Before I went to Dubai, the only thing I know about  Islam is that they don’t eat pork and that Moslem men can have many wives. That’s all I know about Islam. I was born in a Catholic family and attended a Catholic school from primary to highschool. All I know is how to be Catholic. Lol. My first encounter with a Moslem was in University. That school have no requirements other than passing the entrance exam, so any person of any religion from any part of the country or even the world can go to that school, as long as you pass their entrance exam. I had a blocmate (person of the same course) who’s a Moslem from Mindanao. Let’s call him by the name Yusof. He didn’t tell us much about Islam, aside from the fact that he don’t eat pork. My knowledge of the Moslem world didn’t improve at all because of him. Hahahah

Anyway, so there I was, 2006, in Dubai and it’s my 2nd month there. We were in our shuttle to work (our office is in the middle of the desert) and our Administration Lady reminded us that it’s the start of Ramadan and it will be polite of us if we just stay inside the office pantry when we have our coffee, eat our snack and lunch or even drink water.  This is to show respect to our Moslem officemates who are observing Ramadan. She then explained to us, the so called “new employees” who just arrived in Dubai, that Ramadan is a month-long fasting during daylight hours, around 6am to 6pm for the Moslems. During fasting, they are not allowed to eat, drink and even have sexual intercourse. That act is to redirect them from worldly activities and cleanse their souls. She didn’t explain much but I was able to get the gist of the concept of Ramadan. (I read more about it later on.)

Anyway, came lunch time. Everyone was hungry and everyone went into the pantry to eat lunch. We were all huddled together in the pantry that wasn’t even enough to fit half of the Filipino employees in our office. Now, all non-Moslems are inside it. Its quite a funny scenario. It was like a crime to eat and anyone seen eating will be executed. But it was entertaining too. Some were eating while standing. Those who were fast enough to go to the pantry first get seats and table to eat. Those who are slow, either wait in vain or just eat while standing, leaning on the wall. Even when some of us are done eating we still stay inside the pantry but give the seat to another person. But yeah, we still stay there just for the fun of staying there.

Lunch time!!! 🙂

It was during this time too that I was able to really observe our Japanese bosses. They don’t really talk to us much. They just stay in their seats and still work while eating their lunch. Some of the crazy Filipinos leave the pantry when the Japanese bosses arrive and want to eat their lunch. I stayed and chat with the others just to observe them. One of them, he always take a photo of his lunch before he eats it. I found out later on that his wife makes his lunch and he loves his wife so much he takes a picture of it before he eat the food. I had a weird theory about this, what I was thinking that time was that maybe, when he gets home, his wife asks if he liked his lunch and there was an instance he forgot what it was and the wife became sad. So for him not to forget, he takes a picture of it before he eats and so when he gets asked, he knows. Almost everyone in out office thought this theory is crazy. LOL… The other Japanese boss, he eats very quick, without talking, chews fast like there’s a time limit. Another was very organized when he eats, always in poise. These Japanese bosses of ours are really interesting. You will think since they are all Japanese, they have the same manners, but no, they each have their own uniqueness that entertains us a lot. My favorite is the one who talks a lot while eating. Well he talks more than he eats. He’s often left by himself in the pantry. Well, that’s during the Ramadan period.

Another observation was the foodcourt situation at the big malls like IBN Battuta and Mall of Emirates. There was this one time we went to the mall during Ramadan and we went past the foodcourt and it was covered with some black cloth. LOL… Imagine a huge piece or whatever of black cloth attached to the ceiling covering all those tourists and non-moslems eating so that the moslems won’t see them. We can hear the clattering of spoons and forks!

Most foodcourts and restaurants are just closed and don’t serve food until after 6pm, when the Moslems are allowed to eat too. If you’re on the road during this time, you will see like a gathering of Moslems at a park sharing food and eating together after praying.

This was my first Ramadan in Dubai. The following year, I was more prepared for it, was not much of a shock anymore. Only the second time, I was dating  a Moslem guy and he won’t even talk to me during the day! Fasting to its extreme sense! LOL 🙂

Advertisements