Gearing-up for Ramadan in the new Libya!
Libyans, like Muslims all over the world, are getting ready, making final preparations and stocking-up for the blessed month of Ramadan. But for Libyans this year marks the third Ramadan they will spend in a free Libya, a post-revolution Libya, which saw the toppling, many people thought unimaginable, of the ex-dictator Gaddafi. Many Libyans will never forget the Ramadan of 2011, spent with the country in a state of revolution, and will reflect back and remember the seemingly never-ending queues at the few bakery shops that could still find sacks of flour to make bread for their fasting customers. Nor will they forget the chaos at petrol stations when fuel-thirsty motorists had little choice but to join long queues in the baking sun, queues that could last for more than a week! Security check-points had sprung up all over the country and the sound of gunfire ricocheted round the mostly deserted streets. In stark contrast to the Ramadans before and after, Night-time in Libya, in the Ramadan of 2011, was a time best spent in the relative security of your home.
Time has gone round fast and brought back yet another blessed month of fasting to Muslims everywhere. The Libyan way of celebrating this special time is not much different from that of the rest of other Muslim world. The week prior to Ramadan and the first week of Ramadan tend to be the busiest and by far the most chaotic as most people load-up their freezers and fridges with poultry, meat and vegetables along with other kitchen supplies necessary for the customary iftar or end of fasting feasts. Early preparation ensures as little shopping as possible takes place on an empty stomach and avoids having to wait around in any queues! Most will manage to get the food supplies they need for at least the first week although some, particularly well-organised people, manage to shop the whole month in advance to save themselves any hassle!
Ramadan is a blessed month which should be spent in increased worship and the earning of magnified rewards for good deeds. Unfortunately, many people with addictions, such as smokers and coffee drinkers find it difficult to control their cravings and can be rather unapproachable! In general, people can be less patient and tempers considerably shorter! Another reason why shopping in advance can be preferable!
Working hours also change with the arrival of Ramadan. Working hours in State Sectors are generally between 9am and 2pm whilst most Muslim workers stay-up to the early hours of the morning to see in Sohoor or the beginning of the fast. There is a general day/night reversal in all aspects of life with most of the country spending days lazily and most businesses such as shops, cafes and restaurants opening and staying open much later, often until the early hours of the morning. Ramadan in Libya brings with it its own special atmosphere and families enjoy spending time together. You may see families especially those living in flats and apartments without outside space, using the time to enjoy walks together along the seaside and a breath of fresh air.
In the last ten days of Ramadan, the preparation for Eid begins. This time chaos descends on not only food shops but toy shops and clothing stores as families take their children out to buy them new Eid clothes and often gifts for each and every family member, which as Libyan family sizes go, equates to a lot of shopping! It is extremely advisable not to leave your Eid shopping to the last minute, unless you are happy to sit in long traffic jams and enjoy overcrowded places! Many people however, have started to do Eid shopping during the first two weeks of Ramadan and again the well-organised few will have started to shop for Eid before even the start of Ramadan!
Despite everything, Ramadan has a special place in the heart of every Muslim wherever they may be, because Ramadan to Muslims is a time of remembrance, of charity, forgiveness, a time for friends and family and for happiness and joy. I hope that this year we can enjoy a nice, quiet and joyful Ramadan here in Libya, a month away from the sound of guns and free from any unpleasant surprises. May Allah safeguard Libya.