Diary: I longed to fast and be like a grown-up

I decided one day that I would fast until sunset, despite not being part of the contingent that woke up before dawn to have the preparatory suhoor meal.

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It was 4 pm and I was getting anxious. It always felt a bit odd to sit there sequestered at our dining table eating lunch while my parents and grandparents sat in the living room watching television and doing their best to ignore us. I didn't fully understand why they were not eating during the day, but I did look forward to seasonal sweets like kunafa and balah al sham that only seemed to make their way to our home when Ramadan was upon us.

It was a month when all routine was thrown out the window, and we were all better off for it. Still, I wanted to feel like a grown-up, to take part in the ritual that didn't fully make sense to me as a seven-year-old. It didn't help that some of my schoolmates were already fasting day in and day out, and I was told tales of my uncle who had fully memorised the Quran and had also fasted the whole of Ramadan at age five.

So I decided one day that I would fast until sunset, despite not being part of the contingent that woke up before dawn to have the preparatory suhoor meal. School went alright, and I felt proud staying in the classroom during break time with my other fasting friends as the other kids were ushered into another room to eat their snacks. I don't remember a whole lot from that day, save for a still image of me sitting in the living room late in the afternoon staring at the clock, and a sense of superiority that my younger brother, who was trying to copy me, caved and ate some cucumbers. Not to disappoint him, my parents told him he could finish the fast despite eating. Internally, I knew I had won that minor battle. I don't even remember what we had for iftar that day, but it was probably delicious, and I do faintly remember my parents expressing pride and congratulating me.

Growing up in the UAE, we participated in all the Ramadan tropes, from social gatherings to long evening prayers, that I now miss taking part in more often. We would never miss taraweeh, the prayers that followed isha' or the dusk prayers. Granted, we often snuck out of the mosque and played hide and seek in the courtyard with the rest of the kids in the neighbourhood, before tip-toeing back inside the mosque as the prayers came to a close and our relatives eyed our grimy, sweaty clothes with suspicion. But I also remember those days when I stood side by side with the other worshippers because the imam's melodious and heart-wrenching reading of the Quran drew me in.

The surah or chapter about the story of the Prophet Yousuf was always enough to draw me into the serene and peaceful confines of the mosque, which was just across the road from our old apartment building. More exhausting were the late-night prayers, the tahajjud, which often started at 2 am and could be especially long, lasting often for a couple of hours. I remember restlessly shifting my legs to take the pressure off my exhausted soles, and almost falling asleep during sojood, or prostration - the only rest we got.

I never was forced to do any of this, but today I wish I could summon the willpower and time to relive those memories from childhood, to do all those things again. I miss it. @Email:kshaheen@thenational.ae

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