I did make trips to the bazaar- often I did walk the 30 minutes even though the heat was extreme. I learned how to find the fast food places and tea shops that were open. It was easy- I just had to look for the white curtains blowing in the breeze. I just had to duck under the cloth and pay the 250 ID for a bottle of nice cold water. It was so hot that the 500 mls went down very quickly and I was hydrated enough to keep on walking. (with my nice geeky hat and lots of sunscreen for my Irish-heritage skin).
Every day after the call to prayer at around 7:15 pm the families would have iftar- the time for breaking of the fast and eating together. I noticed that shops that were open to provide the necessary materials to create a meal, closed so that the family could be all together.
The first moment of the end of the fast for the day held a drink of very sweet juice and a few dates. This gives a boost of sugar before the more substantial evening meal. Many of the shops sold multi-coloured juices in bags, that were easy to take home.
My first invitation to iftar was with my friends in Ranya. I have visited this family- where Gul is the matriarch- many times in the last five years. This visit many of them came together to see me, to introduce the new baby to me and to let me see how the other little ones have grown. We met in my friend Nishtiman's apartment and there was just enough room for everyone on the floor of the eating room. The sensory stimulation was incredible- the baby crying, the two older ones running around and having fun, the loud chatter in Kurdish, the TV at full volume, the smells of the rice and chicken and the quiet praying as several of the family took turns in the corner of the room for the evening prayer.
My second invitation was to eat the evening meal with my little friend, Sima's family. They live a five minute walk from the CPT house, and I brought a very fun English book with lift-the-flaps for her. Some of my Kurdish lessons had included a translation into Kurdish and then memorizing the book so that she could understand the simple story. She loved the book and read it and read it many times throughout the evening. But so did her 10 year old brother, and 12 and 15 year old sisters.
This family does not invite me anymore, there is just the assumption that I will stay if I am there anywhere near the meal time. Sima will whisper the question, "will you eat supper?" and before I know it, I am gathered with the family around the tablecloth. This time, after the juice and dates, the mother, Nazaneen, brought out the pot of soup and rice. She put something onto my plate that looked very strange and the son showed me how to pull the thread to open up the bundle. It was a piece of the stomach of the sheep, sewn around seasoned rice. But then, when the father, Mohamed, sat down they plopped a bony sheep skull onto his plate. He and two of the children began to pick at the bits of meat. Soon the middle daughter went to the next room for a hammer. With a crash the skull broke in two and the inner "stuff" fell onto the plate. That was obviously the crowning glory. I declined the brains and eyeballs. But they certainly did not go to waste!
The third iftar I did not eat. On the second to last day of Ramadan I went with my friend, Ann to Mosgowti Gawre (the big mosque) in the center of the city. This mosque was feeding hundreds of people every evening of the month. There were many of the poorest of the poor in Sulaimani, some of them were not Muslim, but Yezidi and Christian.They lined up to receive rice, bean soup and a piece of chicken. Then after the prayers were finished, the ones who had entered the mosque were welcome to sit and eat as well.
Ann knows quite a bit of Arabic so she had many conversations with people around the courtyard. They were young boys and men from Syria and down south. They have fled the violence with their families or at least the parts of their families who still live. Ann translated some of the sad stories for me. We felt quite helpless as the best we could do was to stop and listen. But it seemed that for the ones telling about the home they had left that having someone willing to listen was a good thing.
I had been apprehensive about Ramadan. But although sometimes I was very much out of my comfort zone, I saw a time of deep religious significance. I saw people fasting from food and drink in the hottest days of summer- and they survived. I saw people who had made the choice not to fast. I saw people who made the best of the time- and brought out their wares just before the time of iftar. This is a rhythm of life that goes on every year and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of it.