Well, I’ve been here in Doha almost eight months, and I really haven’t felt much culture shock until today. Today was the start of Ramadan, which I mentioned in my last post. I guess I just never thought about what life in a Muslim culture is like during the month of Ramadan, where the majority of the population is fasting and even the laws regulate society to adhere to the fasting culture.
The question that has really thrown me off has been, “Are you fasting?” That’s really been the question of the day, especially toward a Westerner in this Muslim culture. This is completely new to me, because it is the opposite of the mentality about fasting that I have developed as a Christian. I have grown up in a society that, for one doesn’t really fast very much. Besides that, the people that did fast would do so according to the instructions of Jesus:
But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
For the most part, fasting has always been a very personal practice to observe when trying to know God more, receive specific direction for my life, to get through some hardship, etc. There were a few times when I was part of a group fast, but even then, we didn’t really broadcast it to the world. I’ve even fasted for Ramadan with Muslim friends in the US before, but it still wasn’t really public knowledge. I went on with life as usual and didn’t really talk about it except with a few people.
Coming from that culture to one where the store hours change to accommodate the fast, many people work modified hours, and the question of the day seems to be, “Are you fasting?” has just been really weird for me.
That’s what I love about different cultures, though. This is a really great experience for me.