Islam: 1st day of Ramadan – fasting, heat and transgressio

In North Africa everything seems slow, but comes alive at night

20 July, 15:19

(ANSAmed) - Tunis, July 20 - Everything is as expected on the first day of Ramadan in North Africa, on which daily life seems suddenly to enter a new dimension in which everything happens in slow motion. There are fewer people on the street and in public offices, where modified work schedules mean public employees who have relations with the public are virtually absent. In banks, few clients and just as few employees carry on business.

There even seems to be fewer automobiles circulating, but that could be just an impression accentuated by the torrid heat that has assaulted Tunisia and Algeria for weeks, and brought on stifling temperatures and humidity in Morocco and Lybia.

Ramadan has strict rules that every good Muslim follows.

Beginning with fasting, considered a pillar of "true faith" which begins immediately after the first prayer of the day, just before dawn, and ends after sunset.

As the many hours pass, one can not eat nor drink - which poses a problem with the heat, especially for those who work outdoors. Nor can one smoke or have sex. Muslims say it is not only a set of religious restrictions, but also a way to purify the organism.

Or so goes one interpretation - there are those who will not answer the telephone.

But when night falls, one eats (and how!), smokes (a lot and quickly), and recoups all the other things "forbidden" during the day. Exceptions are made for pre-adolescent children and the sick - especially diabetics. The elderly decide for themselves - if they think they can do it, good. Otherwise, they too can break the fast.

However, good Muslims say it is only a matter of days - at least three - before the body gets used to warding off the bite of hunger.

But those few days seem endless, because with an eye on the rising and setting sun, the fasting and restraint add up to sixteen hours.

And one thinks, with a pinch of nostalgia, of the years when Ramadan arrived in the winter, when days were much shorter.

Starting from today, all public locales change their schedules. They are closed during the day, but open from late evening until deep into the night - more so today, on the eve of the weekend. This inverted work schedule is the only "vacation" many North African employees in the sector receive during the year.

But the nocturnal hours bring a richer menus and night activities - live music and karaoke among them - to render the evening more pleasant after a day of deprivation.

But there are also those who break the fasting rule, especially in the large North African cities, where it is not uncommon for cafes to keep their blinds lowered - out of respect for the faithful - but serve drinks and other things inside. Despite the efforts of all North African governments, this year's Ramadan, like others before it, was marked by the rise in food prices because of the paradoxical rise in consumption which, as always, puts pressure on demand.

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