Ramadan spent abroad can be special because of how difficult it is, say Saudi students

Attendees at the first US open iftar held in Portland, Oregon in 2016. Ramadan Tent Project
Updated 27 May 2018
0

Ramadan spent abroad can be special because of how difficult it is, say Saudi students

  • Fasting during Ramadan while abroad is very unique in the sense that, as with many situations in life
  • Seeing people of all nationalities from around the world joining together in prayer is a beautiful thing

JEDDAH: As Muslims around the world are fasting, Arab News got some exclusive insights into how Saudi students in particular cope with this while abroad. We found that some students welcome the added burden of being away from family, customary foods and traditions, while others who have gone back to Saudi Arabia noticed a shift in how society embraces the month of Ramadan from a social standpoint.
Nawaf Basrawi, a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, details the struggle of fasting Ramadan while abroad. “It’s not the same (fasting in the US). It’s more of an individual challenge, living in a city that doesn’t know, and frankly, doesn’t care. Temptations are not shielded from us and nobody will be reorganizing the day to lessen that burden.
“It’s not like Saudi Arabia, where we can hear the adhan for every prayer, working hours are shortened, and we can enjoy all the traditional foods with the added comfort of family and friends.
“All of this is missing when we spend it over here. We have to rely on ourselves to create that warmth and search for the right accommodation as best we can.
“We do have access to a nice Middle Eastern market that imports some traditional foods, but it’s still difficult. What’s most difficult is managing that void of not having family around.”
Fotoon Al-Rashid, an art senior studying at the University of San Francisco, gave an alternative perspective on how to approach Ramadan while living in a foreign country. Speaking to Arab News by phone, she said: “In some ways, it is like how Ramadan was during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) — where we live in a culture where Muslims are a minority and have many wrongful stereotypes attached to them. A Ramadan where life goes on as if it is any other day.
“The working hours don’t change, and so we must be up during the day working regular hours, going to classes, and then breaking our fast in the evening, praying, and then going to bed relatively early for work or classes again the next morning. However, I’ve learned to welcome this unique struggle of fasting Ramadan in the US.
“Ramadan should be all about solidarity with those that are less fortunate. Those unfortunate ones who are not giving up food and drink by choice, but rather by circumstance. I can understand this and I feel this more living in San Francisco during Ramadan. I have to see homeless people every day who are living their life essentially in an involuntary fasting state. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
While some students embrace the added hardships of being away from home during Ramadan, Saudi student Naif Al-Harthi has quite a different outlook on the contrasts of spending Ramadan in Saudi Arabia as opposed to the US.
Al-Harthi, a business student who has since settled in the US after graduating from Norfolk University, spoke about Ramadan in the Kingdom with a sense of nostalgia, although from his perspective the atmosphere of this holy month in Saudi Arabia is not quite what it used to be. Speaking to Arab News he said: “Last year, I was very much looking forward to spending my first Ramadan in Jeddah, after seven years in Virginia.
“I was surprised to see how disengaged people have become from Ramadan traditions.”
He continued: “When I was a child during the 1990s, people were committed to frequent family visits, but I suppose with the new generation, things have started to change. People started celebrating Ramadan just between themselves, it seemed. Family visits started to become less frequent; even the cooking is not as authentic as how I remember. More common now is families ordering in and catering their iftar and suhoor or going out to restaurants. It took away some of that special warmth of this month for me,” he said.
Fasting during Ramadan while abroad is very unique in the sense that, as with many situations in life, perspective can often be the most important factor in efficiently managing the whole process. After hearing the different Saudi viewpoints, it is seemingly a contrast of comfort and hardship.
The connection that Ramadan should give us with the needy, with those who are suffering without a steady supply of food and drink, that particular experience, can certainly be felt more abroad than in Saudi Arabia for some.
Living in Saudi Arabia, or any other Muslim-majority country for that matter, individuals often get to sleep during the day as their working hours are reduced. In a way, it is easing the whole purpose of that burden of really feeling that solidarity of hunger and thirst with those who are less fortunate. Ramadan spent abroad, in that sense, can be really special precisely because of how difficult it is.
Going to mosques particularly is a beautiful thing. Often in the US, there are only a few in any given city, and so they serve as a magnet for all Muslims in that general area. Seeing people of all nationalities from around the world joining together in prayer is a beautiful thing. It’s a true representation of how global Islam really is.
So, taking into consideration the other added burdens of fasting while abroad, for Saudi students with the right perspective, it can lead to just as spiritual an experience, if not more, than fasting in the comfort of their home country.


Saudi Commission for Tourism completes training for Hajj guides

Muslim worshippers perform prayers around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah on August 15, 2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
0

Saudi Commission for Tourism completes training for Hajj guides

  • A license takes any traditional work to a professional level, and hosting pilgrims must be included in this initiative, as part of Vision 2030
  • We must look at tourism as an industry through which we present our vision, our goals and our ambitions

MAKKH: In a breakthrough initiative for Tawafa institutions, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has completed the training of 135 male and female Tawafa guides — religious guides for Hajj pilgrims — who have obtained tour guide licenses.
The training is the first step in a program that will enable national Tawafa establishments to obtain tour guide licenses. The ceremony for the first of the tour guides to graduate from the training course took place in Makkah on Tuesday, at the National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Arab Countries (ARBHAJ).
SCTH Director-General Dr. Hisham bin Mohammed Madani said the commission has honored more than 135 male and female “Mutawwifs,” or guides, from ARBHAJ under the partnership between the SCTH and the ARBHAJ to train Tawafa guides to obtain tour guide licenses.
Madani said this is the first phase of an initiative to train guides at all Tawafa establishments, introducing pilgrims to a new concept by helping them visit all historical and archaeological sites and museums in Makkah after performing Hajj rituals.
“Tour guides are more and more dynamic and effective in the tourism industry, and have become an important and effective source of historical information,” he said and added that the tour guide now also functions as an ambassador for the authentic culture of the Kingdom, reflecting its cultural, natural and historical heritage.
Licensing Tawaf guides as tour guides, Madani said, will enrich the tourist experience in the holy capital.
The SCTH chief noted that the city is rich with myriad cultural treasures that need someone to showcase them for tourists.
“We at SCTH presented our experience in qualifying accredited tour guides and we look forward to improving tourism outputs to match the reality and requirements of the new phase,” he said. “In order to reach this goal, we are collaborating with all partners to reach satisfactory results to deal with all nationalities, tongues and cultural backgrounds from all parts of the world with satisfaction, love and positivity.”
“We must look at tourism as an industry through which we present our vision, our goals and our ambitions. Makkah is the holy city that every Muslim looks forward to visiting after hearing about its great heritage. Our role is to provide knowledge and keep abreast of the tourist vision by qualifying and training tour guides, equipping them with the necessary skills and qualifications and honing their skills through required training programs. To this end, all partners must join their efforts and collaborate together to reach the desired goals.”

Initiative
Dr. Abdul Fattah bin Suleiman Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said that the ministry is implementing an initiative to provide a professional license for everyone working at Hajj, not just in Tawaf.
He said: “A license takes any traditional work to a professional level, and hosting pilgrims must be included in this initiative, as part of Vision 2030, to focus on enriching the pilgrims’ experience, and not only on increasing their numbers.”
Mashat said it was important for pilgrims’ journeys to be coupled with trips to historical and archaeological sites. “We rely on male and female Tawaf guides to organize well-thought-out trips for the pilgrims so that they can enjoy all the historical and archaeological sites and landmarks in Makkah,” he added.