29 June 2014

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan 2014 has officially begun!  Although I was somewhat aware of Ramadan before I moved to Jubail, I definitely don't know much about it so I've been reading up a bit.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  Muslims use the Islamic or Hijri calendar (a lunar one) to determine the proper days to observe the fast.  The calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar, so each year Ramadan moves earlier about 10 or 11 days.

Interestingly, according to traditional practice the Islamic lunar months still begin and end based on being able to see the new moon with the human eye.  So technically the new moon (and the beginning of Ramadan) was on Friday evening the 27th, with the first day of fasting on Saturday the 28th.  But since according to this website there were no confirmed sightings of the new moon until the evening of the 28th, Ramadan didn't officially start until then, with today being the first day of fasting.  (Although I've read a couple places that sometimes the starting date will vary from country to country.)

On Friday evening we happened to be having dinner on the beach with some friends and although we also didn't see the new moon, (it was just to the left of the setting sun making it difficult to see) we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

We went out again tonight and we were able to see the new moon (top picture and below) as well as Jupiter (the 'star' to the right of the moon in the picture below).

Over here people are mostly saying Ramadan Kareem, but apparently Ramadan Mubarak is also an expression used during Ramadan.  I've also noticed these phrases on signs in stores, on shopping bags, and even on our milk containers.  Loosely translated Ramadan Mubarak can mean 'Blessed Ramadan', and Ramadan Kareem can mean 'Generous Ramadan'.  From what I understand, both are basically just ways of saying (roughly) 'Happy Ramadan' and are a greeting used during this time of year.  Kind of like we would say 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' to each other during December back in the States.

We won't be in the country for the whole month of Ramadan, but I do look forward to experiencing a little bit of this celebration here in Saudi.