Monday, September 6, 2010

Ramadan at the Ritz

Ramadan Kareem!  On Friday evening, Dan and I took part in a Ramadan Tent at the Ritz-Carlton.  The event, which is one of many like it in the city, was held to celebrate Iftar, the breaking of the fast after a full day of fasting, and Suhoor, which is the big feast served before dawn before the fast begins anew.  The evening at the Ritz was open to the public, but a small amount of tickets were set aside for ExxonMobil employees, and we went with two other EM couples.

The Suhoor was like an all-night buffet, with some great Arabian/Qatari dishes, and the food was amazing.  Those sesame-allergy afflicted among us had to be pretty careful as sesame is definitely a staple here, but I escaped unscathed!  There was henna hand painting available, live entertainment, and shisha pipes for the daring.  We didn't follow the traditional Suhoor explicitly by staying up 'til dawn feasting, and we rolled our full stomachs home by midnight.

I had the pleasure (!) of holding a falcon that evening (see photo to the right).  Falcon mastery has long been associated with nobility and wealth in Qatar and other Arab states.  It is used in hunting, and is the fastest flying bird (both for distance and diving) in the world, reaching flight speeds of 110 km/h, and diving speeds of up to 440 km/h.  For this reason, falcon masters use the bird to prey on animals as large as gazelles.  Had I known this beforehand, I may have reconsidered holding one!

The end of Ramadan, or Eid Al-Fitr, is fast approaching, and most of the expats I know think that it won't end a minute too soon!  For us, it has been a bit disruptive...Dan has been coming home most days for lunch as there are no restaurants open during daylight hours (except in hotels); when we are out on a Saturday running errands, we can't stop for lunch or even water; many businesses are closed for the whole afternoon, only to re-open again for the evening, making evening shopping crowded and unpleasant.  The end of Ramadan is a moving target, and the official start of Eid occurs when the Mullah makes the first sighting of the new moon.  It is expected that that will take place on September 9th or 10th this year.  Schools and offices are closed, so the kids will be off school for a week starting this Wednesday, and Dan will be off for about five days.

Happy Labour Day weekend to all those back home!  Thought I should mention that this morning at 7:00 am our thermometer registered below 30 degrees for the first time since we got here:  29.5C!


  1. I was surprised you had a sweater on in the falcon picture! Great story...we're all learning so much. Love the henna too!

  2. Good point, Sherri! I was wearing a sweater because a) it's freezing inside any building, including the Ritz, and b) (and more importantly) I was wearing a sleeveless dress so I had to wear something to cover my bare arms. No bare shoulders or knees allowed in this country!