One City, many versions

Elsewhere on this blog I’ve talked about race, social class, and the various nationalities in the country where I live – like any country – where people gravitate towards their own. There are always many versions of the cities we live in. If you visit Washington, D.C. and never go beyond the capital area or Georgetown, you’ve missed most of the city. Same of New York, or Doha.

This is perhaps best seen in Qatar during Ramadan. The Muslim community rejoices at this time of discipline because it isthe holiest month of their year (hence the tagline Holy month of Ramadan). They don’t eat or drink during they day but the evenings are full of socializing, visiting, and feasting. Many speak critically of the lavishness of the modern day meals post the breaking of fast iftar, or footor, as it’s know in the Gulf. After the dates and laban to ease the empty palate, there is a spread of food that seems far from the poverty and poor that Ramadan calls people to reflect upon.

In the non-Muslim community the reaction is usually an awareness of lack because all the restaurants, eateries, and entertainment outlets such as movies and bowling alleys are closed in solidarity with the community. No alcohol is served in the country, even at the hotels which normally function as evening waterholes. The line at the QDC, the national liquor vendor, snakes through the parking lot to the main road as drinkers prepare for a month of closure as though hibernating. Expats grumble about the traffic, about the lack of a secular culture which keeps conveniences closed to them

All of these sundry complaints I contemplated during my first Ramadan in a Muslim country (Ramadan, Alchol, and life in a Muslim country"):

This year what strikes me are the different attitudes to the shortened workday – six hours as published by the state – are also telling. Many of the Western professionals do not take advantage of the fact their companies have to abide by the six hour work day.

"I have too much work to do," is usually the reason.

"Meetings would get scheduled at 4pm and then what?" is another.

The facts don’t faze people in these instances. Two less hours in a work day can not grind down the forward motion of civilization, can it? Isn’t this time we normally spend on Facebook or gasp, reading blogs, buying books on or eating lunch?

Those who are hardened by what I can only surmise as the Protestant work ethic are chained to their desks despite the fact this is only for a month, not a life style. Such trained contributors, they can’t pry themselves way.

More the pity them.

Because of me, those two hours are spent catching up with friends who are otherwise too busy in the course of the year to stop and chat, or writing, exercising, or any number of things I put off because I’m too busy.

This year during Ramadan as the entire country pauses in a matrix of cultural, social, and religious reflection, a friend and I challenged each other to write that one genre that we admittedly find beneath us but generates big bucks for other authors without such standards.

For me, I’m delving into romance. For her, chick lit.

You now know how I will be spending my extra two hours.


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