Believe it or not, Muslims all over the world started fasting from the 10th of July and as at the time of writing, Muslims all over the world have been fasting for a week now, and shall continue to fast for another three weeks or so.
By the Muslim definition of fasting, that means going without food nor water from dawn to dusk, length of time dependent on where you happen to be on the face of the earth.
If you happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere, then you will be fasting during summer time, where the days are longer and the nights are shorter (now, where have I heard that line before?) and based on personal experience, thirst is the biggest challenge here.
Likewise, if you are somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, then you’ll be fasting during the winter season, where the days are definitely shorter but terribly colder and hence, as personal experience goes, the challenge is more of hunger.
But here in Malaysia, where the length of day and night stays almost consistent throughout the year, that’s about eight hours of fasting.
Mind you, the challenge is not only to go without food or water for the whole day, but to be also extra mindful of what you say, of what you do etc etc. All these in the name of The AlMighty, for that’s what the fasting is all about : for The AlMighty and because of The AlMighty.
As Muslims break their fast at dusk, Muslims celebrate and rejoice by taking in food and water and by way of showing their thanks for successfully enduring the challenge that fasting poses, perform prayers and that for some, means staying up and perform prayers deep into the night.
In the breaking of fast, for those who fast, it is a celebratory and joyous occasion. It may sound like a cliché but personally, I can reassure you that’s its true. There have been numerous TV programs depicting scenes of how other Muslims break their fast all round the world. And in Malaysia, I guess we in Malaysia are no different.
As we approach the time of breaking fast, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters will busy themselves to prepare the meals and drinks to be had by family members for the breaking of fast.
And should we, the male members of the family lucky enough not having to slave in the hot kitchen, wanted to give our mothers, wives, sisters or daughters a respite from the rigours of preparing the food to break fast with, we can always give them a treat and bring them together with the whole family to break fast at one of the fancy restaurants or hotels where they offer a Buffet Ramadan.
As these are always commercial establishments, you have to pay a certain price, of course. And should you feel that the Buffet Ramadan may be beyond your budget, don’t you fret.
There’s always a Buffet Ramadan somewhere that can meet your budget and the food is no less sumptuous nor any less tasty. That’s the beauty of it. The problem is whether there will be any space available.
Otherwise, there’s always the Bazaar Ramadan. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a big city like Kuala Lumpur or Johor Bahru or you are in a FELDA oil palm plantation, there will always be a Bazaar Ramadan. The bigger the locale, the more Bazaar Ramadan you’ll find.
And what would you find at a Bazaar Ramadan? Why, food of course. For example, in Johor Bahru itself, some of the most notable Bazaar Ramadan can be found in Kampung Melayu, Taman Perling, Taman Teratai, Taman Universiti and many more.
Come to think of it, Bazaar Ramadan can be found almost everywhere.
And how do you find them, you may ask? That’s easy enough. Just look for places where large groups of people congregate in the evenings and once found, just let your nose guide you.
It never fails for the air surrounding a Bazaar Ramadan is filled with the many smells of food, cooked and cooking, of the many spices and flavours that you can think of, all guaranteed to make your mouth water and your stomach growl.
In some of these places, you can find the highest concentration of delicacies, both local and Western, per square foot. That may be exaggerating it a bit but then again, hey we are talking about a Bazaar Ramadan.
Delicacies that you would have trouble finding during other times of the year can easily be found at one of the many stalls at a Bazaar Ramadan.
Not only that particular type of food but also its many variations, all of which have been personalized and given their makers’ individual signatures.
And being typically Malaysian, the patrons of these Bazaar Ramadan are not only Muslims but also non-Muslims, who having grown up since they were kids with the same kind of food that the Muslims had, also longed and waited for the same delicacies to make their appearance during the Bazaar Ramadan.
And the drinks? There are of course the usual fare of drinks eg Air Bandung (a drink combining rose syrup with milk and water or ice cream soda), fruit juices (lychee, orange, mango, barley etc) etc but there’s always one drink that makes its appearance during the blessed month of Ramadan and that is the Air Kathira, a drink that combines dates with milk, almonds, and many more and best served cold.
Ramadan in Malaysia is truly an experience, and we’d like to think its unique to Malaysia of course although there are also a version of the Bazaar Ramadan in Singapore (especially in Geylang).
Ramadan in Malaysia is also an experience that most expatriates treasure when they return to their home countries, of the times when they share the food that is served during a Buffet Ramadan as they sit with their Muslim colleagues during the breaking of fast.
And for those adventurous enough with friends in Malaysia to bring them round a Bazaar Ramadan, it’s a feast for the senses – the sights, the smells and the tastes.
And we have not even touch on the effects the month of Ramadan have on the local economy yet.
What with the bazaars and the buffets and the impending sales in preparation of the coming of Syawal, truly a month of blessings for all.
To Muslims all round the world, have a happy and blessed Ramadan.
Date : 25 July 2014