Performing Ramadan fast in sweltering summer heat

Sunday 19/06/2016
Difficult challenge to go through

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.