Tuesday, September 26, 2006


When I was in Palestine during Ramadan last year, I gained about 10 lbs because I wasn't fasting, but I was eating iftar (the meal to break the fast) every day. Now, this is a very special meal - in fact, I wouldn't even call it a meal - I'd call it a feast. An entire month of feast and famine, over and over again. The food has never been anything less than amazing, regardless of the country I am in, and there is one other little detail that is consistent across boundaries -- the harassment to EAT EAT EAT. As a guest, it is your duty to shovel as much of that wonderful food into your stomach as humanly possible, and then to contine eating for another half-hour. Afghanistan is no exception.

I went to my first iftar at a co-workers house in Kabul. There was enough food to feed a horde a grad students, but there were only five of us . . . you can imagine my dilemma. Luckily, Nathan, Anika and I stepped up the plate and did our part. Most of the Ramadan traditions are similar to what I had seen in other places - breaking the fast with figs, then praying, then starting with soup. This soup was called Oosh, and it was really tasty. Before we ate, our hostess asked us to kneel over a large silver basin, and she poured water onto our hands from a silver pitcher. She said it was tradition to wash guests hands before a meal in this manner, and that it was an honor for the pourer and the pouree.

So we ate, and ate and ate and Waz told us a story about her grandmother. Many Afghan families eat on their roofs in the summertime because it is cooler. I guess, her grandmother was encouraging a relative to eat more, and she kept saying, "Eat," and trying to put more food on his plate, and he kept scooting backwards while saying "No, thank you". Apparently he scooted a little too far and fell off the roof of a two story building. He survived, which makes the story absolutely hysterical, and puts the social pressure of eating into context.


Earlier that day I was visiting some of our local NGO partners, helping with an assessment of ourselves and our partner organizations. At one of the offices a woman spoke to me in Dari, assuming I was an Afghan. Turns out, it was my co-worker's sister, and I saw her at the house during iftar. There are over 4 million people in this city . . . what are the chances?

1 comment:

Marcy / مارسي said...

A funny comment on iftar:

One of the Lebanese girls, who is 8, and who is Muslim, who is doing aid relief work with me in South Lebanon was asked by another little girl if she was fasting for Ramadan. Her reply: "no, I'm feasting!"