Dubai: Ramadan is a spiritual month that symbolises dedication, reflection and discipline. It is a holy month that slows the pace down for each one to reflect on the year gone by and elevate their spiritual journey.
Thanks to the UAE being home to various cultural backgrounds, Ramadan has in many ways transcended over nationalities and creed.
Expats living in the UAE say Ramadan is an important month for them too as they share solidarity with their Muslim friends to fast the entire month.
Dutch student Jayden Vermeulen, 16, student of Year 10 is on his fourth year of fasting. “I look forward to this. Many of my friends are Muslims and I like to keep fast with them. It is my way of showing respect to the country where I live, the friends I have made. But more than anything, fasting helps me to slow down and have a lot of mental peace.”
“I believe that if one can fast and not break it then we are mentally strong. It gives us confidence to achieve whatever we want.”
Vermeulen said that he does find it hard to fast during the first two days. “But then I fall into the rhythm. It cleanses the body and I always feel better after the Ramadan month.”
Vermeulen practices the fast like any other Muslim. He wakes up at four in the morning to eat and drink. “I go to bed after as I want to stay fresh for school.”
His mother wakes up with him to make his breakfast. They don’t fast with him but totally respect him for what he does.
Christian Filipina expat in Dubai, Gina Valbuena, who is an active member of her Dubai parish, is fasting for Ramadan.
“I have lived in the UAE from 2004. Ever since, I have made many Muslim friends. They have inspired me to keep fast.”
Valbuena, a salon and spa owner owner, said she has been on a diet plan and the month of Ramadan is also helping her build mental strength, patience, resistance.
“For Christians, the lent season is on. We give up something that we love a lot. But this time I decided to keep fast like the Muslims during Ramadan.”
British expat with Zimbabwean heritage, Zee Mashenge, 49, a secondary school teacher also said the love he and his family received in the UAE inspired him to fast during Ramadan.
“We moved to the UAE in 2019 from the UK. The welcome we received from our Muslim brothers and sisters was very warm and friendly. It made it so easy to assimilate into a culture and a religion that we did not fully understand. Since my second year in the UAE, I made a decision to fast during Ramadan in solidary with the Muslim community that I live and work in.”
How the body realigns itself
Mashenge added that fasting during Ramadan is a great way of fully understanding what Muslims feel during the month-long fast.
“When I fast for the first couple of days, I struggle with the fast. Then my body begins to feel so much lighter. My head clears up too. I enjoy the challenge and I love to see through the entire month. It allows me time to read my Bible, pray and meditate.”
“At the end of Ramadan, I not only feel like I have accomplished something for myself but I feel a lot healthier, lighter and happier within myself. It feels like a well needed detox.”
Indian expat Anuradha Kamath, a lifestyle coach said: “One never can comprehend something completely unless they have experienced it. I began Ramadan fasting seven years ago. Seeing the enormous benefits it brought in, I decided to do it every year.”
She said: “Ramadan is a month that is a total detox of the body, mind, and emotions. The key is mindfulness. Fasting in Ramadan is not just restricting one’s self from eating and drinking throughout the day, but also, it is an entire system of being mindful of one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions too.”
Kamath said Ramadan is a month when one gets to disengage from negativity. “It is a time when one moves into states of happiness and feels a lot of compassion for others. A world that practices Ramadan does not need peace committees. One notices great harmony and understanding between people during this month.”
She said that the personal will-power exercised through the day from giving in to temptations of food, drink, vices, and feelings, improves one’s self worth and everything seems possible and achievable.
“One also feels accomplished that they could rise over their vices. I make Ramadan the point of beginning to bring in positive changes in my life and kick start good habits. I also find the strength to forgive and forget through the month and pray for all around me.”