In this piece Mariam Kamel, one of Thinking Hat’s talented Account Executives, discusses her experience observing Ramadan in London, missing her homeland of Egypt and her break from Foodstagramming!
It feels like only yesterday that I was mentally and physically preparing myself for Ramadan. My one-month break from foodstagramming has now come to an end. The time has flown by so fast, although it has taken me a whole week to reset my body clock, I must say, overall, it’s been a really good month and completely worth the effort.
The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth – and most important – month of the Muslim calendar. Many people know it as the month that Muslims don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset (yes, “not even water”!). However, Ramadan is so much more than abstaining from food and drink; It is a time to be thankful for all of the blessings we take for granted (food, health, wealth, and time), and to focus on cultivating good habits, being charitable and kind to others. A common misconception about fasting is that Muslims fast to feel the hunger of the less fortunate; that is not the main idea of Ramadan – the goal is to develop self-discipline. Staying in control of your emotions by avoiding anger, telling lies, talking ill of others, and other bad acts is also a priority during this month. I like to think of it as an emotional and spiritual detox that allows me to improve my discipline and to also implement it at work.
Do you know what distracts you more than hunger? Procrastination. Fasting promotes self-discipline, and self-discipline encourages productivity at work. I’ve been able to establish clear goals during this month by planning everything meticulously and managing my time in advance. It made me realise the true amount of diligence I give to my work and spend on my tasks even when times are tough. Whilst fasting gives us the opportunity to reflect on our faith and our deeds, this year, I was able to also self-reflect from a professional perspective and identify my weaknesses. This allowed me to work towards my goals more concertedly, thrive and perform better at my job.
We can also see this in the discipline and drive needed to wake up early (around 3 am) in time for Suhoor (meal before fasting), followed by praying Fajr (dawn prayer). Working from home most of the time meant that I didn’t have to worry about not performing my Salah (prayers) on time. I used my lunch breaks to perform Dhuhr (second prayer of the day) and prayed Asr (third prayer of the day) at 5 pm after I finished work. Then, I would nap for about an hour before waking up again to recite the Quran, praying Maghrib (evening prayer) and breaking my fast around 7:40 pm. After eating, I would perform Ishaa (night prayer) and Tarawih (night prayer performed only during Ramadan) and then go to sleep just before midnight.
One of the things that really helped maintain my energy levels is mindful eating – something I don’t usually practise all year round as a self-proclaimed ‘Insta-foodie’. I started breaking my fasts by eating smaller portions of healthy and nutrient-dense foods to avoid shocking my body into a food coma. I was also mindful to keep hydrating for as long as possible, instead of shoving down as much food as I could!
One of my biggest concerns this year was fasting while working; and even worse – doing that far away from home. Yes, Ramadan is a religious celebration regardless of where in the world you choose to spend it; however, the vibe in Egypt is unmatched. Nothing screams Ramadan spirit more than driving through the bustling, lantern-lit streets of Cairo while listening to the sound of the Adhan (call to prayer) before Iftar (meal after fasting) or setting up the dinner table with my family while my mum cooks her delicious Waraa Enab (rice-stuffed vine leaves) and other flavoursome dishes.
Of course, Ramadan in London hardly includes any of these things, so I’ve been reflecting on the most meaningful memories of my life: when I spent Ramadan sharing huge feasts and fun gatherings with family and friends. However, I still enjoyed going to work, meeting with my friends after, and having Iftar gatherings at different restaurants around London. I’ve also been super lucky to have had a pleasant experience this Ramadan working at THPR where I felt valued and understood when my colleagues wished me a ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (blessed Ramadan) on the first day and were interested to learn more about it from me.
Eid-Al-Fitr (Muslim festival at the end of the fasting period) marks the end of Ramadan, and we gather with family and friends to celebrate our efforts with a big feast. It is a bittersweet ending as this month brings unexplainable peace and is an opportunity for spiritual growth. Even though Ramadan has left us, I always like to remind myself to hold on to the good habits I’ve started during this month and let them continue with me for the rest of the year.
Meet another one of our talented team in our 5 minutes with Danielle Zhu!