Ramadan in Riyadh, Missing the U.S.
Frankly, part of what I miss about Ramadan in the U.S. is the effort that we have to put forth in practicing and partaking in the holy month. The meal to break your fast actually tastes like you earned every morsel of it. It is that effort that helps us during this spiritual month, our "30 days for Thanksgiving" as my wife calls it. Here in Riyadh, the mosque that is across the parking lot has a great Imam with an amazingly beautiful voice; however, there is no sense of congregation. People (men) come, pray, and leave. There are very few women, if any. And, there are definitely no children.
The spiritual awakening that we so desperately seek in Ramadan comes to each of us at different stages, and with a different pace. Some of us are spiritual sprinters, and others are spiritual marathoners. Admittedly, it is early in Ramadan for me in Riyadh, but there is something missing here compared to my experience in the United States. I seek something more than just tasting hunger. I seek a taste of home.
And so I carefully back up my car and barely graze the Benz as I ease out of the parking spot. There is something to be said about renting the smallest car possible. I zoom out of the parking lot and drive down a one-way street (as is customary here), only to bring my car to a screeching halt. I run into rush hour traffic at 3 p.m., because this is the time that people make their way home for their afternoon nap and to prepare for iftar.
Needless to say, I am the last person to make it into the grocery store, only to find that the stir fry mix we get in the U. S. is not available. Thanks to some quick thinking and nearly an hour of searching, I am able to purchase the needed ingredients. As to how the stir fry turned out? I used my 6-year-old son, who was the only person in the family not fasting and the one with the most discriminating palate, as my taster.
After he sampled the sauce, he said, "Yes, baba. This tastes like America."
M. Hadi YazdanPanah is a journalist who has lived in Iran and India, and now resides in the U.S. with his wife and two children. He is heavily involved in community-service projects, interfaith dialogues, and sits on the board of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and the Community Station Board for the Community Idea Stations (PBS).