I had completely forgotten that today is the first day of Ramazan (Ramadan in other countries)..the Islamic holy month of fasting.
It's not that I take part in this ritual, but I have no choice when it comes to being woken up at around 3.30 am every morning for the next month, by the customary drummer who tours the village, slowly banging his drum until he is sure everyone is awake. This is to give them time to eat a large breakfast (sahur) before the call to prayer at around 5 am.
In the past the fast (oruç) was supposed to start as soon as the Imam holding one piece of white and one piece of black thread could tell the two apart in the daylight. Nowadays it's more scientific...televisions announce the exact moment to start fasting..along with the first call to prayer from the mosque. I often wonder why, in the 21st century, the ritual of the drummer isn't done away with, and people just use alarm clocks...but that's just me being selfish and not wanting my sleep interrupted. It's a custom which I'm sure will continue until the end of time.
Strict muslims take fasting very seriously. Nothing must pass their lips from sunrise to sunset. No water (difficult in this heat). Ramazan takes place 11 days earlier each year...so of course it's inevitable that it will occur during the hottest part of the summer, at some time. Apart from refraining from eating or drinking, they mustn't smoke, or even lick a postage stamp or take a headache tablet. Sex is also forbidden during daylight hours.
Not everyone needs to fast. Some people are exempt...children, the sick, pregnant women,the elderly or travellers. Menstruating women are not supposed to fast but have to make up the missed days later.
The break of fast meal at sunset (iftar) is somewhat of a celebration, and a time for family and neighbours to get together. Often another huge meal is eaten before bedtime, so it's not unusual for people to gain weight during Ramazan! Temporary tents are set up in cities around the country for the poorer members of society to be given an iftar meal.
We foreigners are not expected to take part in fasting, but most of us, out of respect, would not dream of eating, drinking, or lighting up a cigarette in public during daylight hours. In any case I'd feel a bit conspicuous as well as embarrassed at partaking when everyone else can't.
Naturally, people are not at their best when fasting. Tempers are often frayed and people do become a little light-headed and clumsy. I learnt from a very bad past experience, never to get my hair cut during Ramazan....my hairdresser at the time was tired, hungry and bad-tempered and my hair suffered as a result.
So I have a month of the drummer waking me up far too early...followed soon after by a visit by the in-laws. Isn't life wonderful? ;-)