Saturday, September 06, 2008

The kick-off -your Ramadan Reporter returns

As published in this week's edition of the Amsterdam Weekly

Loads of delicious meals. Titilating music. Hilarious comedy. Captivating lectures. And all that for 30 days on end across the country. But here's the best part - drum roll, please - most of it is free of charge.

Yep. That's Islam for ya and probably a side most of you are not so familiar with. True, it only happens once a year and this it is: Ramadan 2008. To jog your memory about Ramadan, this is the name of the holiest month in the Islamic lunar calendar, as it was in this month that the Koran was revealed. For 30 days Muslims are not supposed to eat, drink, smoke or have sex between dawn and sunset, while staying away from impure thoughts, sights and sounds. It is a cleansing of body and soul, or at least in theory.

The kick-off for the Ramadan Festival was at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam West. More than 500 people attended, including staatssecretaris Ahmed Aboutaleb who opened the event. Like the previous ones, this year's festival is once again about dialogue, but this time the organisaton really made an effort to also invite the volk in the street, from representatives of the neighbourhood communities to students from Leiden University.

As Ramadan slowly moves up towards the summer months - due to the lunar calendar - it is getting harder and harder for Muslims every year to keep up the fast. And it showed. When the gong sounded at roughly 8.30 pm, heralding the breaking of the fast, it was almost like feeding a pack of hungry wolves. And that's where the organisation slipped up a bit. There was enough food, tons of it, but there were only ten, twelve waiters at best ... you do the math.

Other than that, it was a great first Ramadan night jazzed up with a performance of non other than Azhar Uzman a.k.a. The Ayatollah of Comedy, and one of the stars of the American tv-show Allah Made Me Funny.

But the Ramadan Festival has more to offer. You might want to check out the so-called Hospitality Dinners, where Muslim families treat non-Muslims to a typical Ramadan meal. Who thinks Muslims lose weight during Ramadan? Well, um, confession coming up ...: They don't! This may seem like a far cry from the essence of Ramadan, which is after all about frugal living, that said, Ramadan is also about giving a new dimension to the word 'hospitality'. So enjoy.

Ramadan Kareem