Observations of Ramadan from Ethiopia, Part One

Hayat Seid, NYUAD Class of 2017, shares her favorite things about Ramadan in Ethiopia, where she's from.

At the close of the academic year, many NYU Abu Dhabi students return to their home countries to spend time with their families and friends. For this two-part summer series, Salaam asked two students to share their Ramadan experiences from Ethiopia. First up, Hidaya Ibrahim...

On the night of June 27, my father tuned to the Saudi television channel — as he usually does every year — to await the confirmation of when Ramadan was to begin.

As it does each year on the first night of Ramadan in Ethiopia, the national television channel also announced the commencement of the Holy Month. Friends and family then called and texted, wishing each other a happy and blessed Ramadan.

Now, the city center is filled with pedestrians walking together for the Taraweeh — a voluntary but highly valued prayer performed only during the month of Ramadan.

While residential areas lack a noticeable difference in appearance during the Holy Month, the city center comes to life: Quran and Islamic hymns blast from stores and street vendors sell dates while men and women of all ages walk in packs toward mosques during prayer times.

Merkato, one of the largest open markets in Africa, is exemplary to how ardently Ramadan is observed in the country. Even the way people dress in this area is different during the Holy Month. The Muslim women mostly wear plain black abayas, while the men often never leave home without their taqiyah, a rounded skullcap, and the tasbeeh, a string of prayer beads.

But what makes Ramadan in Ethiopia unique is the country's inclusive behavior to non-Muslims — a true demonstration of Ethiopia's highly cordial and loving inter-religious coexistence. It is common practice for non-Muslims to celebrate iftar — breaking the fast — with their Muslim friends, family, and colleagues. Some even choose to fast with their Muslim compatriots.

Ethiopian women also spend significantly more time in the kitchen during Ramadan, as evidenced in my house with my mother, sisters, and I spending most of the late afternoons preparing for iftar. Once the call to prayer is heard, each of us takes three dates to break our fast, emulating the Prophet Mohammed who broke his fast in the same manner.

We will observe Ramadan for 28 consecutive days until July 28, when my father will once again tune to the Saudi television channel to confirm the start of Eid Al-Fitr, marking the end of the Holy Month.

Hayat Seid, NYUAD Class of 2017, shares her favorite things about Ramadan in Ethiopia, where she's from.