The Ramadan Slow Down Effect

Why does every thing seem to slow down during Ramadan?

Lunatic drivers seem to be the only people going fast these days, both before and after breakfast. Banks, who with their typical 9 to 3 hours already make it hard for customers to bank, seem to close shop before they even open, with their 9 to 1 Ramadan schedule. Four hours!? Heck, I should have been a banker!

Ministries, government departments and boards, forget about it. Everyone is half asleep. Everyone comes in late and starts to disappear around the duhr prayer time. Some will even advise you to come back after Ramadan is over when they can “think straight”. As if Ramadan was a mental blockade over the weekend.

People move slow before ftoor, because they’re hungry and tired and lazy and drowsy and craving for a nicotine fix. And then people move slowly after ftoor because they’re stuffed and can’t move and are just plain sleepy.

A few years back I remember economist Fahed Al-Fanek attempting to figure out the economic loses during Ramadan. He took GDP, divided it by 365 and removed the 30 days of Ramadan. Suffice to say there are more holes in that formula than there are on a sinking boat.

It may be near impossible to actually figure out how much we lose economically during this month. People don’t seem to work, or are too busy trying to avoid work. Businesses cut their 9 to 5 working hours in half. And I can only imagine what Ramadan will be like in the summer months!

Yes! The Ramadan summers! Can you imagine what it will be like for the next couple of decades while Ramadan travels back in time, into the summer months. Where everyone is hot and thirsty and sweating? How will people behave then? What will economic loses look like then?

But wait, money isn’t the only thing we lose…

People also seem to lose small fractions of their mind or sanity. Everyone seems to get a little stupider than usual, a little meaner, and a little more unforgiving, and Ramadan becomes their scapegoat.

Yesterday, I spent a great deal of the day driving around Amman and all around town police patrol cars were positioned in various places, to fine people. I don’t know what the occasion was, but I’m guessing someone up top told them to go out and, you know, do their job.

I must’ve passed by 10 of these “hot spots” and every one of them, I kid you not, was situated in the worst possible place. They were actually causing accidents because they either moved too close into the traffic or became visual obstructions. One decided to park on the Kindi intersection just as people are trying to drive up the hill towards the Four Seasons. Cars wanting to turn right toward the Rabia district had to swerve around the cop cars.

This is my first Ramadan in the country for almost 7 years so forgive me if I sound a bit harsh. A lot has changed in those few years. First of all, I drive now, which means I get to notice things in Jordan that I didn’t notice as a kid. But more importantly I became accustomed to having Ramadan be just a purely spiritual month, where I am fasting and praying and reading, and the rest of the western world is spinning around me, oblivious to my condition. And that helped expand the experience of Ramadan for me.

But with everyone fasting in a much larger community, and with the culture of Ramadan all around us, the world seems to slow down more and more.

By the time Eid comes around, this side of the world will come to a grinding halt.


  • SubhanAllah, I truly long for that feeling when I was fasting and concentrating on experiencing Ramadan, meanwhile the check-out girl at the local supermarket was oblivious to the pangs of hunger or the thirst on my lips. Somehow that gave me as a Muslim in the West a kind of fuel. I loved that feeling.

    I will say that the folks who are still working hard here in Amman during Ramadan are the ones in the food service industry. Take a look at the guys at Paradise Bakery in Khalda…they never stop. And I must say, they still manage to smile and be courteous, unlike the bank teller today who slapped my receipt down at me and wouldn’t give me eye contact. And she wasn’t making qattayef in the hot sun!

  • I agree nas,

    and i have always felt that we are behind the world becoz we have a lost month. While these times are so fast and every hour counts we are loosing a whole month.

    I cant see a solution tho.

    good luck to all of us when Ramadan hits summer (ill probably move to one of those countries that have early sunsets :D)

  • Guys I don’t think fasting in Amman is as hard as fasting in the USA, where I dont have a family to celebrate ftoor with every nite, or to wake up with excitement at 4 am to eat some labneh and mint tea 3al s7oor.

    what makes it worse is that I work at a restaurant part-time so am around food everyday, and my shift usually starts at 4 pm, just 2 hours before ftoor. I dont get to eat until 11 pm when i get back home! now that is pure fasting! (i take some dates and banana with me to work to nibble on until i get home 😉

    however, you would be surprised how my co workers are so supportive, alot of them wanting to learn more about our fasting. one girl at work she even gave me a full list of benefits of fasting, including mental concentration, body detoxing, new brain cell formation and overall body alertness.

    people in the west are using ancient fasting methods called ‘detox’ to cleanse the body and their digestive systems. ITS BECOMING A TREND. while us Muslims, cant yet comprehend our own style of fasting and its benefits, given to us on a gold plate every year for only one month.

    I wish we at least had Ramadan every other month of the year.

  • “Some will even advise you to come back after Ramadan is over when they can “think straight”. As if Ramadan was a mental blockade over the weekend.”…………………guilty

  • I totally agree with Nas, although I do not live in Jordan and haven’t spent a Ramadan there in quite a while, calling friends and family makes me sense the laziness and pure mental block that you were talking about. Somehow everyone thinks that its ok to call in sick every other day because it is Ramadan and ” my boss will understand”.
    Here, in London, it is so different and although my company are ” highly tolerant” to let me skip lunch and start earlier in order to leave at 4 (plus 45 minutes to get home!), it is soooo hard ! But I support what Umm Farouq said as well, that fasting in the non-Muslim world where no body knows and no body cares gives you a kind of boost to carry on!

  • there was a long report about this on jazeera yesterday .. it ran coincidentally (or not) at iftar time .. the report was talking about the phenomenon how productivity which is already crap in the arab world becomes even more crap during ramadan

  • It’s interesting to read your observations. Ramadan has never been my favorite time of the year because I don’t celebrate it religiously. All of the things you mentioned–peoples attitudes, laziness, shortened business hours and other things–end up being inconveniences that I tolerate out of respect for the community.

    I was recently asked to be interviewed for a potential news story in one of the local newspapers. The article was focusing on various foreigner’s experiences during Ramadan. A day later I hear that the story may not print since most of the responses of those interviewed thus far were negative (and I hadn’t even had a chance to voice my experience yet). Let’s just say that I wasn’t surprised when I heard that.

    I spoke to a Muslim friend of mine today who is celebrating the holiday whole-heartedly and even he was tired of the wacked out schedule, crazy work hours and 30 days of general life upheaval. If someone celebrating is sick of it, imagine how those who don’t celebrate are feeling.

    I’ve had friends come over for a tourist visit during Ramadan and it turned out in disaster. All of the adverse aspects that you mentioned tend to not paint Jordan (or Jordanians) in the best light. Now I just tell people to come during the Eid or just after Ramadan; it’s better for everyone.

  • Dave,

    I do appreciate that all the “side-effects” of Ramadan are present in Jordan, however, it is not Jordan alone, this is a phenomenon characteristic of all the Arab countries. This is not to say that I am proud of it. However, (ofcourse it is hard to compare and also it is for a limited period of time) but before Christman in the West no one can concentrate on what they are doing. Productivity is very low and everyone blames it on the ” holiday season”. I think that this has to do with human nature and by this I mean ALL humans whether they are Muslims, Christians or Atheists!

  • A friend who travelled through QAIA recently reported that while she was trying to check in for her flight around iftar time, she noticed that there was a line of people waiting….. for nothing. All the check in desks were closed! Apparently this was done everyday during ramadan as all the check in workers go break their fast at the same time, and flights are just delayed for a bit.
    Is it just me or is this the height of unprofessionalism? How can an international airport be run like a corner shop? Coulden’t they arrange it that a few workers keep on going for what, 15 minutes after iftar time, and then another group takes over?
    Or if they are very insistant on breaking their fast at that very instant, coulden’t flight times be revised to minimise the damage? Im sure this is not what fasting was meant to be about!

  • God, I completely agree…
    Even though I don’t really live in jordon, it’s almost the same here in Qatar; less working time, more traffic jams and people think ramadan’s an excuse for all their actions; it’s driving me mad.
    Nice to see that other people noticed too.

Your Two Piasters: