Ramadan in Djibouti
By Michael L’Heureux, Global MBA student 2012-2013, Canada
My first month in Djibouti was a difficult one: this year the fasting month of Ramadan fell in July, meaning no food or drink for most of the people I was working with, in the 40˚+ summer heat. For me, this meant nothing open during the afternoon: no restaurants and not even any shops to buy bottled water or anything else! Most Djiboutians spend the time sleeping, then stay up all night with their friends until the call to the fajr prayer just before dawn. Its a rhythm that was tough to get into. Try as I might, I couldn't bring myself to sleep in the afternoon, stay up late at night and then be fresh and ready for work in the morning. With the work day starting at 7:30 every day, getting to bed relatively early was important, especially with no coffee at the office all day!
I did manage to get out in the evenings with new-found friends in Djibouti (albeit heading home quite a bit earlier than they did!). I also promised my friends I'd join them for a day of fasting on the 27th day of Ramadan, Leilat el Qader ("The Night of Destiny"), which commemorates the anniversary when the first verses of the Quran were recited by the Prophet Mohammed and is considered the most important day of Ramadan. That day, I started off by waking up at 4 am with the call of the adhan to eat breakfast, then spending the whole day without food or drink. By the end of the workday at 2pm, I had a bad headache and was completely parched: the Djiboutian strategy of an afternoon nap was a welcome respite.
In the evening, my classmate Matthias & I joined all of our colleagues at the Economic Development Fund to break the fast at the office. We were treated to traditional fried sambusas (samosas) and fritters as well as dates, fresh fruits and French and Arab-style sweets and pastries. After we'd had a the chance to have a few bites (and more importantly a few glasses of water & juice!), the management team said prayers in Somali, Arabic and French, thanking God for their successes and for the opportunity to bring everyone together. The general director in his dua', reminded the staff of their duty to earn their pay through honest hard work and effort, as is required of them in Islam.