We caught up with the three expats to know their inspirations behind fasting during Ramadan:
1. Debbie Rogers
Country of origin – UK
Originally from UK, Debbie has been in the UAE for eight years. She remembers her first Ramadan, which was probably three-four weeks after she arrived in Dubai. "I was amazed while there were lavish iftars, few others celebrated it with their family and friends. It got me thinking and I wanted to try it out myself."
She got involved in voluntary activities during the holy month and eventually wanted to observe Ramadan, the way it is practiced. The first year was quite an experience, as she remembers. "The first day I was so worried that I couldn't even park my car. I was so mentally unprepared for the fast and thought I won't survive beyond a day or two." But she did it and this is her third Ramadan.
Over the years, she has managed to work her day around according to the Ramadan timings. So, what are the changes Ramadan has brought about in her life, we ask? "Fasting has made me more mindful of what I eat and I appreciate food. I always lose weight during Ramadan. Handing out food to the needy makes me reflect on the fact on how fortunate we are."
Debbie is against the food wastage that happens at commercial iftars. She prefers breaking her fast with her Muslim friends and finds it more meaningful.
2. Marsha Liezl Urbi
Country of origin - Philippines
Ramadan holds a special place for Filipina expat Marsha. In Dubai for 10 years, she has been fasting for eight consecutive years now.
It all started with her deciding to fast to support her roommate by fasting for a day. Soon, they went ahead and continued for the whole month.
"The first day of the fast left us drained. The first three days are very difficult as you start feeling lighter but soon your body starts to adjust. What keeps me through these times is my mindset."
Soon, she learnt the importance of the fast and the teachings of holy Quran. Later, it was to stand in solidarity with her Muslim colleagues that she continued to fast over the years. "I observe Ramadan but read my Christian prayers during iftar and imsak in the mornings."
Her friends, over the years, have accepted her schedule and wait till the iftar for her to break the fast and eat with her.
3. Vanita Pandey
Country of origin - India
A Jain by religion, Vanita has been married to a Muslim for nine years but has never followed Islam formally. "My husband started reading Quran for me and I realized there are many similarities being Jainism and Islam - both propagating non-violence."
Jains practice abstinence from food and water for few days during Paryushana and although she had practiced fast for 36 hours, a whole month was a different ball game.
"The first time I fasted, I felt bloated. The urge to drink water was unbearable, eating so early in the morning was difficult and I had no energy to do my daily chores."
What kept her going was the sense of calmness and feeling of belonging to God. Ramadan being a time of self-reflection, she takes this time to express gratitude. "The purpose of the fast is to realise the hunger pangs of the people who don't have food. It helped me develop empathy for the have-nots, introduce the best of both religions to my children, and feel gratitude."