A cooler Ramadan may bring an easier fast

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Worshippers pray at the courtyard of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. (SPA file photo)
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Worshippers pray at the courtyard of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. (SPA file photo)
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An aerial view of the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah. (SPA file photo)
Updated 17 May 2018

A cooler Ramadan may bring an easier fast

  • As Saudi Arabia begins fasting with the rest of the Muslim world today, they look forward to moving out of the heat of past years.
  • The highest temperature recorded in Saudi Arabia during the past 45 years was 53 degrees Celsius, which was reached in both Al-Ahsa and Al-Kharj during the summer of 2015.

JEDDAH: As Muslims in Saudi Arabia on Thursday start their first day of fasting for Ramadan, they might notice the weather is a bit cooler at the start of the holy month than it has been for several years, at least in the mornings and evenings.

Many will be relieved to know that the blazing hot Ramadans of recent memory may be over for another generation. According to Dr. Khalid Al-Zaaq, a member of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, the hottest Ramadan periods are over. 

“Saudis last fasted during a hot Ramadan in the summer of 2014,” said the renowned astronomer. “Since then, temperatures began to gradually come down and to be noticeably low starting from 2015.” 

According to Dr. Abdullah Al-Misnid, geography professor at Qassim University, Saudis experienced hot Ramadan seasons from September 2007 through to June 2015, when temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius and 43 degrees Celsius, respectively. 

The highest temperature recorded in Saudi Arabia during the past 45 years was 53 degrees Celsius, which was reached in both Al-Ahsa and Al-Kharj during the summer of 2015.

However, temperatures in Saudi Arabia differ from one region to another. The average summer temperature in the coastal cities of Makkah and Jeddah might be only 37 degrees Celsius, but these costal areas are far more humid than the country’s inland cities.

This year the beginning of Ramadan coincides with the spring, when Saudi Arabia normally has sandstorms, ranging from mild, dusty days to moderate or severe low visibility and terrible winds. The minimum temperature in Riyadh is 33 degrees Celsius.

This brings to mind colder Ramadan seasons, from 1988 to 1997. Al-Zaaq told Arab News that in 1988, central parts of the Kingdom experienced very low temperatures. “However, the northern parts of the country witnessed the lowest recorded temperatures in 1992. In that year the mercury went to down to critical levels,” he said.

On the other hand, he added, some of the highest temperatures in the Kingdom were recorded in 1986, 2007 and 2012. “Such heat waves reoccur once every four years, and this is normal.”

Al-Zaaq pointed out that this year’s Ramadan comes at the end of a “hot spring,” and the holy month will fall in the spring for the next three years.In 2023, Ramadan will fall in the end of the winter. He said that seven years from now, Ramadan will take place at the beginning of the winter and will continue to fall during that season for nine years.

Salih Farhah, a 46-year-old government sector employee, said people used to rejoice when knowing that Ramadan would be in the winter, because the shorter days and cooler temperatures made the fast easier.

He added that his mother was strict when it came to religious matters, and she would not have allowed him to drink water in Ramadan during the day except when she feared her son would fall unconscious.

“I remember when I was approximately 9 or 10 in Al-Hindawiyah neighborhood, my late mother just started to encourage me to refrain from eating or drinking during the daytime of Ramadan. One day she noticed that I was parched. Her affectionate heart forced her to allow me to have only a sip of water,” Farhah said.

Recalling his fasting memories throughout the different seasons of Ramadan, schoolteacher Ahmed Rabea, 54, told Arab News that some of the most difficult days to fast were during the period from 2008 to 2015, when the temperatures were high and the daytime was longer than the night. 

Rabea remembered when he had to work for about 19 days in 2008, describing that experience as “real torture” because he did not  have enough time to sleep well and had to stand before his students in a state of attentiveness. “It is a custom that we spend Ramadan nights in praying Taraweeh, visiting relatives and even hosting guests, but that year, I suffered a lot as I had to get up at nine in the morning for work,” Rabea said.

He added he found it difficult to go out during those years because the heat in Jeddah was unbearable. “I spent most of the daytime sleeping,” he said. 

Decoder

What does Ramadan mean?

The word Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root Ramad, which means blazing heat. The name dates from before Prophet Muhammad’s time, the Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) Age. At that time, Ramadan was at the beginning of the summer season, which clearly explains the relationship between the word and its meaning.


Life getting back to normal as restaurants, coffee shops reopen across KSA

It is also mandatory for restaurants and coffee shops to check the temperature of customers, and ensure a space of at least 1.5 meters between them. (AN photo by Fahad Al-Zahrani)
Updated 01 June 2020

Life getting back to normal as restaurants, coffee shops reopen across KSA

  • The government has laid out rules and regulations for employees returning to work in the state and private sectors

RIYADH: Restaurants and coffee shops in Saudi Arabia have reopened their dine-in sections to customers after more than two months of closure as a part of the lockdown imposed by the government to limit the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The reopening comes as a part of the second phase of a government plan, announced on May 26, to resume economic activity and gradually return to normal.
The second phase reduces the curfew and increases time allowed for people to venture out to 14 hours a day, and permitted the resumption of domestic flights.
Arab News toured different neighborhoods in Riyadh, and noticed a large number of people meeting their families and friends in restaurants and coffee shops. Most of them adhered to the government’s regulations of social distancing and were wearing face masks.
Siham Hassanain, CEO and founder of Siham International Trading Co. that owns and operates a chain of restaurants and coffee shops, said that she had not expected such a huge number of people to show up.
 “People want to go out, yet the coronavirus still exists. It still poses a danger and is still spreading.”
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural affairs posted a series of tweets regarding the protocol that restaurants and coffee shops should follow.
As per the protocol, they are obliged to limit the maximum number of clients who can sit at a table to 5 people unless members of one family. It is also mandatory for restaurants and coffee shops to check the temperature of customers, and ensure a space of at least 1.5 meters between them.
The regulations also advise food providers to use disposable items to serve food such as paper or plastic cups and dishes as well as electronic food menus. It also restricts some practices that may contribute to the spread of the virus such as serving Shisha or opening children’s playing areas in shops.
Hassanain said that most people were complying with government instructions, and most of the violations had come from teenagers and young adults.
Riham Ahmed, a 23-year-old student from Riyadh, said she chose to have her lunch with her friends in a restaurant despite fears expressed by her family.
“I’m taking all the preventive measures, putting (on) my face mask and staying away from crowded places, but I have to meet people and go outside, I can’t afford more time of isolation at home,” she said.
The government has also laid out rules and regulations for employees returning to work in the state and private sectors. For the time being, offices are not to be filled to capacity, with only 30 percent of employees allowed to occupy them at any given time, and those in offices must have their temperatures checked prior to entering the building.
The rules also state that handshakes are banned, face masks must be worn at all times, and employees must use sanitizer to wash their hands regularly throughout the day. Furthermore, employees with preexisting health conditions such as immune deficiencies, asthma or respiratory problems, or the morbidly obese, are all exempt from returning to work.

FASTFACT

The reopening comes as a part of the second phase of a government plan, announced on May 26, to resume economic activity and gradually return to normal.

The ministry also recommends that digital means be relied on as much as possible in order to minimize contact and try to prevent people from returning to their offices unless necessary. The full list of regulations is available on the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development’s website.
Sarah S, a government employee, told Arab News that she had gone back to work but that she was not sure how much she liked the environment. “The office was mostly empty, and it felt wrong. Like when you stay late on a Thursday or come in on a weekend. It’s very eerie and a little unsettling to see so many empty desks,” she said.
She added that while the office was taking every precaution, people were still cautious about the reopening and a constant sense of apprehension still filled the office.
“Everyone is on edge. It will take a lot of time for us to readjust to the idea of being in an office. Things that seemed so normal and mundane before, like handshakes, or sharing files, are all causes for concern now,” she said. However, some employees, who are still working from home, feel the opposite way and wish that they could be in the office instead.
Nawaf M, a human resources employee at a private company in Riyadh, said that everyone from his department was still working from home, but he would prefer to be in the office.
“I don’t like working from home. I feel like the office atmosphere is so important to maintaining a sense of professionalism and producing results,” he said.
While he realized that the threat of the coronavirus is still strong, he said that practicing good “pandemic etiquette” would ensure his safety and allow life to regain some normality again.