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 Ramadan - Dispelling the Myths

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Lombok Looney

Number of posts : 591
Location : Kuta Lombok / Jimbaran Bali
Registration date : 2008-07-01

PostSubject: Ramadan - Dispelling the Myths   Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:38 pm

There was a similar article to this in a recent edition of the Bali Advertiser. I tried to find it online but only came up with this one that was published last year but just as relevant, except for the dates of course!

Ramadan… Dispelling the Myths

Ramadan, the fasting month, is due to start on 1 September this year. Muslims across Indonesia will be fasting for the entire month of September; so now is a good time to dispel some of the myths that get aired at this time of the year.

Naughty tour guides and taxi drivers in Bali will tell visitors not to go to Lombok during Ramadan because all the restaurants are closed, there’s nothing to eat and none of the taxis are operating, etc. Whether this is genuine ignorance about the nature of Ramadan or a bid to keep the tourists in their own backyard is debatable, but the facts remain the same: in Lombok, it is business as usual all year round.

It would be silly to suggest that, particularly with how busy Lombok is at the moment, the tourist hubs such as Senggigi, Kuta and the Gili’s, would close for the entire month and the whole island would just grind to a halt. Nonsense – we’d all be bored! During Ramadan, hotels are open for business as usual, restaurants serve meals all day, bars are open with live music and alcohol, and the taxis run at their usual erratic pace. Many of the locals are fasting, but non-Muslim locals and tourists are catered for with usual Lombok hospitality. You can even have a cold Bintang with your bacon and eggs, if that’s your wish!

Ramadan starts with the first sighting of the new moon in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which occurs around 1 September this year, and lasts for one lunar month (until the next new moon). As Islam is the majority religion of Indonesia, much of the archipelago will be abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex between sunrise and sunset each day for the next month.

Ramadan is a month for exercising self control over desires, and for fasting, meditation and reflection. Fasting helps Muslims to empathise with the poor and those who never have enough food, and the month of Ramadan is marked by charity and giving to those less fortunate than themselves. Fasting is another way of exercising control over the self, just as Muslims will exercise control over other base emotions such as anger, jealousy, physical desire and any other strong emotion. The aim is to remain calm and in control of the self, which in turn leads the person to better control in resisting wrong doing or temptation at other times of the year. Similar to fasts and retreats practised by all the world’s major religions, the act of fasting is seen as a sacred practice to bring the person closer to Godliness.

The details of the fast are laid out in the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, and make allowances for people who are unable to fast at this time. Pregnant women, old people in frail health, or anyone who is ill, are told not to fast during Ramadan. If the person wishes to complete the fast at a later time, they may do so but the Qur’an does not tell people to put their lives or health at risk for Ramadan.

Fasting Muslims will wake early in the morning to prepare and eat their first meal for the day and to say morning prayers. After sunrise, no food, drink or smoking is allowed for the rest of the day until sunset. During Ramadan you will often see the local people out walking just before sunset, to take their minds off their hunger and passing the time until they can buka puasa. Buka Puasa (breaking the fast) is a happy occasion, with families gathering together to share their evening meal after a day of abstinence.

Lombok has a mixed community of Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other religions, so local Muslims accept that not everyone is fasting. For people employed in the service and tourism industries, it’s normal for guests to be eating, drinking and enjoying their holidays. Staff are happy to do their jobs as usual. Most Muslims seem to agree that it’s only the first week or so that’s difficult; after that, the fasting becomes normal and their bodies adapt to the new routine. They also agree that it’s better to keep as busy as possible during the day, so they’re not thinking about food!

If you’re travelling in some of the outer areas and small villages which are not geared for tourism, it may be more difficult to find warungs open during the day. It might be easier to buy snacks and meals to take with you, or to eat in your hotel later. As an aware traveller, you can show courtesy by not eating and drinking in front of fasting people, but generally people will make allowances for that fact that you are a guest and not fasting.

Just as Bali businesses accommodates Hindu holy times, such as Nyepi, Galungan and Kuningan, Lombok businesses respect the different beliefs of their community and make flexible arrangements to support their practices. Staff may be a bit tired, as they’re waking up early in the mornings and losing energy during the day. It’s particularly difficult when the weather is hot and people would love to have a drink, but this is part of the test. At the end of the day, there is a sense of pleasure at having been able to overcome temptations and complete the fast. Please be patient if most of the staff seems to disappear at sunset – they’ve just gone to buka puasa and will be back at work soon, smiling after a good meal and something to drink!

Copyright © 2008 Siti Zainab
Email: lombok@baliadvertiser.biz
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Lombok Soulmate

Number of posts : 200
Location : USA
Registration date : 2008-08-05

PostSubject: My experience last year   Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:28 pm

I was in Bali for a few days and in Lombok for nine days during 2008 Ramadan. There were only two minor inconveniences I had and I was able to make quick adjustments.

First, I could not get lunch at a warung. Then I could not share lunches with the students we support through our non-profit organization. Once I understood the local customs, I met with friends and others in the evenings and that woked out well. I also noticed if I wanted to do some shopping, for the most part it worked well. I also had the benefit of some advice from some of my expatriate friends that helped me a great deal.

Will I ever plan to be there during Idulfitri? Perhaps yes to celebrate it with my Muslim friends in Bali. At this home, the Ibu wakes up at about 4 a.m. to prepare the meal for the family and the only inconvenience was when I visited them in the evening, she will retire at about 8 p.m. Sad Will I avoid airline travel around that period - yes I will based on what I have heard.

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Ramadan - Dispelling the Myths
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