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The fast and the famished

May 28,2017 - Last updated at May 28,2017

Early in the morning of this past Friday, I took my son to do the week’s shopping as we do every Friday.

But we set off earlier than usual this time because this was a special day. It was the last Friday before Ramadan, when Jordanians joyously go into panic and start hoarding food.

At the supermarket, people seemed to be preparing not for a month of worship, piety and virtue, to say nothing of abstinence, but for a siege or famine.

Everywhere there were raiding parties of two or three women making happy conversation and filling their carts, each accompanied by a number of children screaming with excitement as they raced their shopping carts up and down the aisles.

At the cashier, an animated conversation was in progress between a man who assured the staff that there was nothing wrong with him buying four 10-kilogramme sacks of sugar, while they argued that stocks are aplenty, and that 10 or 20 kilos should cover all reasonable needs, and he can always come back for more when he eventually runs out.

I shall not launch into another diatribe about moderation and greater focus on piety and spiritual goodness. Imams, much better versed than me in Sharia, have trodden this rug threadbare, clearly to no avail.

However, there is always a positive side to everything. This is a very good season for food importers and retailers. 

Moreover, the Eid, along with Eid Al Adha and the start of school, are occasions for which children’s clothes shops live for from year to year.

All this is wonderful for the retail index and the economy in general.

One particularly beautiful tradition is for extended families to get together, particularly in the last 10 days of the month, for a big iftar (breaking of the fast). This delightful tradition helps foster good family ties, as relatives gather to celebrate and gorge on anything they can lay their hands on till they nearly burst at the seams.

Men with office jobs, have the leisure of the following morning to digest the spirit of asceticism. Then they go home and sleep off the afternoon until iftar time.

Women, conversely, have a harder time of it, particularly those whose husbands smoke and become infinitely more irritable due to nicotine deprivation. You can see them during the day, arriving at work late, already exhausted, or furtively leaving early to complete preparations for the evening’s bill of fare.

If you try to discuss anything with them, they nod politely but absent mindedly because they can only focus on the day’s chores: completing the shopping, cleaning the house, finishing cooking, setting the table, dressing up, receiving and entertaining the guests till everyone goes home, then doing all the washing up and starting the following day’s meal.

 

I therefore advocate that, after Ramadan, all women should be given a month’s paid holiday at a health spa to recover from these exertions. Two months for women whose husbands smoke.

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