By Mudassir Raja
True spirit of Ramadan can truly be comprehended after looking at different aspects of the holy month. How this month changes daily routine and how much it affects those who observe fasting is a question that can best be answered not by reading books on Ramadan but by actually observing those who fast.
The more inquisitive and perhaps less informed about Ramadan’s true message are obviously the non-Muslim expatriate living in Qatar. Samantha Maeer is a British national living in Qatar. She has been working with Nigel Downes, a renowned British photographer on the project named ‘The 30 Holy Days’.
The project aims at capturing the true spirit of Ramadan through photography.
Community spoke to Samantha about her experience of Ramadan. When asked what has so far been her understanding of the holy month before she moved to Qatar, she said: “I do not live in Qatar. I am based in London. I am only in Qatar this Ramadan because Nigel Downes and I conceived the ‘30 Holy Days’ project so I am staying here to deliver the project.
“However, I have spent several years living in the Gulf primarily in the UAE. To be honest, despite being in the Gulf for almost a decade my understanding of Ramadan was far more limited than I had thought. I have arranged a few and large corporate Iftars for friends. I have obviously attended them. I have seen Iftar tents popping up all over the place, Iftar boxes being handed out at roadway intersections and have had the odd Suhoor invitations. I have noticed a spike in the amount of collections being made, and in the expatriate community a lot of Ramadan boxes being put together for the less fortunate among us, mainly workers. All the visible external things surrounding food and charity have become more visible for me.
Of course, you are aware that it is a time for fasting from dawn till dusk, people seem to pray more. The working hours are far shorter than normal days. I have noticed lots of western expats leave town, certain shops impose restrictions and the quality of driving takes a steep nosedive. But honestly that was about the extent of my knowledge.
In response to a question about new aspects that she has learnt about the holy month while living in Qatar, she said: “This Ramadan, the ‘30 Holy Days’ project was designed to raise awareness, what started out as a project to showcase the mosques around Doha has grown exponentially because of the people, who I have met. I have had the pleasure to experience a far more Islamic Ramadan. So far, we have met and photographed Muslim individuals, couples and families. We have been welcomed into their homes, broken fast with them, and heard their stories. I have learned that Ramadan is a time for family, togetherness, recalibration, introspection, gratitude, prayers, charity and forgiveness.”
Asked if she does something special in Ramadan, Samantha said: “This Ramadan has been a completely different experience for me, both geographically and personally. I have been blessed to have met some wonderful new people, some of whom have become friends. In addition, I really hope to have helped deliver something special, which has illustrated that we are all more alike than some of the international press would have us think. If that has raised any awareness on an international level, then I have done something very special this Ramadan.”
Asked if she would like to share message about Ramadan, she said: “Look after each other, do not judge what you do not know and be kind to each other all year round not just during Ramadan.”
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