‘A sense of bonding’: Expats share their Ramadan stories

During Ramadan, people get into the spirit of giving while enjoying time with their friends and relatives. (File/Reuters)
Updated 08 June 2018
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‘A sense of bonding’: Expats share their Ramadan stories

  • Most Muslim expats in Saudi Arabia prefer fasting here than in their own countries.
  • During Ramadan, working and school hours are reduced to five or six hours a day so that people can rest before sunset, the time when the fast is broken.

JEDDAH: For many, Ramadan offers a spiritual journey unrivalled by any other time of the year. People look forward to the peaceful atmosphere and get into the spirit of giving while enjoying time with their friends and family.

However, this is not the case all over the world as Muslims in many countries face Ramadan just like they would any other month of the year. 

Most Muslim expats in Saudi Arabia prefer fasting here than in their own countries. By law Saudi Arabia does not allow eating, drinking or smoking during daylight hours in Ramadan, which makes the fast a lot easier.

Linda Fletcher, originally from the US, said: “When you see everyone around you fasting and sharing this experience with you, not only does it make it easier, it also creates a sense of bonding with others, no matter where they are from.

“Ramadan here creates a feeling of humility and thankfulness, which makes this month special.”

During Ramadan, working and school hours are reduced to five or six hours a day so that people can rest before sunset, the time when the fast is broken.

Shereen Vawda said “Ramadan in South Africa is more somber and the day is just like any other — we start and finish work at normal time, usually from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”  Vawda described her first Ramadan in Saudi Arabia “as a bit of a culture shock.”

“While we were pleasantly surprised to see the shorter working day, initially we did not take advantage of this by staying up later than usual. We went to bed after Taraweeh prayer and it was only later that we thought of venturing out into the streets and discovered that Jeddah was a vibrant and stunning city at night. Back home, the roads fall silent by 10 p.m.”

Another common feature of Ramadan is the act of giving. People tend to perform good deeds and offer charity.

Faiza Khan said that it is the acts of kindness she looks forward to most: “Seeing the number of people who get together and volunteer to help others is heartwarming.” 

Ramadan motivated her to do charity work herself.

“I started to take advantage of the various offers at supermarkets to buy basic food items in bulk and distribute them to those in need,” she said.  “Seeing the look on their faces when these necessities are given to them is totally worth it.”

Although Ramadan does have its benefits, some people take time to adapt to the customs and differences of the holy month.

One ritual for Saudis during Ramadan is the shift in time. During the day, the hustle and bustle of the city slows down while the nights come alive. Going about the streets, one can see Saudis enjoying predawn meals (sahoor) with friends and family, going shopping in malls or attending bazaars and events. Children are also seen enjoying the late-night activities. 

Shakira Essop, a mother of four, said: “Even though I have been living in the Kingdom for 10 years, I still haven’t grown accustomed to the late nights, especially when it comes to my kids. I feel it is important that they get 10 hours of sleep as it is vital to support their rapid mental and physical development.” 

However, she confessed that every now and then she enjoyed a late night with friends sipping Arabic coffee and smoking sheesha. 

One thing is certain: Ramadan in Saudi Arabia provides those who experience it with a sense of humility, appreciation and a special connection. This unique experience is something they often miss when they return  to their homelands.


Ronaldinho plans Saudi Arabia football academy in Jeddah

Updated 49 min 2 sec ago
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Ronaldinho plans Saudi Arabia football academy in Jeddah

  • Backstage at Misk Global Forum, Brazilian football legend reveals intention to open school some time next year
  • Player offered advice for audience, speaking about the value of teamwork, learning from failure and the rewards of giving back

RIYADH: Ronaldinho plans to open a football academy in Jeddah some time next year, the Brazilian football legend revealed to Arab News backstage in an exclusive interview after his appearance at the Misk Global Forum on Wednesday.

“First of all, I want to say thank you for a warm reception and kindness which I have received from the Saudi people,” he told Arab News. “As for the kids, those who want to be a player some day, dedicate as much as you can and follow your dreams.”

Earlier, Ronaldinho appeared on stage to a chorus of cheers at the end of the day’s sessions, where he gave a talk titled the Discipline – and Fun – of Teamwork. 

”I was lucky enough to be on a team with stars,” he said of his career with European clubs Paris St-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan, and a World Cup win in 2002 with the Brazilian national team. “We all respected each other.

“For me it was wonderful, because my history with this team and players was a beautiful one: To idolize them and later play with them and later win titles again…”

Ronaldinho said he feels grateful for his God-given talent. “Throughout my career we had a plan, and I always worked hard. God gave me the privilege to play football. It was fun, not a sacrifice.”

“I’ve always liked to have a ball around me, to have contact with the ball.”

His advice for the audience? “Prepare yourself and help your colleague or team member,” he said. “Humility is important. Try to stay humble.”

He also said to train hard, read as much as you can and don’t fear failure. “I failed a lot of times,” he said. “Football is like that. You can’t always win. You have to seek lessons from the defeats and not lose hope.” 

Now that he’s retired, Ronaldinho is more concerned with giving back. “After I stopped playing, I have soccer academies. That’s what I’m proud of, and it has given me pleasure. To give something back (as a)  thanks to football and everything it have given me.”