramadan is only a little more than a week away [.]I am hoping that by cooking as much as possible before hand, I won't be spending ALL my time in the kitchen this year [.] Today I did some more cooking by preparing all the pickled veggies by setting them to start marinating. Tomorrow I hope to finish up with baking the pizzas. I also cooked up the soups too. All this goes into the freezer to be taken out as needed for dinners. Next I have to tackle the house cleaning …ugh ! I hate that part more than the cooking .Ramadan is 90% preparation and 10% doing what needs to be done. This isn't the correct way to celebrate Ramadan but it helps to get these things out of the way so you can devote your time to prayer, charitable acts, good deeds, good thoughts, and being good. Behaving well, being the operative words here. That's why prayer is so good, it keeps you on track [..]”

The humour notwithstanding she does manage to remind us that Ramadan is about tapping into your spirituality and connection with God which is Ramadan's message and blessing.

And while we are on the subject of 3ibadah (tenets of worshipping God) and spirituality, another Ramadan related post is by White African , a Libyan in Britain. She recently returned from Umrah and is sharing with us the beautiful spirit of Mecca and Medinah from her clandestine mobile phone camera.

“seeing the haram again was amazing, the whole place takes over you and you forget about all your problems, life, bills, application forms etc… its simply serenity…obviously i took pictures but the ones inside the haram where from my mobile as my camera is too big to hide […] its always weird to come back after visiting mecca and madina, you kinda get absorbed by the life style of praying in the haram and listening to the adhan and generally having more ibadah in your life[..]mecca and madina is filling up pretty fast with people who are coming especially for ramadan, by the time we left it was choca block…”

Another facet is expressed by Khadijateri, an American living in Tripoli and married to a Libyan. Like On the edge, she is making her own Ramadan preparations.

“I've spent the weekend relaxing and getting things ready for Ramadan[…]The shopping part was the pleasant part. I got a new blender and a microwave oven. Also some stuff for the kitchen; plastic containers and soup spoons. I have plenty of everything for the kitchen already. I also picked up some curtains for my bedroom and a small furniture dealie with three drawers in it that fits nicely under my desk. I didn't need those but I wanted them and cash was in my pocket so I got them. I decided that for the groceries I'm not going to go shopping for anything special. There's a shop around the corner that always has just about everything I need.”

She also hits Libyans under the belt:

I can't understand why Libyans go berserk at the grocery store right before Ramadan starts. You would think that all the food was going to disappear or something.

To be fair Ramadan has been increasingly commercialized in the Arab world at least and even in Libya shopping for groceries and cooking utensils and renovating kitchens has become a major aspect in pre-Ramadan planning. Also the ills of modernization and globalization are increasingly catching up with us and eroding some of the more innocent aspects of our culture making us more materialistic. Yet I would like to think that most Libyans were not shopping because they are gluttons or stupid enough to think that food would disappear soon but rather perhaps the simple reason is like on the edge implied i.e. early preparations in order to save more time for religious contemplation?

Ramadan Mabrouk to you all!


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