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Saturday, 21 August 2010


Apologies for the extra long absence this time but the last two weeks have been extremely busy.
With the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday 12 August, a number of bits and pieces that I needed to do beforehand but never got round to were squeezed in the last days. A couple of friends over from London would go back before Ramadan, so we had to have them over for dinner. One of the women of my class visited Mecca earlier this summer and held a reunion with the other students in her house. It was meant to be a morning, but she had prepared a buffet of food, and the conversation as so pleasant that some of us ended up staying until five o’clock in the afternoon. Then there was the preparation for our family reunion.
In a previous post I have mentioned that every month Hossein’s brothers and sisters and their families gather in one house for a family dinner. Our turn was on 5 August, but we decided to hold it on 12 August, on the first day of Ramadan, for iftar (the meal that breaks the fast).

Iftar is meant to be a simple meal but if the number of guests is large, it needs a lot of last minute work. The host needs to make sure that every guest has everything within reach: dates, sugar bowl, fresh bread, feta cheese and fresh herbs, sometimes butter and honey or jam, thick soup (ash reshteh – the recipe is given in Among the Iranians), and any other foods that can be eaten with bread, like aubergine dip (kashk-e bademjan) or fried meze. Also, enough tea should already be served in front of every guest by the moment the call to the evening prayer is made.

We were twenty-two people to our iftar, which made it a marathon of work, but fortunately my two sisters-in-law and their daughters came earlier and were a huge help.

Since that day, the routine of everyday life is different. The fast is broken at about 8.10 pm, and then preparations for the morning meal begin with meat stew or chicken being cooked and rice soaked and parboiled. At 3.30 am I make salad, lay the table, brew fresh tea, wash fruit and call everyone to eat at 4.00 am. The call to the morning prayer is made at a couple of minutes before 5 am, after which believers abstain from all food and drink. This routine will carry on untilthe last day of the Ramadan on Thursday 9 September.
Many believers also try to do a complete reading of the Holy Quran in this month. This is the first time that I have decided to complete the reading too, since this is the first year that I know how to read Quranic Arabic. The Holy Quran is about 600 pages long in most editions, and it is divided into 30 equally long sections (juz’), each of which takes about an hour and a half to read. Since today is the tenth of Ramadan, one third of it (200 pages) has now been read.