End of Ramadan: Eid Mubarak
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
334Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Madina Hotel & Guest House
A Christian couple with their new baby were also at the hotel. They were inviting everyone to Chapurson Valley, where they now lived, for their son's first birthday: "You have to come!"
On the night of the twelth of October, the Pakistani staff was glued to the television: "We're waiting to see if they saw the moon," Hidayat Hussain explained. If the "committee" saw the new cresent moon at sunset, then Ramadan was over. They didn't see the moon, so the month was thirty days long, and we fasted another day.
By now waking at 4 a.m. and fasting all day was becoming much easier as the desire for food and water had declined significantly.
I stayed in Gilgit those extra days because further north, the villagers were Ismaili, where many people said Ramadan isn't practiced and Ismailis aren't Muslims. But when I talked to an Ismaili, he said that the other sects had misinterpreted Ramadan, which should focus on doing good deeds and right actions not on denying oneself food and water: "they don't eat, but they kill!" To Ismailis, the Koran verses talking about fasting during Ramadan are interpreted as metaphorical.
In Gilgit, Sunnis, Shi'as, and Shi'a Ismailis mix, creating a visibly tense situation. Pakastani military with machine guns stand guard at checkpoints or on makeshift bunkers right on the city streets. In the past, there have been many killings: "the Sunnis kill ten Shi'as so the Shi'as must then kill forth Sunnis," and Ismaili said, also mentioning that Ismailis were killed, but they didn't fight back, trying to keep the peace and avoiding neverending cycles of retribution and bloodshed.
Finally, Eid arrived, the festivities began. Hussain invited everyone to his home for Eid, a subdued celebration at home and at the mosque, where families celebrate their piety and success in fasting. Dozens of dishes were placed in front of us.
Many people, I think, were relieved as people were smoking and eating on the streets and the few instances of flaring tempers I had seen near the end were replaced by smiling feast-goers. Still, stomachs shrink over a month of fasting, so eating huge amounts wasn't really possible.
In the end, Ramadan in Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, was a good experience, though at times difficult and challenging, with some saying it will do me no good and others glad I was joining them in the fast. It was probably the best way to get to know how people think in Pakistan, though I just saw the tip of the iceberg.