Last year, I was here in Doha for the first few days of Ramadan, however I was lucky to be pregnant, thus exempt, from fasting. This year however, will be the real test, as Ramadan starts Sunday, it shifts forward 11 days earlier each year, to annoy non-Muslim expats!
We all know, what Ramadan means for Muslims, they fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from food, water, cigarettes, sex and basically anything that offers any kind of comfort to this harsh life, including gossip, ill feeling and bad language. So not only can you not eat, drink or be merry, but you can’t even complain to a friend about it. Can’t have a gossip about the one next door who you suspect is necking the volvic when no-one is looking. Can’t even get a small sense of satisfaction by saying ‘F**k this for a lark, I’m starving’, nothing. They must resist all temptation and to salt to the wound, be graceful and accepting about it. This would possibly by my breaking point, if I were Muslim, fasting from dawn to dusk, living in 50 degree temperatures, compelled to wear a black mask and robe, expected to kneel and pray like 15 times a day, all that might be doable, but wear a smile behind the Niqab, not a chance! I know my limits and enough is enough!
The limitations which will be in place on my life during Ramadan will be the same, however behind closed doors, I can do what I like as God is my judge and he’s not half as hung up on rules and regulations as Allah. But outside I will not be able to go to a coffee shop, for readers at home, this might seem an insignificant, but such is the banality of Doha life that a trivial thing like coffee from Starbucks can brighten up your day, we bask in the little things that you take for granted. So if you want coffee during Ramadan, stay home.
Living in the juxtaposition between 50 degree temperatures outside, no eateries open inside, the only place to bring children is the swimming pool, you may assume that this would be a reprieve in the hardship that is my life, sorry existence in life during Ramadan however there is one catch, while you may swim in the pool, you may not have a drink of water, so in effect, it turns out to be akin to Chinese torture while you cool in the water and try to blink away the mirage of cocktail bar, while your lips are bone dry. So rather than endure this torture, better off to stay home with the coffee in front of the fan.
Generally in Qatar we, women, are not allowed, show our shoulders, knees or calves. Clavicles, elbows and wrists are ok. Leggings and colourful Nike jog pants are out, mind you, this might be a law worth looking at for Ireland, as more and more people are brandishing unsightly VPL and saggy bums in expensive gym clothes. As strict as it is, during Ramadan the shoulder police are out in even greater force. Only last week there was an arrest made on an expat woman in a local shopping mall. Whilst picking up her groceries, they picked up on her unsuitable attire, she was cuffed and held until her husband claimed her. So while you’re battling with unbearable temperatures and not allowed to drink water you must also ensure your body is fully covered. So better of stay at home, with the coffee, in your bikini, in front of the fan.
Of course the QDC, Qatar Distribution Company which is the only place to buy alcohol and rashers is closed for the duration, so every expat these days is busy doing the QDC run to ensure they have enough to pull them through. Whilst restaurants are open every night until the early hours during Ramadan there will be no alcohol served for the one month period, so unless you want to eat pizza hut at 2a.m. you’re better off to stay home, ditch the coffee for a glass of crisp white wine to accompany your bacon sandwich and enjoy them in your bikini in front of the fan, at home.