Ramadan is truly an international celebration
Ramadan has always been a month that is special and eagerly anticipated for a number of reasons.
The incredible thing about this month is that it brings out the good in people, deepens our faith and reminds us of and teaches us important values.
Our abstinence from food and drink until sunset instils in us patience and allows us to more deeply appreciate the blessings we are surrounded with. And the sense of giving and charity that arises during Ramadan is simply heart-warming.
Until last year I had spent all of my Ramadans at home surrounded by the holy atmosphere that fills the air during this month.
But last summer I experienced it abroad for the first time. It was during my summer internship at Nasa in California, which ran for 10 weeks and was to end after the first week of Ramadan.
Although the days were much longer and it may have been easier to be back in Dubai, my time abroad allowed me to experience Ramadan in a whole new way.
I had initial expectations about how people there would react to my fasting and was anticipating having to answer a number of doubts and questions.
However, I was surprised and relieved when I walked into work on the first day of the holy month and my mentor and colleagues greeted me and said: "Happy Ramadan."
They were asking whether I was comfortable or not throughout the day and would refrain from eating in front of me.
And Nasa's office of education reached out to us as UAE interns and invited us to iftars that were organised by different universities, including Stanford.
Although I was thousands of miles away from home, their support, concern and respect for the holy month gave me a new perspective on how holy it truly is; not only to us as Muslims but also to the international community.
It didn't hurt to have my family there with me; being around family and friends is really what makes Ramadan feel like Ramadan.
There is nothing like spending this month surrounded by the sound of the adhan but it is a universal month and its holiness and festivity can be celebrated in different ways all around the world.
Shamma Al Qassim, 20, from Dubai, is a computer engineering student at the American University of Sharjah.
Published: August 24, 2011 04:00 AM