Last week, our team flew across the Mediterranean to get prepped for the second program of the year in Tunisia. In our first week on the African continent, we explored from the capital city of Tunis to the clean shores of Bizerte, all the way down to the economic hub of Sfax. Throughout the week, we’ve had the chance to experience the vibrance of Ramadan.
Ramadan is not only a religious holiday but one of the most culturally rich times in the Arab world. As we witnessed in the Middle East, during the month of Ramadan the true character of the people is on full display.
From the moment the sun rises, the people fast. Morning is a hectic rush to complete all errands before businesses close by early afternoon. Heat is an obstacle to overcome as the people patiently wait for sundown. At 3, the roads are a mess with traffic. The late afternoon is a time for napping and cooking. The roads are empty by 7.
But as the call to prayer echoes over the city and the sun dips below the horizon, the city breaks its fast. Families enjoy the Iftar dinner at home, celebrating their first drink of water since dawn. Food and laughter is shared as the people regain their energy. The streets are quiet through the dinner hour, but slowly, neon lights illuminate and the city comes alive. By 10, Tunis’ bustling streets are overflowing, its citizens returning to errands, business, and recreation. Long past midnight, people squeeze into the narrow alleys of the old city, relaxing, drinking sweet tea and smoking shisha at outdoor coffeeshops, and bartering with merchants for clothes and spices. Music echoes around the city from musicians wandering the streets, bringing people to their feet for a dance. The city stays up late through Ramadan, taking every opportunity to enjoy the gifts of food, water, family, and health.
In Tunis and across the world, Ramadan is a time for appreciation and giving, celebration and shared times with loved ones. Although to get into the flow of Tunis at Ramadan is an adjustment, especially for those who have never experienced such a shift in schedule, for Lights, Camera, Learn travelers, it is a wonderful privilege to learn about the culture of Tunisia at such a fascinating and enjoyable time