Performing Ramadan fast in sweltering summer heat
BEIRUT - Abstaining from eating and drinking for long hours is always a test of willpower and determination but it is even more arduous during excessively hot weather. Muslims in Arab countries face that challenge when the fasting month of Ramadan occurs in summer.
Ramadan fasting is observed from dawn to dusk — an average of 16 hours in the summer — and can take its toll on people, especially under the scorching sun and desert heat of the Middle East and North Africa.
The advent of Ramadan coincided with a heatwave across Iraq, where temperatures were more than 50 degrees Celsius, prompting the government to reduce working hours in public administration. For war-weary Syrians deprived of electricity and struggling with food shortages and inflation, Ramadan-related duties have been affected by temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius.
“The same as last year, we have not been able to fast this Ramadan because of strong heat, scarcity of food and the high prices of available commodities which we cannot afford,” bemoaned Mohamad Assaf, who was displaced from Raqqa.
Gulf countries, where temperatures hit 50 degrees Celsius, saw governments adjust work schedules. Saudi Arabia banned work under the sun between noon and 3pm.
In Jordan, the Motor Vehicle Department blamed an 80% jump in traffic accidents in Amman — 529 crashes since Ramadan started on June 6th — on speed and careless driving often by motorists late for iftar, the sundown fast-breaking meal.
“Iftar time is a circus since the state loses its control over the streets and policemen are busy breaking their fast. Asking friends out for an iftar meal is like inviting them to a death trip,” said Inas el- Sheikh, a teacher in Amman.
The 16-hour fast each day “is a difficult challenge to go through the workday fasting but you have to work to earn a living and do your duty as a Muslim,” said Fethi Omari, a bricklayer at a construction site in Tunis.
“Drinking two litres of water through the night helps beat thirst in the day. One should always start iftar with two glasses of water and keep away as much as possible from fried and salty food, as well as sweets to beat thirst,” Lebanese dietician Joya Farhat advises.