Among many different things in Mauritania, one thing that was totally new to me was Ramadan.
Although I knew as a knowledge, for someone who has never lived in muslim country, it was very rare to see in my eyes.
Actually, I arrived just 1 week before Ramadan, which lasted for 1 month.
What is Ramadan?
Frankly speaking, it is the islamic sacred month (the 9th month of muslim calendar) during which muslims with adequate age (except the sick and pregnant women) cannot eat, drink, smoke nor have sex where there is a sun (from sunrise to sunset).
First of all, I could not help questioning why they were doing it. According to some conversation with my new colleagues and online information, it is considered as the month to get closer to the god and be aware of charity spirit and the importance of basic things.
After sunset, people start eating / drinking and go to bed later than non-Ramadan period. That is, daily life cycle changes quite a lot, about which I would like to write in this entry, since that’s something essential for me (and for everyone).
Before going into the detail, I would like to clarify that I have no intention whatsoever of judging this religious custom. On the contrary, it actually made me reflect on certain things I really focus on, such as the quality of food, sleep, energy and the work. It means that I rather appreciated this practice and experience in Mauritania. And although practitioners looked very tired, they are not supposed to complain, which was something impressive as well.
Well, let’s look at them!
Cycle of nutrition
As I take seriously what I eat for the quality of life, it is one of the most interesting subjects for me. The more I read about it, however, the more I get confused, as on one hand, some study say X (e.g. red meat) is good for health, whereas the others say totally the opposite (There are some consensus such as “saturated oil is bad; a variety of vegetables and nuts are good, etc.).
Based on the NY Times “When We Eat, or Don’t Eat, May Be Critical for Healt”, the nutritionists have long debated the best diet for optimal health. But now some experts believe that it’s not just what we eat that’s critical for good health, but when we eat. People actually improve their metabolic health when they eat their meals in a daily 8- to 10-hour window, taking their first bite of food in the morningand their last bite early in the evening. But the average person eats over a 15-hour or longer period each day, starting with milk or coffee after waking up and finishing day with a glass of wine.
On the other hand, the study highlights the importance of aligning our eating patterns with our circadian rhythms, the innate 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to wake up, when to eat and when to fall asleep. Research also show that chronically disrupting this rhythm — by eating late meals or nibbling on midnight snacks, for example — could be a recipe for weight gain and metabolic trouble. The night shift work is also linked to obesity, diabetes, some cancers and heart disease. While socioeconomic factors are likely to play a role, studies suggest that circadian disruption can directly lead to poor health.
So based on the above information, Ramadan could affect the cycle of nutrition (window of food hour). However, there is study showing the benefit of fasting. According to other NY times article “Fasting Diets Are Gaining Acceptance“, two to five days of fasting each month reduced biomarkers for diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Things are not black and white, and it is difficult to conclude (so let’s not!).
This cycle is equally important for the quality life and is my passion as well (for my Bachelor’s thesis, I wrote about the quality of sleeping!)
In this field, likewise, there are so many unknown things (e.g. why we sleep in the first place, and dream) and there is no definition of quality of sleeping.
What exist as general recommendations are as follows:
- Sleep 8 hours in quite and dark room
- Don’t look at screen (LED) 30 min before sleeping
- Be consistent with the same sleeping time ((e.g. 22:00-6:00) aligning with circadian rhythm
In addition, many studies show that modern people sleep less than before (e.g. previous century), due primarily to longer hours of working, smart phone / computer / TV, etc. So Ramadan can be a good call for all of us to appreciate the importance of sleeping (several of my muslim colleagues said after Ramadan, they started sleeping better than they did before Ramadan).
Cycle of daily activity
Ramadan can affect other daily activities as well, such as exercise, work and social life. For example, to keep in a good form, destress and work better in the day, I work out every morning between 6:30-7:30. And I need about 8 hours of quality sleeping, so if I sleep later than 22:30, it will affect next morning exercise, thus all-day-long activity.
The thing is, in the modern world, the general work hour (9:00-17:00) remains the same regardless of Ramadan. That is why muslims who eat/drink later than usual sleep less, to wake up and go to work. Looking at my colleagues, yes, they were obviously tired.
And as mentioned in the beginning, we arrived Mauritania right before Ramadan, and I had so many admin tasks to do inside/outside my work. In particular, public procedures were very difficult tasks (e.g. I had to go to the Ministry of transport 5 times to transfer my driver’s license).
Furthermore, I had to conduct a training (in the education field) for my new colleagues on the last day of Ramadan (1 month accumulation of Ramadan cycle), which was the most difficult training I have ever done because of obvious fatigue I saw in their faces. In addition, I felt bad to drink a cup of water in front of them which affected my productivity as well (I had to hide when drinking it).
The people greet with each other by saying “Bon Ramadan (good Ramadan?)”
Although I don’t know if it was good or not, at least it was a good opportunity to reflect upon quality life.
How about your life cycle?
The learning of this time
I learned that Ramadan can serve not only as a religious custom but also as a reminder for non-muslim of the key points of quality lifeーcycle of alimentation, sleeping and daily activities.
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