A month before Ramadan begins (for those not in the know, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar and is dedicated to fasting) a relentless onslaught of texts begins. No self-respecting Muslim can claim to have escaped it. How do they find you, no one knows but find their Dear Muslims Sisters and Brothers, they most certainly do.
They cover everything from tips on ‘Top Ten Habits of The Most Highly Pious Ramadanites’ to ‘Pre-Ramadan Planning and Getting Ready for Eid’ (an end of Ramadan celebratory shindig that involves meeting endless distant relatives and gorging on enormous amounts of food). Nobody seems to have noticed the irony in the idea of getting ready for Eid before Ramadan has begun. This includes gift shopping, food shopping, house cleaning and de-cluttering and of course cooking up a storm - Ramadan Planning Plebian Style:
“Assignment 1: Touch up Living Room and Dining Room.”
“Assignment 10: Unclutter purses, handbags, bags.”
The Sheikhs, now they know how to do it in style.
They move to London. With their chauffeurs, luxury cars, entourages of maids and valets and of course their families. They take over London from Mayfair to Knightsbridge and anywhere else an exclusive, luxurious designer shop, hotel or spa may be found. And then they proceed to spend obscene amounts of money.
So much so that the pre-Ramadan onslaught has been nicknamed the Ramadan Rush for which top-end fashion houses and luxury stores roll out the limited editions, the new seasons, the exclusives.
Think designer bags, shoes, jewelry and accessories. Not for nothing is the Arab shopping frenzy before Ramadan nick named the Harrods Hajj! If you’re wondering why they don’t go to Paris, say, well the Parisians lobbed off a foot by imposing a ban on the Muslim head covering – the Hijab, thus scaring off Arab women. And they tend not to speak English. Meanwhile back in London, you don’t even have to speak English if you don’t want to or can’t; high-end luxury stores and hotels seem to have beautiful, Arab speaking assistants available on tap.
Meanwhile, back on level ground, International Muslim students all over the world respond with a weary ‘Nope’ to that ancient query: ‘What, not even water?’
And for the not so rich and not so organized, Ramadan is a blur. Mad dashes to the local grocery store all of which suddenly have extra large, extra tempting World Food sections; blurry pre-dawn breakfasts that seem like a distant memory when the mid-day parched mouth syndrome strikes; sleepy afternoons when a cup of coffee seems worth an arm or even a leg; and a strange anticlimactic fullness that follows the first glass of water once the sun has finally set.