Throwback Thursday: A Ramadan Day in Yemen

We lived in Sana'a, Yemen from late 2003 to summer 2009. The following post is a post that I compiled for my TJ Yemen blog back in 2008.  Everyone agrees that our Ramadans in Yemen were hands down our best Ramadans, maa shaa Allah.

A Ramadan Day in Yemen

9:30 am.
The normally bustling streets are almost totally deserted……
Where are the people?
Where is the traffic?
The streets are usually busy by now……
Why are most of the stores closed? The big protective metal security doors are all mostly shut except a few here and there.
A busy suq area is desolate…………….
Why are the traffic booths unmanned?
Looks like a Jumuah morning, except……………
the restaurants are closed too!
…. and besides, it’s a Monday.
Well, there’s only one other possible reason…..

It’s Ramadan!

Here’s a look at a typical Ramadan day out on the town in Sana’a, Yemen as seen through the eyes of an American……
By 10 or 10:30 am, the city begins to awaken.
A few more people will have emerged from slumber and make their way out onto the almost empty streets. A few more cars begin to occupy the quiet roads.
Not too many children are on the street, most of the children are in school as usual. The public school boys left for school earlier this morning. The public school girls will leave for school at around dhuhr, following their normal schedules.
A few more stores have opened. More big metal doors have opened up.
If you are planning on going to big supermarkets like City Mart or Shumayla Hari, however, you’ll have to wait another hour for City Mart and until after dhuhr for Shumayla Hari. Some stores that are typically open in the morning and close at dhuhr will not open up until after dhuhr, but stay open in the afternoon when they are normally closed.
Fast forward a few hours and its dhuhr. The adhaan has been heard and the dhuhr prayer has been prayed. The streets and sidewalks begin to fill. Only a few shops remain closed.
By 2pm or a little later, things look almost normal. Street vendors are out, but a little earlier than usual. They would typically start selling their wares after asr. And street vendors of a different type are present…….those selling samosas and others selling sweets covered with sticky sweet syrup! The wonderful smell of crispy recently fried samosas begins to fill the air……
Samosa stands. You will find seemingly dozens of these in just a few blocks…
Bakeries and sweet shops are bustling with customers buying sweets.
You also see vendors and military personnel sitting around reading Quraan.
30 minutes or so before Maghrib……
The streets begin to thin out again…………………
The sun begins to sink behind the mountains……
At many sites around town people gather outside storefront areas to await free food for their iftar as part of a Ramadan “mashru’ ” (project) for giving iftar to those in need.
The adhaan is called and people all over are breaking their fast with samosas, dates, sweets, soups, etc. Some houses are filled with guests breaking iftar with their hosts, their voices can be heard from outside the houses. The maghrib prayer is made and people return to their homes for the delicious food that could be smelled cooking during the day, teasing hungry fasters, but forbidden for consumption at that time.
After dinner, people will gather together and watch Arab soap operas, chew qat, light firecrackers, and pray the taraweeh prayer. Much to the chagrin of those unfortunate to live nearby, construction on houses will pick back up in the late night hours, their workers having slept a good portion of the day. Many people will stay up into the wee hours of the morning or until salatul Fajr and then sleep for most of the morning and then another Ramadan day begins….

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