Today I want to break down a few prejudices and show you the benefits of a Ramadan in Somalia. Yes, they actually exist! I’m sure that some of you are going to ask yourself, “How can you fast in this land, where you are already hungry anyway?”, “What can you look forward to when fasting?”, “How is it possible in this heat?”…
Admittedly, I must confess: yes, there is a difference between fasting here in Somalia – a huge difference! But not just in the negative sense.
Of course I do not speak here of how the thousands of poor people unfortunately have to spend it, but of average families that exist here as well. Those who would like to support the needy, will find information’s at the end of this article.
Here are some general facts about fasting in Somalia, which will give you an insight into the general circumstances.
Good food: a matter of costs!
For average large families like us, with currently 22 people, you have to think hard about what you can afford, what is important and what is less important. In any case, everything must be fresh, because everything else – such as chicken from the supermarket – has luxury and exaggerated prices, which are not affordable for the daily life of an average family. But since those chicken come from Brazil, it’s probably better to give it up anyway 😉
Meat: a must have!
Without meat, no worthy meal. That could be the motto of the Arab, as well as Somali men: without meat, the main meal would be worthless for them! Since they can not live without meat, there is alternately meat (mostly from the goat) or fish. That’s why we have to go to the market every day because we do not have a fridge. It eats too much electricity at local electricity prices (dream: solar energy!).
What are the benefits of fasting in Somalia?
More effort vs. fresh food
When preparing food in here, everything needs double effort: minced meat for example you have to press first through one of these hand-cranked machines, which usually always clog. So better refrain from it, or buy a really good, expensive machine!
Also, all Somali dough specialities always need a lot of time and an additional fire next to the gas stove. But the taste it pays off of course!
The heat vs. short fasting times
The heat is a disruptive factor especially at lunchtime. With 2-3 times a day showering and the fan on the highest level, one can also survive the aggravated. But in the afternoon and evening there is already release: that time is a nice breeze in the air, giving you a nice finish of the day.
The times of fasting are much more tolerable than in Europe: in the morning from just after 4 to evening at 18 o’clock. This is about 4 hours earlier than in Germany and with the midday siesta, time runs like clockwork.
Food: necessarily fresh!
The food is not the same as in Germany. However, it is much more natural – you cook without the whole frozen pseudo vegetables and get it directly from the market! It may not be the same variety.. For that you get the most important thing: fresh watermelon, dates and water!
Good food also depends not only on the income, but also on the cooking skills / imagination of the chef. Even if you would give a nomadic woman 100 Dollar, she would just double the amount of meat and rice- but you would still not see any vegetables except Basal, Peperoni and Moos (Onion, Paprika and Banana)!
And of course, it depends on you, how much time you want to spend with cooking in Ramadan, rather than with more contemplative things!
No unnecessary weight gain, as there is less junk food!
Since it is rather unaffordable for the average family to fill themselves with junkfood like Pringles, Twix, Raffaelo’s, etc., you do not have the problem with the excessive weight gain in Ramadan. The only sweets are usually dates, watermelon and possibly a kind of sweet (fried) pastry. As long as one does not exaggerate with the latter, one does not have to fear for his slim line. Because even the juices we make by ourselves: fresh lime juice, and on special occasions also mango juice!
More thirsty – You’ll drink enough!
Logically, the heat makes you feel more thirsty, so you drink more (ideally). In the morning before the beginning of fasting you take a porridge meal (“Suhuur”), a few dates and can easily drink 3 glasses of water. Without both, fasting will become difficult later on, but with this foundation it will be pretty easy!
Many ways to feed the poor
If you spend your Ramadan in Somalia, you have the advantage of not having to donate money to any donor organization. No, you are right at the “source”! And so you have many opportunities to give the poor something that you have in abundance.
Many helping hands
Most families here are really big compared to european families. The advantage of having such a large family is that there are many more helping hands. So, on one hand, there is more work, but on the other, there is more help to get everything done. Even the cooking is so pleasant: everyone has their job in the kitchen, one cooks the main dish, the other the side dishes. Typically the kitchen is the empire of the women in the house, because men have no place in Somali kitchen – except in restaurants.
No loneliness anymore!
This is a very important point for Somalia: as a Muslim, you are simply one of many! Without the constant comments “How can you do that !?”, “That’s inhumane!”, etc., it’s just that much easier, because you do not always have to justify yourself. Just everybody is fasting.
Furthermore, eating together makes you feel good – after fasting, everything tastes much better and you enjoy the time together.
A special time for children
For the children Ramadan is a special time as well and many times they try to fast already. Even little ones say after breakfast that they are fasting, and then just make it to lunch, when we have to convince them to eat something and “break their fast”! 9-year-olds also manage to spend a whole day and then be as proud like Oskar. But that will last for the rest of the month, they got enough respect of this experience, which makes them not to repeat it again 😉
In the above picture you can see our little ones (and cousins) who are being taught by their big sister. So it is a relief for the fasting and a pleasure for the children.
Our 11-year-old Aisha, who was just finishing her final exams at school and is the youngest of all her classmates, was forced by us to break her fast. She said she was ashamed not to fast and also wanted Allah to answer her supplications (du’a). I could convince her that she has time for the rest of the month, and that her fasting is worth nothing anyway, if she does it only to impress people. In addition, she could ask all fasting in her family to make du’a for her, so she can then benefit from the fasting of others, because the du’a of the fasting is heard at any rate! She found that convincing and so she promptly drank a glass of water and had a leisurely breakfast.
As you can see, children are slowed down rather than fasting for too long. At the same time, it is a huge incentive for them to fast as quickly as possible, as they grow up in a Muslim environment. Imagine the same situation in Europe…totally opposite!
More motivation for worship activities
The fact that fasting is a natural matter here and everybody is aware of the importance of this month, is also motivating to increase good activities. Because everyone is trying to do their best this month: be it doing good deeds, reading more Qur’an, refraining from bad words, donating, or praying more. It makes you feel strange if you are NOT so active! Of course, the Niyya (intention) is most important – that one does not do his deeds for the sake of people, but for the sake of Allah, hoping to receive His forgiveness and mercy.
Next Masjid around the next corner
Last but not least, it’s just a blessing to spend your Ramadan here, because you just have to go around the next corner and you’re in a moasjid! All prayers are transmitted through loudspeakers as usual, but the special feature of this month is that even the Tarawih Prayer (a long series of prayers at night, after dinner) sounds in the air. There is no better than these moments, where all God-fearing ones are in prayer and the words of Allah sound from everywhere!
To conlclude, Ramadan in Somalia is likely to be similar to all other Muslim countries. But the unique thing here is that there are 99% Muslims in here, so really everybody is fasting and praying.
That there is not an abundance of sweets and other delicacies here (which is also not the meaning of Ramadan at all) while seeing so many poor people, makes you more grateful. After all, you have more than thounsands of other people in the country.
So, Alhamdulillah for everything!
And, have you got the taste? If the flights here would not be so expensive (about 1000 Euro per person), I would smoothly open a travel agency, believe me! With Ramadan specials, camel rides, camel-milk-cure, etc … But what is not yet can still come. The less riots are here, the more people will come here and so the airfares will sink, in shaa Allah.
In this sense, I wish all Muslim readers a blessed Ramadan, all non-Muslims have hopefully got a little insight into another world!
PS: Before I forget something very important: Please support those who have nothing to break their fasting during Ramadan ! Islamic Care has great projects that are easy to support and make a difference.
So you can help one person with 4 € to break the fasting with a good healthy meal.
Or you can send your Zakat-ul-Fitr (obligatory donation to every Muslim) worth 7 € to Islamic Care so that they can pass it on to those who really need it.
Islamic Care is a very trustworthy charitable organization, dedicated to improving the miserable situation of Somalia’s suffering people.
May Allah abundantly reward those who give some of their gifts to the needy and spread a little more humanity, amin!