Wrapping Up Ramadan in The Desert

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Editor's note: Kholood Eid filed this post on Friday, as her summer-long digital media fellowship drew to a close. Last week she drove all over town, wrapped up classes, packed her dorm room and car, took countless photographs, completed the first draft of a  4400 word cover story -- and fasted during daytime hours, including no water. And no one heard her complain once. An understatement: We'll miss her. Here's here final dispatch about Ramadan. 

Today marks my last day fasting in the Valley. Tomorrow, I'll be driving back to St. Louis--after a big, hearty breakfast, of course (see fasting exceptions in last week's post, where I suggested survival tips.) 

This Ramadan was not only my first spent in the Southwest, but it was my first spent away from family and friends. Truth be told, this was the most difficult part of the experience, despite working under triple digit temperatures. 

Ramadan is meant to be spent with loved ones, breaking fast together over a good, home-cooked meal. Instead, I spent my first iftur alone on the patio of a Greek restaurant in Phoenix, watching the sun slowly dip past the mountains, buildings and palm trees as Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" quietly accompanied my wandering thoughts. The sky is always a radiant thing to behold out here in the Southwest. Seriously, sunsets aren't this spectacular in St. Louis. Here, the sky explores a color palette foreign to a Midwesterner. I think Forrest Gump was onto something when he suggested heaven might be closer to us out here.

As I sat there, I couldn't help but wonder whether tonight my mom had made my favorite Arabic dessert, kitayif, which is a seasonal treat that consists of a pocket--almost like an enclosed taco but tastes like a pancake--stuffed with a mixture of sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and a little coconut. They're then either baked or deep fried and dipped in a sweet honey-based liquid (I prefer pairing them with maple syrup). 

That was probably the most homesick I'd been while here.

But I had food in front of me. And while the chicken gyro wasn't the best I'd ever had, I was grateful for it. And that's the point of this whole thing. 

And the water. Oh, the water! Every night this week, I experienced something more than contentment--it's borderline ecstasy when that first sip of cold water pours down my throat. I'm sure I look manic when I break my fast, but I don't care. Every night, every meal, is fantastic because during this month, I'm not taking anything for granted. 

My second night fasting this week was the best, because it was spent with family friends in Mesa (one of whom used to be my third grade teacher). They're such wonderful, generous people who gave me a little taste of home sporadically throughout the summer. I can never express my thanks to them for that.

A variety of traditional Middle Eastern dishes (as well as a plate of enchiladas) covered the table and I had my helping of it all. This was followed by relaxing in the family room, watching a little bit of Shark Week with Arabic coffee (which I've only had bitter, not knowing it can be sweetened until my old teacher brought it out. I think I fell in love that night). Arabic coffee was followed by Cold Stone ice cream cupcakes. It was a fabulous evening. 

All in all, the experience wasn't as difficult as I'd anticipated it being. The first day was the roughest, as I lay in bed by 5, curled up in the fetal position, wondering whether I would be able to operate heavy machinery (in this case, a car) for long enough to drive myself to find food. The hunger has since not been so bad. It comes and goes, sometimes accompanied by a mild headache, but it's most certainly manageable. 

And I've still got the rest of the month to finish up in St. Louis.

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