Since moving to the UAE 305 days ago, I have learnt so much about the Arab culture and religion, patience and acceptance. These three things (I'm not proud to admit it) are areas where I would classify myself as having been quite weak. To be honest I knew NOTHING about the Arab Culture let alone the Muslim religion/faith. Patience and acceptance were also traits I did not posses.
The UAE - as mentioned before - is an incredibly vibrant, accepting and patient environment. I feel like I have grown as an individual, I feel like now I can proudly hold my head up in society as an adult.
In SA, well at least this is true for me, I was incredibly ignorant and somewhat self-centred when it came to other people. Now don't get me wrong I don’t think I had my head stuck in some cloud but I certainly could have made more of an effort to learn about other cultures and in particular other religions.
So for the next month here in the UAE and around the world is a time when Arabs and muslims celebrate Ramadan. Now at this point I feel the need to apologise to all the students I taught back home in SA for being so ignorant and simply unaware! Sorry for being my over-the-top self in class when you were trying to be peaceful, sorry for teaching topics which were somewhat sensitive and sorry for being an arrogant idiot!
Ramadan began on Monday the 6th June and until the 6th July things here in the UAE are very different.
Its only been two days so far and already I have learnt so much. I have a new found respect for the Muslim faith. This is a good time to point out that I have never experienced Ramdan before so I’m a newbie!
So for those of you who aren't aware let me shed some light on what that means:
So what does the mean for us or in particular me? Well in short it means that in order for me to be respectful, accepting and patient I need to ensure that I don't offend anyone!
So only eating in my home, not drinking, eating, shouting, listening to music, loud laughter and smoking (which I haven't taken up) in public. Now the Quran does not say or give Muslims an “out” - they must still go to work and school, life must continue - and it does! However, our school times are different, shopping times are different and in general things change slightly. We start school and hour later and finish 15 minutes earlier - been great to get an hours extra sleep in the mornings, even though my body clock still thinks it good to wake at around 05h35.
I now have a new found admiration for Muslims and the faith. I tried to fast on Monday, I ate my breakfast super early and gave it a bash. I didn't last very long, by 10am I was dying of thirst and my stomach was crying out for something.
So in keeping with the title of this post acceptance is key. I have heard many people complain that this is a terrible time to be in the UAE, things don’t work well during Ramadan, people are grumpy and short tempered (if I came into contact with someone who was, I’m not sure I’d blame them - I’m no fun when I’m hungry!) driving becomes a nightmare or worse than it is already. Having driven to Duabi this evening to catch a flight home I didn't encounter anything out of the ordinary but for increased traffic when people were making their way home to break the fast. If it were me I would probably have taken everything in my way out to get to some food - I mean I do that even when I’m not fasting (hehehe).
I have maintained that we are in a country that has accepted us as workers the least we could do is respect their faith!
So to all my Muslim colleagues and friends Ramadan Kareem, may it be a time of blessing for you and your families. I look forward to continually learning from you and your ways.