Today is the Muslim holiday Eid. It marks the end of Ramadan – the month of fasting. Tonight, Muslims all over the world will come celebrate; sharing toys, food, gifts, music and love. Whenever this time of year comes around, I always smile because of my own experience with Eid.
I had just checked into my hostel in Malaysia (a heavily Muslim country) and, literally guys, like 2 minutes I was in that room before the hostel manager was knocking on my door. She sat me down and explained that Ramadan was going on and how that would impact me.
If you’re not familiar with Ramadan, it is the 9th month of the Muslim year. For the WHOLE MONTH there is a strict fast from sunrise to sunset – only water or tea during daylight. If you didn’t catch the timing here, that’s the majority of May – that’s about 12 hrs a day of fasting!
I thought she was about to tell me something horrible – like all the restaurants are closed during daylight or that I too would need to fast. Not at all – instead, she educated me about the holiday so that I would be aware of what the majority of people around me would be experiencing – HUNGER!
I could see what she was getting at. Just like when you sit down to dinner with a friend, you don’t start eating before them – you wait for them to join you at the table and then you begin your meal. As such, I would need to make sure that I dined in at the restaurant or brought my food home to eat it in private.
My first few meals in Malaysia were, for lack of a better word, kind of awkward. I was always the only person dining. As suggested by my hostel manager, I dined in as to not be rude to people outside. Slowly, my food began to taste like guilt as it dawned on me that all these employees must be hungry too.
Then, one day I was on my way back to my hostel and I saw something straight out of Spirited Away. What was once an abandoned fairground was now bustling with smells, lights, activity and laughter. Of course, I had to check it out. Coming closer, I saw a sea of smiling faces filled with food – Eid had come!
When I approached, I was ushered into a small booth by three large, smiling women. They brought me over to a table upon which sat three clear barrels filled with tea. The tea had been brewed by placing flowers in it, and had taken on the color of the flower’s petals. They poured me a small paper cup of each and let me taste them – they were incredible! Still to this day I wish I had found a way to find out what flavors they were so I could have them here at home.
I spent the next hour going from booth to booth trying various roasted meats, curried rices, stewed vegetables. I was so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It was a lovely celebration that I’ve always remembered. Today especially – Happy Eid!!