Ramadan — known in Afghanistan as Ramazan — was a bummer, mostly because I’d really grown to love Afghan food.
When meeting with Afghans, we ALWAYS had chai, and usually also had a tray with tidbits like yellow raisins, dried yellow peas, almonds, pistachios, and rock candy crystals. Often we shared more exotic tidbits too…strange commercial candies, simyan (kind of like thin, curry-flavored chow mein noodles), laddu (honeyed balls of chick-pea flour), or almond meringue chunks. And sometimes, we enjoyed a full-blown luncheon…shishkabobs and fresh naan, exotic soups, fruits, and vegetables, and sometimes even khabili, a traditional Afghan rice dish.
Except during Ramazan. Most Afghans fast and refrain from drinking during daylight hours, and Coalition members go out of our way to not eat or drink around Afghans. Which means neither chai nor fun Afghan food.
Most interesting though was talking to Afghans about the Coalition perspective on fasting. My Afghan friends found it hilarious that we referred to ‘not eating food’ as ‘fasting’…to drink while fasting was almost inconceivable.
Bottom line: I was embarrassed to forget that for most Afghans, not eating food during the day isn’t part of Ramazan. It’s just a normal day…
* Photo by SGT Teddy Wade, US Army