"I liguri sono di due categorie: quelli attaccati ai propri luoghi come patelle allo scoglio che non riusciresti mai a spostarli; e quelli che per casa hanno il mondo e dovunque siano si trovano come a casa loro. Ma anche i secondi, e io sono dei secondi, tornano regolarmente a casa, restano attaccati al loro paese non meno dei primi." (Italo Calvino)
Today is the second day of Ramadan, which, as many of you will know, is the holy month of fasting for Muslims. I had not been in a Muslim country during Ramadan for a long long time, let alone as an adult working woman.
Everyone in my office has been waiting for this month. While for me it was merely a month where I am not allowed to eat, drink and smoke in public during the day (the latter being the most difficult one for me), there is so much more to it than "fasting". It is a month of prayer, family gatherings, good deeds, and festivities.
The first sign of Ramadan came to me when we received a circular from HR decreasing working hours from 8 to 6. You read correctly. The second sign, was a beautiful box of heavenly Bateel dates coated with chocolate or filled with nuts distributed by our employer to each member member of staff. I was never a big fan of dates, but now I am hooked.
The third sign was the long list of Iftar invitations that I received. Iftar is when Muslims break their fast. Every Iftar is a sumptuous banquet of home made dished that are to die for.
However, the most striking manifestation of Ramadan here is what the people and the rulers of this country do. They feed thousands and thousands of people every day. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque alone feeds 20,000 people every day (20,000!) Any one can go. And if you think that the quality of food will be mediocre, think again. The food is provided by the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi which is one of the most prestigious clubs in the Capital.
Abu Dhabi generosity does not stop here. Food is distributed to thousands of workers daily, and to drivers on their way home (boxes are provided at Gas stations to feed those who would speed to reach home on time). Families, both locals and expats, take food daily to mosques before the call for prayers.
I hold the passport of another Arab (predominantly Muslim) country, and I never witnessed anything like this. My friends who have worked and lived in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim country by definition, tell me that the most people can hope for (and there are many poor workers there) is some bread, water and a handful of dates. Saudi Arabia, for the record, is the destination of Muslim pilgrims, and not that far behind in terms of wealth.
It is very easy for outsiders to delve in the negative aspects of other societies. To criticise what is unfamiliar to them. What they disagree with. But for once, let's focus on the amazing generosity that we witness in Abu Dhabi during Ramadan. These people are feeding thousands and thousands of hungry workers, who are not a threat to the stability of this country. In other words, they could simply not do it. They have no obligation, but one dictated by their spiritual and moral values that I would like to celebrate.