Doha News’ marketing manager Inês Marques is spending her first Ramadan in Qatar, after moving here from Portugal earlier this year.
Although not Muslims, she and her husband have decided to fast during the month. Here, she explains how challenging the experience has been, and the benefits she feels she’s gained.
I am new to Doha – I have lived here for six months and I decided that because this is my first Ramadan in Qatar, I would also take part in fasting.
Everyone asks me why. My answer is – why not? I am living in a Muslim country; almost everyone is fasting so I decided to try it, to share the experience.
I wanted to break my routine, understand my limits and feel how hard it is and see if I have the discipline to do it.
And I have my husband’s support – actually, it was his idea. Together, it’s easier and I guess this is part of the Ramadan spirit: to bring people together. So, I already liked the idea.
But I didn’t know what was coming.
Longing for water
The first thing I noticed was how hard and weird it is to leave home without my lovely breakfast.
But it’s the the lack of water that I struggle with the most, when I am walking down the street and can’t drink anything. I give more value to water now.
Also, food is on my mind all the time. I have never looked at the clock so often as I find myself doing recently. It seems as if I have an animal inside my stomach because it’s always making embarrassing noises.
My first three days were the hardest. I was warned about this and I can confirm that it’s true.
Generally, I feel more tired than ever and I am sleeping a lot more. I am an athletic person but now I don’t feel as though I have enough energy to work out.
Maybe my mind isn’t helping me. I often get headaches and the worst time of day is between 4pm until iftar, when it feels like time is just not passing at all.
It’s easier when I am working because I’m occupied and time passes more quickly.
Last weekend I tried to cook during the fast, but then I realized I couldn’t taste the food and I wondered what I should do. I decided to taste it anyway then spit it out.
It was like I had tested myself, and passed – I hadn’t given in to the temptation.
In addition to hunger, I have had sleepless nights. The worst time was when my husband frightened me because he felt really ill after breaking his fast and eating too quickly.
But we can learn with these experiences and I feel at least the mental challenge of fasting has become easier with time.
Learning about myself
Since I started fasting, I have learned more about myself. I thought it would be about food, and it is, partly. But it’s more than that.
Being without food makes you react differently to things. I am more sensitive, and I am aware of that and have to make an effort not to lose patience with the people around me.
My family and my friends at home don’t understand why I am doing this – they ask me: “How is possible to go without food and drink during the day, especially when the weather is so hot?”
They don’t know much about Ramadan and I don’t blame them – before I came here, I didn’t either.
They know the basic rules about fasting, but they don’t know about all the celebrations, the family happiness and the spirituality that comes with it.
Although I know I may not be experiencing it in the same way as someone who is Muslim, I do feel closer to my Muslim friends as a result of the experience.
I feel as though I understand Ramadan a bit better, from my own perspective.
The best thing is that I understand my colleagues and I can talk about it from the inside – I can ask for some tips and I can have an opinion, not because I read about it but because I experienced it first-hand.
I feel very proud to be part of this. I may not have all my family here with me to break the fast and celebrate together, but I do I have my husband and we are happy.
We are doing this together, We both have difficulty overcoming the hunger but we help each other and we are happy. And in the end, it’s the simple things like this that matter.
Are you fasting? Thoughts?
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