Day 1. Isn’t It Ironic?

I wake at 6.30 and am immediately calmed by the coolness and dull looking weather outside. Yes I know, us Brits would give nothing more than to be basking in 20C sun considering we are half way through June, but for Ramadan, the cooler weather is a rather warm welcome.The rest of the house is in silence. As young children rush to the windows on Christmas Day to see if the world is covered in a blanket of snow, I half expect the same kind of magic. Not necessarily snow, but for a good minute, I just sit there and take in the moment- the journey has begun and I feel like I’m ready to embrace it all!

My husband and I run our own cafe and so ironically, we make our money from selling pork. My first morning of Ramadan is spent setting up at work and part cooking bacon and sausages and I can’t help but have a giggle. 
I look outside and see a runner sprinting along. Running is a big passion of mine, and I can hear myself saying ‘you go girl, go do a mile or two for me!’. Of course, it will be the best pat of two months before I’m back out running. I could try, but unless I have an escort with me at 3am, or a set of blades to help me along after the evening meal, I think I’ll just stay put. The heat in Turkey over the summer could be useful if I wanted to melt away the calories, but I think I’ll just have to grit my teeth and stay patient (will be getting a lot of practise with that this month!) I have however, snook in a set of 20 squats whilst I have the energy to do so!

I read an article a week or so ago which states that despite belief, people do not lose weight throughout Ramadan because of how much they eat once they’ve broken their fast. I know myself that I will feel full this evening after a small plate, and by the time I’ve eaten, it won’t be much longer before I’m in bed! So for the sake of this experiment, I now weigh in at 64.7kg. Lets see if the theory is true.

By 9am the kids are at school, I’m back at work and it has dawned on me that I still feel half asleep. I’m not hungry, as I don’t usually do breakfast early on anyway, but I am certainly missing my usual caffeine shot! The customers start to flow into the cafe, and despite what people think, cooking food all day whilst I’m fasting doesn’t really bother me. I remember on my experience of Ramadan when I wasn’t fasting, that my husband asked if I would mind eating away from his parents as a sign of respect. His mum kicked up a fuss and told him I was fine where I was, and that is exactly how I feel- seeing other people eat doesn’t bother me at all. However, the big slab of chocolate cake in the fridge did look appealing mid-morning!

My husband and I will be sharing our shifts in the cafe, and so he took over my role at lunchtime. Normally I would like to have grabbed a small nap, not because I’m tired, but because knowing my habits, I would become fidgety and start doing a spring clean on the house because I don’t have it in me to simply ‘sit back and relax’. Today my youngest daughter and her reception class took part in the schools annual tradition of celebrating weddings. There is both a Christian and a Hindu celebration with ironically my daughter playing part of the chef who, with others, was responsible for the making of the wedding cake and the traditional sauces found at such occasions. It felt like somebody, somewhere was having a good giggle at my expense, when on entering the school hall, I was met with the biggest aroma of herbs and spices, and I daren’t even look at what they had laid out on the tables. It was a fantastic afternoon with lots of music and dancing, and knocked a good couple of hours off the countdown to Iftar.

I volunteered this evening to go and do the wholesale shopping for the cafe. May seem like a crazy idea, considering at this point I hadn’t eaten or drank for 13 hours and I would be lifting heavy loads. However, believe me, heavy labour tasks such as those seem minor in comparison to having to play cook/nurse/referee/teacher/cleaner to three children. I was on my own with just my music and thoughts for company. A bit of Uptown Funk sent the energy levels going, albeit every so slightly, and I actually enjoyed a calm and peaceful few hours. My last stop on the way home was to an international supermarket, known particularly for stocking Turkish food. To me, this was the bit of magic I had been waiting for. I was faced with fruit and vegetables all the way from Turkey- and for a small moment, it was like I was back ‘home’. My husband had told me to call him when I got there so we could compile our list of what we both wanted. By this point, hunger had taken over, and I think I would have been happy with a bag of dried pasta. ‘Jam’, I told him. ‘I want jam’. Don’t ask, but I had a huge desire for something sweet. We had already decided that we would have ‘Turkish breakfast’ for our evening meal. Something simple and easy, and I was determined to have jam on bread to go with that. I walked to the back of the store, and there, lined up in perfect uniform, was the freshly baked bread. If you read yesterday’s blog, you’ll know why it really did feel special.

My shopping was complete and it was time to head home. It took me a good couple of minutes to register that I was in fact putting my seatbelt into the ignition and struggling to understand why the car wouldn’t start. At least I had an excuse for it not to be another ‘blonde moment’. By the time I arrived home, the kids were fed and almost ready for bed. The in-laws in Turkey were on Skype and already sat enjoying their evening meal. We still had a three hour wait at that point. My mother in law filled the room with prayers of how she hopes our fasting will be accepted by Allah, and that she is so proud of us for what we have done. She then gathered with the neighbours and went to the local mosque for more praying- a ritual she will see every night for the next month. May Allah accept her prayers. 

So, there is now less than one hour left. I’m not thirsty, I’m not particularly ravenous, I just feel content. I feel a small sense of achievement that I have managed to get through the first day, and I feel at peace. Fasting isn’t sadistic, or a way to make us suffer. It is a way of teaching yourself that yes, you have the power to be in control of your thoughts and actions. Well, I may have to rethink that theory when I go for that slab of chocolate cake at midnight. 
  

A British Female and Her Journey Through Ramadan…

I am new to the world of blogging, despite it having been on my ‘to try’ list for the past five months. I have always worried about not having anything relevant to say, or that I wouldn’t be of much interest, but this time, this blog is about my journey, and even if it interests just a handful of people, then my job has been done.

By no means at all is this blog meant to offend. I appreciate that the title can seem a bit trashy. ‘Why emphasise I’m a blonde Brit?’ This is about breaking the stereotype surrounding Islam, and that we are not all the radical extremists that the religion has become so associated with. If mentioning that I am a blonde Brit grabs attention to the content of the blog, then well done to me for that clever little tactic 😊

So tomorrow marks the start of the month of Ramadan. The month in which Muslims fast during daylight hours as a way to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). Fasting Is obligatory for all Muslims and allows us to appreciate the small things in life which we may take for granted such as being able to access water from a tap. It gives us time to reflect and to practise being the honest, helpful and genuine people we should always be.

I converted to Islam in 2007. I was brought up by my parents as a Catholic and regularly attended church. I had very little knowledge of Islam until I met my husband in 2004 and found a certain peace that I couldn’t help but be taken back by when I watched his Mum pray. My first ever experience of Ramadan was in Istanbul. It was autumn, yet still warm. To me back then, the days seemed like any others. I didn’t know what I was ‘looking out for’, yet on the evenings, when the family gathered together to break the fast, there was a sense of calm, a sense of love, warmth and peace.

I have been lucky enough to spend each Ramadan in Istanbul ever since, until this year, where due to the late school holidays, I will be spending the first three weeks in the UK. The days in Turkey are warm, very warm, and believe me, it can be tough, but there is a certain atmosphere there throughout Ramadan which is nothing like I’ve experienced before. The TV adverts showing families gathering together to break the fast have been giving me goose pimples. I can smell the aroma of freshly baked bread coming out from the ovens to the queues of people ready to take home. The hustle and bustle of early evening where people rush home to start preparing the ‘Iftar’ meal. The clinking of the cutlery as the table is prepared. The feeling of strength and achievement as the call to pray is bellowed from the mosques, meaning the fast can be broken. The evenings are then, as I have experienced, filled with love and worship- love shared with those close to you, be it family, friends or neighbours, and worship through the extra prayers required during Ramadan.

As the sun is ready is rise, the davul (drum) can be heard through the streets as a way of waking people to prepare for breakfast before the sun rises and fasting must be obeyed. This meal is generally as plentiful as the evening meal in order to prepare your body for the day ahead.

The build up to Ramadan in the UK, for myself personally, has been minimal. I do not live close to a Muslim community, and the only relevant thing I have seen in the past week has been a small counter in a well known supermarket chain with an ever smaller sign saying ‘Eid Mubarek’. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to know, my friends have only known Ramadan starts tomorrow because a few have asked if I would like to go out for a meal and a good gossip before I spend the summer overseas. Very bad organising on my part considering the date has been fixed for the past 50+ years 😄

My children are too young to fast, although they are all very excited for Mummy and Daddy. My husband and I will be breaking our fasts together every evening. No freshly baked bread, no call to pray from the mosque, just a print out from the Internet telling us when we can eat, and a house filled with love and peace.

I hope you will take the time to join me on my journey. Don’t worry, I won’t be preaching, I won’t be filling my blog with holy verses, I would just like people to know that we don’t all have to conform to a certain stereotype in order to support our beliefs. I have had my ‘supper’ (as we say here up north 😊), I have drank copious amounts of water and set my alarm for the early hours. Wishing you all a happy and peaceful month whatever your religion may be.