For almost the entire second month of my time in The Gambia, the 90% Muslim population has been observing Ramadan. I was told that tourist activities, restaurants and even work would slow down significantly, but to be honest, it is not incredibly noticeable aside from the overall energy level. Of my coworkers, four of the six of us are fasting, leaving only me and my Ponce.
As a whole, with the country fasting from 5:30 AM to 7:45 PM, you can imagine how tired everyone is. Not just that, but apparently water is also not permitted, which I had no idea of. When I was thinking about it, there are definitely times, on days of a big test, or lazy days at home or travelling, where I have not eaten until dinner, maybe around 7 or 7:30. But water?! And for 40 days in a row? The exhaustion level increases every day, and it’s entirely apparent that the country just wants to be taking one big nap. There are varying degrees of observance of the month-long holiday. The less devout Muslims, maybe those who drink and smoke cigarettes, use it as a cleanse, spending the holy month observing all the laws of their religion that they may not consistently obey during the other 11 months of the year. Some girls have even admitted to me that it is an ideal opportunity to lose weight, cutting out the available time for snacking. But for most of the Gambian population, this month represents a recognition of God, and more than anything, a time to reflect.
For me, however, Ramadan has mostly represented a higher tendency of people falling asleep at work, taking midday naps, and odd restaurant hours. A few weeks ago, the men who live downstairs in the hostel told me they didn’t think I could handle a day without food. I told them they were on, and I did it pretty easily. But as with anything, it clearly wears on you. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Time for a snack.