While I have been fortunate enough to live in several Muslim countries, it has been a few years since I last experienced the holy month of Ramadan in one. I’ll be honest enough to admit that initially, I was less than enthusiastic at the prospect of Ramadan in Muscat. Combining end of year farewells, busy preparations for summer leave and a hectic schedule with 40 degrees, altered opening hours and no food or drink in public seemed exhausting.
I was also well aware that this wasn’t the best of attitudes, never mind role modeling for my three global nomads. I decided to embrace spending (some of) Ramadan in Oman as an opportunity to learn from local life. Here are my favorite family experiences and learning points:
Embrace the mood
I think it can be easy to think of fasting as ‘something they have to do’ – something you don’t understand and that can’t possibly be positive. In the weeks leading up to Ramadan, many people around us were excited. Our children picked up on the mood, and the evening before the start of Ramadan was announced we were all outside, excitedly trying to see the new moon from our back yard.
During Ramadan, those who are fasting has the opportunity to work shorter hours. Some shops and most restaurants remain closed during the day. I decided to slow down the family frenzy and took the children out of most after school activities. We stayed at home, and connected with family and friends in a way our busy everyday lives don’t always allow for.
Learning to fast
Attempting to fast was an aspect of life for my kids’ Muslim friends, and I am incredibly thankful that my children had the opportunity to experience this. Some kids made it to sunset, while others made it to lunch. Some observed fast every day, some not. My kids saw their friends try their best at something that was important to them, and their best was good enough.
We had the opportunity to take our children for an iftar meal arranged at school, which was a wonderful experience for us all. After listening to an imam talking about the importance of Ramadan and the merits of fasting, we all shared a meal together, Muslim and non-Muslim friends side by side.
Diversity is normal
Perhaps most importantly, experiencing different ways of life expands your perception and your understanding of ‘normal’. I know I repeat this often, but it is my strongest argument for dragging my kids around the world. They experience diversity. They accept it, because it’s all they know – and it will shape the lives they live, the choices they make and the bridges they are able to build.