The last day of the month of Shaban is one of the longest days of the year.
Businesses that would usually close by 10 pm are open way past 1 am.
Students who have to go to school on the first day of Ramadan are awake way past their bedtimes, and restaurants stay open till signs of the sun appear over the horizon.
This Ramadan switchover is counted as one of Saudi Arabia’s miracles.
There is no official announcement regarding the daily schedules, but the moment news spreads on the first night of the holy month of Ramadan, life stops and takes a U-turn.
The night becomes day and the day becomes night.
Three meals become two meals and a lot of snacks.
And the word “breakfast“ is taken for its literal meaning but at a different time, to break the fast at sunset.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Kazim Mumtaz , “I have experienced Ramadan in many countries, but have never come across anything like the way it is in Jeddah. The first night is the most charming; the way everything changes is heart-warming. My workload is not so heavy, plus I’m done at work by 3 pm, and the town is bustling with activity until 5 am. The whole night is free to relax; it’s not really difficult to fast because daytime flies by really fast. Nights are spent praying and shopping.” The city works in shifts.“
Offices are open from 9:30 am to 3 pm, businesses from 1 pm to 5 pm, and restaurants from 5 pm to 5 am.
“I work till late at night on the night before the first day,” says Syed Husain, who works at a retail outlet. “It’s long hours and tiring, but I get the whole morning to sleep on the first of Ramadan, so I don’t complain. In Lahore, we have a little change in Ramadan timings, but it does not change so drastically. I guess it’s so people don’t get too tired in their fast. But I think that’s what adds to the charm of the month here, the complete change,” he concludes.
“I love Ramadan!” says 12-year-old Azba Ramiz. “I don’t have to wake up early in the morning to go to school and can stay up at night for so long. The television channels are filled with great programs too. I fast the whole month too.”
Hafeez Butt, who works at the Ministry of Defense and Aviation as a software engineer, says, “Timings are very flexible as long as you put in your hours, though not much work is done in offices. Catching up on sleep when I’m home is one of my priorities, and I spend the evening and night shopping and out with friends as there is no such thing as getting home late.”
Shopping malls are open till late at night sometimes 24 hours and draw a lot of customers, women in general.
And youths have lots of extracurricular activities all night long.
Almost all shopping markets have an increased number of security personnel in the evenings, which patrol throughout the month to deal with any problems.
From my Perspective?
But one thing is for sure, to experience the true meaning of fasting is to fast in a normal setting when the day runs at its usual pace.
The feeling of hunger that creeps up on you as people leave on their lunch breaks or the feeling of tiredness that sinks into your bones as you finish your 8 to 10 hours at work is not what you feel when fasting during Ramadan Switchover in Saudi Arabia.
The people of Saudi Arabia get used to the change quickly and quietly with no signs of confusion.
A month of change from the daily routine for some, and a chaotic month for others, but everyone agrees it’s a spiritually charged month for all.
Personally, I would prefer not to go for Iftar at hotels and restaurants.
With my family and Four children, spending over five hundred a meal is too much plus the rush and food craze is just indigestible, we could feast at home with this amount and enjoy the rest of the evening together in our cozy home atmosphere.