On my first nights in Asserpark (Wageningen, the Netherlands), I woke up a few times at around 4 or 5 a.m. with the sound of someone cooking in the kitchen. First, I thought that maybe someone had just arrived from a faraway country and was suffering from jet leg. But then I heard people chatting and laughing and…a vacuum cleaner!!! Wow! That was strange. Was someone giving a party every day in the middle of the night?
Later, I found out that it was Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours. Therefore, my Muslim corridor mates, together with their friends also living in Asserpark, were having their morning meal (called Suhoor) before fasting (sawm).
An Iftar dinner, the evening meal when Muslims break their fast, was organized at the International Club (see location here). Everyone (Muslim and no Muslim) was invited to go there. I decided to join.
As soon as I was inside the International Club, I was asked to go to the side of the room reserved for women and children. Men and women were separated in order to avoid contact between them.
After sunset, the fast was broken by consuming 3 dates. Then, before the main meal was served, it was time for the Maghrib prayer, which is the fourth of the five daily prayers. As expected, men and women prayed in separated rooms.
The food was all set on a central table. First, the women and children got up and served themselves. Only after every women was back at their table did the men got up for their turn.
There was a large variety of dishes. Everyone had prepared a Ramadan dish from its country. There were only a few dishes I could eat, they were, in general, too spicy for me. There was a Pakistani fruit salad that was really tasty, I can say it was the best fruit salad I ever ate.
The holiday of Eid Al-Fitr marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan. A special celebration is made. My corridor mates put on their best clothes and went to the mosque for communal prayers. In my class, some of the students shared some sweet with us to celebrate the end of fasting.