Eid is a conflicted time for me and this my fifth Eid Al Fitr – the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan – is no different. Everyone in any majority Muslim country can feel the population groaning as the nights get longer. The last ten days of Ramadan are the most holy and there is one night every year when all your sins can be forgiven if you pray all night. This year it was the 17th. I am saddened by the onset of Eid because it means the shared meals, early evenings, and general focus of the period of fasting will be lost in the melee of visiting family, even more feasting, and then a sugar induced food coma as life returns to normal.
While the young generation of Qataris don’t really enjoy the family visits and endless cups of kahwa, Arabic coffee – one student said ,"Our grandparents enjoy seeing us all together."
There is a similar scramble in the ex-pat community to get travel booked. It is outdoing the Joneses at the finest; those who are newly arrived sift through a dizzying array of recommendations from those who have been in the region for some time. Those who have been in the region have already been to the ancient city of Petra, rung in the New Year in Dubai, and are chasing the outer edges of travel. China, South Africa, Chile, the conversation at birthday parties and wedding receptions before Eid include sharing travel tips and recommendations. It is a slightly laughable version of "what is your benefits package?"
I confess we are not immune; my husband and I are now on the third day of a trip that was on my list of things to do by the time I turned thirty (See this for my entire list: http://tiny.cc/aOJkk). We are touring the Holy Land and spent the afternoon floating in the Dead Sea and then running to shore to wipe out the stinging sea salt in my eyes.
What has struck the most thus far on this particular journey is how similar these two cultures that are locked in a political impasse.
In both communities the women wear their hair long (I can attest to the Arab side from the women only parties I’ve been to).
In both communities, the holy day means all businesses are closed (unlike in the West where Sunday has all but vanished).
In both communities, the animal mistakenly named for causing H1N1 is prohibited as food.
And this weekend, both communities are sharing two significant feast days: the Jewish New Year, and the aforementioned Eid al Fitr.
More ironies to follow as the next two days feature a tour of Jerusalem.