|Edgware Road, London|
It was warm, the kind of warm you'd appreciate after living in London for a while, a warm long july day in 2011, which was also the first day of Ramadan, and my first ramadan away from the east.
I remember all the conversations that led to that day about what seemed to be the impossibility of fasting the long hours of the day; not accustomed to the European summer, I found it difficult at first to grasp the idea that fasting 17 hours a day would be possible.
I didn't think of the fact that life during Ramadan in London would resume as normal, and how the smell of coffee, cigarettes and bread would be hovering in the air I breath. I forgot that in London, unlike other cities I've witnessed Ramadan in, the majority would not be fasting, I forgot.
I also did not think that when it was time to break the fast, I wouldn't have my TV turned on Sharjah TV channel with their famous iftar ritual every year, in fact, I forgot I didn't own a TV and that my fasting would break with me googling the time of Maghrib and comparing and contrasting the different timings between the different time-zones of the city.
It did not feel special at first.
I remember situating myself in front of my laptop with some strawberries and water since I had no dates and yogurt, and searching on youtube for the Adhan that most resembles home. The moment I'd break my fast, I'd pray and then call my friends and socialise a little with them before it was time to catch the last tube back to my apartment.
It was difficult the first couple of days, until I decided that googling Ramadan in London, was probably not the best way to spend the holy month in a city that was slowly becoming home. And so began my journey in trying to ease the binaries that rested within me about the East and the West, slowly by taking short walks around my neighborhood and trying to spy with my little eye fellow muslims. As soon as I reached the bus stop in my beautiful islington neighborhood, a woman too busy reading her novel and twirling her hair smiled at me, and said Ramadan Mubarak. At that moment, I couldn't tell if she fasted as well, or if she was indeed a 'fellow Muslim', in fact, I ridiculed my very attempt of trying to 'type' her as any kind but a fellow human being. And there it was, the bus journey that took me to the centre of what was then my universe showed me a sense of collectivity in a society that is often dubbed as individualistic. I found myself seeking that sense of closeness that I often reject priding myself that I belong to the 'I' alone, and nothing else. I found myself walking to Edgware road, the famous Arab street that always offers the best and the worst of what it means to be an Arab. I actually found myself looking for the commonalities rather than the differences I usually feed on, That Ramadan, I became very collective.
It was difficult at times to feel the spirituality of fasting, when the coffee smell from the neighboring cafe is almost blinding to all my senses, or when the parade of the teenage drunks starts marching on my street on friday night, indeed it was very difficult to the point that I wanted badly to go back to Dubai for just a while, just to feel the presence of God again. But then I found my solace in the words written by Him that tell us, and told me that day that "To GOD belongs the east and the west; wherever you go there will be the presence of GOD. GOD is Omnipresent, Omniscient. (2:115)"
Ramadan is beautiful in London this year as well, and though I stopped looking for commonalities between me and this city, I find solace in knowing that He is here, like He is there, without the need to keep googling Him.
This post was written for Art Dubai's Blog, as part of their "Posting Ramadan" Series. Original Post can be found here: http://www.artdubai.ae/blog/googling-ramadan-by-mariam-wissam-al-dabbagh/