Ramadhan is coming to an end and we’re all here together in Kuala Lumpur now. That’s the part I really like. Being together as a family and spending time together. Hubby has arrived to join us and in a couple of days we will celebrate Eid al Fitr together.
This year I decided to spend the first half of Ramadhan fasting in Kuwait and the second half in Malaysia. Last year I fasted three weeks in Kuwait. As usual, it always feels a bit weird fasting in KL at first. I had forgotten how different Ramadhan was in Kuwait compared to KL.
Everything changes in Kuwait in Ramadhan, from work hours to shopping times and restaurant timings. During the first 20 days, work hours are shortened by law to only 6 hours per day. Most companies including hubby’s comply, so he starts work an hour later at 9:30am and finishes an hour earlier at 4:30pm. Women get even shorter working hours so they go home at 3:30pm! And now, in the last 10 days of Ramadhan, it gets shortened even more – work starts at 10:30am and everybody gets to go home at 3:30pm!
Shopping times vary but generally all of them practice split timings in Ramadhan, opening around 10am and remaining open till 3pm or 4pm. Then they close for the afternoon and reopen again at 8pm after iftaar. They finally close for the day anytime between 11:30pm and 1am! Mornings are a good time to go shopping because the stores are really empty. Especially now in the summer heat, people prefer to go out in the evenings because it is a little cooler.
I always wondered how the staff of stores feel about the Ramadhan timings which obviously means longer hours for them. A guy I asked at H & M said that he was happy with it because it meant lots more money for Eid. One day a couple of weeks ago, I was at Zara and I spoke with one of the girls there and she told me that she had finished work at 7am that morning because the store had stayed open for a Sheikh who brought his wife and children and later, all the maids, cooks and drivers, to do their Eid shopping!
By law also, all restaurants including fast food and takeaway places as well as cafes and cafeterias are closed during the day. It is forbidden to be seen eating, drinking or smoking, even chewing gum, in public in Ramadhan. And this applies to everyone and not just Muslims. Its quite a challenge for expats who have just moved to Kuwait, but friends of mine pretty much get used to it after their first Ramadhan. Many join in the Ramadhan celebrations going out for iftaar or accepting invitations for ghabka. Restaurants usually open for iftaar and many stay open till 2am or later for suhoor, the morning meal.
Life is really upside down in Ramadhan.
Many people stay out taking advantage of the late shopping hours. In all the years we have lived in Kuwait, we hardly go out in the evenings after iftaar because the traffic is horrendous. Everyone, it seems, heads out after iftaar. Once or twice in the whole month we go out for an iftaar buffet – the best in Kuwait, at the Sheraton Hotel. Last Ramadhan we tried one at the Burj al Hamam and although we always enjoys enjoyed our Friday lunches there, we didn’t enjoy our iftaar there – it was packed and a little too crowded for us. The Sheraton iftaar buffet is still the best. For one thing, even though we go there once a year, one of the senior waiters there, Ibrahim, always remembers us and treats us like royalty!
In contrast, there are no changes to shopping and restaurant timings during Ramadhan in KL. Everything is pretty normal – the restaurants are full during breakfast and lunch. The coffee shops are full everywhere and people eat, drink and smoke like any other day. To me, other than the fact that I’m fasting while I’m out during the day, it’s really very much the same here as any other time of the year.
It’s only when I hear the Raya songs (timeless and popular songs associated with Eid in Malaysia) blaring in every shopping mall and supermarket in KL that I’m reminded that it’s Ramadhan. And the Ramadhan bazaars of course. Which we don’t find in Kuwait. In multicultural Malaysia, everyone loves the Ramadhan bazaars because it only happens this time of the year and they’re crowded from the moment they open for business around 4pm all the way up to minutes just before iftaar.
I remember how my late father loved visiting the bazaars for all kinds of traditional food for breaking the fast. He would go early, as soon as they opened, to avoid the crowd and always came home with a bit of everything. If mum was making something special that day she’d be sure to tell him so he wouldn’t go that day.
Traffic in Ramadhan is just as horrendous here in KL as it is in Kuwait but generally only before iftaar. I think because of the short shopping times left after iftaar, most people who want to shop in the evening would break their fast in some restaurant in a mall then continue their shopping immediately after. So it can get quite crazy trying to get a table in any restaurant for iftaar. You have to be in the mall a couple of hours before iftaar, go to the restaurant to book a table, place your order, go shopping and come back fifteen minutes before iftaar.
Oh, and I simply, totally dislike going to any of the iftaar buffets in KL because of the inconsiderate behaviour of some who want to indulge in the festive occasion but don’t want to participate in the ritual of breaking fast. Sadly, they get their food before everyone else is ready to do so and start eating when they want to. When its time to break fast and you try to get your food, it’s a big mess and it feels like you’re eating leftovers. Ever since a long time ago, I have wished that hotel and restaurant management would do something about this, but things have not changed.
So yes, the Ramadhan atmosphere is different depending on where I’m spending it because of cultural differences. But the best part of the month every year for me is being together as a family.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Location:Jalan Sri Hartamas 17,Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia