‘Ramadan Kareem’ – roughly translated to ‘Generous Ramadan’ is something you will here being said a lot if you are travelling in Jordan (or anywhere in the Middle East!) over the next month,
Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar where people fast between sunrise and sunset as part of a time of self reflections and spiritual empowerment as part of the 5 pillars of Islam. As a tourist in a Jordan – a mainly Muslim country, during this month you may find some services and business working reduced hours causing a little disruption to your plans – however, it can also be a great opportunity to experience the local culture and festivities that you would not get to see at any other time.
Ramadan usually starts on the first evening when Muslim scholars first see the crescent moon and then lasts for 28-30 days, or a full lunar cycle until the next crescent moon. Between sunrise and sunset Muslims are not allowed to eat/drink/smoke or take part in any other activity that could be considered sinful. There are a few people that are exceptions to this such as pregnant and breastfeeding women, elderly, children, those that are ill and people travelling.
The government usually reduce the amount of time people are expected to work during the month of Ramadan as they are not allowed to eat/drink/smoke for sometimes over 12 hours a day, the working hours are reduced to just 6 hours a day to allow people time to rest in an afternoon as well as to prepare a feast for Iftah or ‘break-fast’.
Most hotels and tourist sites will be open and working as normal, but most shops/restaurants and businesses will be following the reduced hours. This year the government has announced this to be between 10 am and 3 pm. Although smaller supermarkets may not open at all until 4 or 5 pm but will remain open until after midnight.
Iftah – is the name of the meal that Muslims eat at sunset. The right time to start eating is usually sounded by a canon fire followed by the call to prayer at the mosque. The fast is then traditionally broken by drinking milk or fresh fruit juice, water and dates, after prayer Iftah is then served. Usually a joyous time for family and friends to gather round and share the food and drink with each other. Most restaurants and hotels offer extravagant feasts and open buffets for you to enjoy some amazing local cuisines. Usually followed by Arabic shai (sweet mint tea) or Turkish coffee, and a generous serving of ‘khadiyef’ – pastries stuffed with nuts, coconut or sweet cheese covered in a sweet sticky honey syrup. As food and drink is allowed all through the night – entertainment and parties usually go on late in to the early morning.
Although Ramadan sounds like its a month of sacrifice and suffering with people going over 12 hours a day in searing summer heat with out food or water – but actually because of peoples faith and the reasons behind the fasting it is actually a time of celebration and festivities with family and friends similar to that seen in western cultures at Christmas. Walking through the cities you will see many coloured lights and lanterns hanging as well as crescent moons and stars as symbols of the month. In the evenings there may also be music and dancing, plus special events such as open air performances and midnight markets. http://aboveandbelow.info/jordan-in-ramadan/When in Amman make sure you visit the Abdali Boulevard or the Citadel for different events during Ramadan.
Ramadan is also a time for generosity and sharing what you have with others, so expect the characteristic hospitality of the Jordanians to go in to overdrive this month! The usual invitation to join a local for a cup of tea or coffee may now extend to a whole meal, sweets fruits or cakes (after sunset of course!).
As most people you meet here will be fasting, it is not expected for you to. In hotels, tourist sites such as Petra and Jerash and those few restaurants that are open during the day eating/drinking is acceptable. Although as a mark of respect to the local culture it is recommended not to eat, drink or smoke in other public places during the day.
If you wish to greet someone and wish them a ‘Happy Ramadan’ the phases ‘ Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak can be used, and as a reply you simply say the same back to them.
Ramadan Kareem to All!