This week I noticed that there is a strong contrast between fasting during finals and fasting after finals. As soon as I had finished my last exam – Egyptian dialect – my lonely days were over: along came holiday preparations, family gatherings, summer celebrations, birthday parties, and with them new challenges. Apart from watching people eat all the time, I had to explain why I wasn’t – about three million times. When I would be done explaining, I would be bombarded with the same questions I had heard so many of my Muslim friends complain about. “Not even water? Isn’t it unhealthy? Did you lose weight? Are you tired? Are you sleeping enough? Are you changing spiritually? Do you mind if I eat in front of you? Do you want some cake?”
My Muslim friends on the other hand usually asked: “Is your family okay with this?” Apart from some health concerns they were all on board. During our annual family weekend with my parents, my four sisters and their partners supported me as well as they could. They mockingly called me “Levi Ramadan” (my Instagram name) and tried not to offer me food. They even ate with me after sunset twice, something I had really missed. But their ultimate show of support came when we went home and stopped for some food. When they were ordering I almost caved and said I wanted to quit for that day. They all told me I had to stay strong because I would regret it later. I am very thankful for what they did back then.
These past few weeks I have tried to talk to as many strangers as possible about their thoughts during Ramadan. Some of these people I would never have talked to on a regular day. At first I was a bit scared, but talking to strangers became almost addictive once I got used to it. I learned that everyone has a story to tell, and they are usually very happy and surprised that someone is prepared to listen to it. These talks have boosted my confidence and they have shown me that real life is usually much more positive than what is shown in the news.
Mokhtar told me that in Somalia people have to fast 4 hours less than in Belgium but the weather makes it more difficult.
Redefining awesomeness: Kiki, Anna-Lena and Seif are teaching Basma how to ride a bike near Antwerp Central Station. These friendly people from Egypt, Germany and the Netherlands truly made my day!
My first Iftar meal with real Muslims was something I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I would try to do this more often but since I am in France for nearly all remaining days of Ramadan, I fear I won’t get the chance. I also promise to catch and interrogate any Muslim I find here about their Ramadan experience, but it won’t be an easy task I’m afraid. Wish me luck!