In these days a special guest has announced its arrival in Amman’s otherwise bustling and trafficked streets. Namely, the Muslim celebration of Ramadan!
A celebration which has taken over the kingdom and casts a shimmering blanket over the streets where shining stars, colourful decorations and golden lanterns, “fawanis Ramadan”, swing in the sky.
Shop facades are illuminated with golden motifs, and the city has gotten an oriental make-over and taste from a magical atmosphere. Buzzing crowds, happy children and relieved mosque visitors meet in the evening’s community.
For me, to experience Ramadan from a Muslim country is a very special experience comparing with Denmark. Until now, my only knowledge of Ramadan was from Arab TV channel features and images from the streets of the Middle East. Only ‘from outside’ in the Nordic countries where there are no decorations in public and where you celebrate the holidays in private with your closest family members.
To walk around Amman’s streets at midnight, knowing that the majority of the approximately five million inhabitants are also fasting, I must admit, feels so life-affirming.
It feels like a tantalizing cohesion has overtaken the city. Even until late at night, people stand in line at many dessert shops to buy delicious Arab cakes as “awame”, “atayef” (pancakes) and “asabeer Zenab” which are sweet delicacies dipped in sugar water.
Day and night have been turned upside down in Ramadan.
The call to prayer is heard openly in the background, the captivating sense of community on the streets. All Jordanian restaurants, except those with a special tourist permit, have to be closed in the fasting hours. Yes, it’s downright punishable to eat on the street, and can cause imprisonment throughout Ramadan.
You can actually see that Amman almost goes into hibernation during the hot fasting hours in Ramadan, where it is only after sunset that life really starts in the city.
After the ‘Magrib’ prayer, that marks the time after sunset when Muslims can break their fasting, all meet, old and young, for a cozy time and a warm gathering in the sign of altruism. A feeling that I experience so strongly for the first time!
In Amman you notice that this month is filled with spirituality, generosity and devotion to God. Where fasting people find deep concentration in the inner spirituality and not so much in material things.
All, thick and thin, rich and poor, must fast during the day, which brings people closer together. A celebration, which, like Christmas, symbolizes love for each other (altruism), is the festival of hearts and spreads joy across.