Aleppo, and all of Syria, is mostly Moslem. There are a lot of Christians and non-Moslems, but the Islamic faith, as you know, is very strong here. Well, now it’s Ramadan. I was told how different things would be for the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, but I am really surprised in what I am seeing.
During Ramadan, they fast from sunup until sundown. Well, I could probably go 12 hours without eating, maybe. But to them, fasting means absolutely no food, no drink (not even water), no smoking and, of course, no sex. It is a very personal thing for the faithful and they take it very seriously. So, you can imagine, right before sunset, around 5, there is this hectic rush to buy food and to get home. There are some great foods and desserts available; many are only sold during Ramadan. So the traffic is terrible, but as soon as the sun sets, a canon goes off and you hear fire works and the streets become deserted. No one is out and you can hardly find a car on the street.
This doesn’t last very long because, after eating, they all go to the many mosques in the neighborhoods. There is one just a few doors down the street from where I live that is still being constructed. But that doesn’t keep them from coming. Last night, I heard the call to prayer that happens five times a day every day of the year. I went out on my balcony as I do often to just sit there in the cool afternoon breeze and listen to the lyrical chanting that is both beautiful and hypnotic. I saw hundreds of men in the half-finished mosque standing, then all together bowing, then kneeling and quickly back up to their feet. Then the process repeats over and over again to the voice over the loudspeaker of the cleric giving some message in Arabic that I can’t understand.
The image I have of the Middle Eastern Moslem is so different from what is portrayed on television. I know that that is a real image, too, but what I see is a very religious and honest people who are sadly misunderstood throughout the world. I think you should come and see for yourself.