Australian expat experiences first Ramadan in UAE

Kira Jean has only been married for seven months, but in that time the newlywed has moved half way around the world, changed religions and immersed herself in an entirely new culture, which means experiencing Ramadan for the first time.

Kira Jean, an Australian expatriate who is fasting for the first time this Ramadan, says she “feels so much more productive” and has so much mental clarity. Satish Kumar / The National
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DUBAI // Kira Jean has only been married for seven months, but in that time the newlywed has moved half way around the world and immersed herself in an entirely new culture, which means experiencing Ramadan for the first time.

However, thanks to the support of her Emirati husband Abdulla and his family, the Australian is taking it in her stride.

“I’m learning more and more about Islam every day,” said the 28-year-old. “It’s important that as husband and wife we’re a team. For me to fast and support him is a way to do that. Just by understanding the same things as him it’s made us more connected. Breaking the fast together and sharing these experiences is important.”

Though she has not converted to Islam the couple, who married in Cyprus, spend almost every iftar with Abdulla’s family at their home in Jumeirah, giving Kira a deeper insight into the traditions of the Holy Month.

“As an adult, when you come to something new it’s often hard to accept it unless you experience it and then you see the value in it, and for me that’s how I work. Fasting really does build a lot of mental strength. Life keeps going on, things need to be done. I feel so much more productive and have so much mental clarity.” Going for so long without food and water for the first time has been both a spiritual and emotional experience, she said. “I realise how much time I have in the day now where I’m not thinking about food, cooking food, eating. The idea of doing it for a month was very daunting but it’s gone very quickly.”

Kira’s eagerness to learn and embrace a new culture has not gone unnoticed, with her new extended family happy to take her under their wing.

“They really appreciate that I’m interested in their culture and beliefs so it’s been really nice. Being involved in his culture naturally influences the way I am in this world but I feel like I have the space to be who I am and know what I know as well as learning.”

Yoga teacher and life coach Kira, who is a trained therapist for children with autism and holds a degree in psychology, first met her husband when she moved to Dubai two years ago to work as a teacher at Club Stretch. It was there she would meet Abdulla.

“Two weeks into my stay I met Abdulla. He took me around the city and we became friends. I was nervous in the beginning but people told me it was the best way to see an authentic side of Dubai, the life, the culture.”

After a three month stay, she returned home to Tasmania but Abdulla was close behind.

“He came to see me and meet my family. We realised how close our cultures really are. We both come from very small, close communities. It was good for him to see that. He liked it. Both communities have strong spiritual values.”

This was reinforced when her family visited the UAE for the first time last year. “They had never left Australia and I wanted them to let go of their fears before I got married, to reassure them I had made the right decision. To see the real way people lived here was something they could appreciate and accept.”

“We still both very much practice our own ways of spirituality. I meditate in the mornings while he prays,” she said. “I’ve been meditating for 10 years so I can’t just give that up but he’s also interested in that. We’re finding a way to maintain our individuality while bringing our spirituality together.”

mswan@thenational.ae

This article has been amended to reflect an error in a previous version.