Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 27 June 2014 • Blog
Are you nervous about experiencing Ramadan in Indonesia? Did you buy those tickets not knowing that it’s going to be Ramadan, where people don’t eat all month long? Well, let us tell you more about Ramadan in Indonesia, from what we know all these years being Indonesian Moslems living in Indonesia.
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In just a few days Moslems around the world are starting the month of fasting, the Ramadan month. It’s the 9th month in the Islamic calendar, consisted of 30 days. For the whole month, Moslems are supposed to keep emotion and desire to moderation, practice more religious services, with the purpose to feel closer to Allah. Some believe that fasting helps you empathise more with the unfortunate, as you don’t devour food as you would normally. And as hunger tests your patience, those who manage to control their emotion when fasting is considered to have reached the higher level of faith. Some say that every good deed and religious service in Ramadan is rewarded many times the other months. It is the holy month Ramadan.
The structure of a fasting day on Ramadan in Indonesia goes something like this:
Around 2 – 4.30 a.m. : sahur or breakfast. Done usually while watching TV or tweeting to keep one’s eyes open.
Around 4.30 a.m. : subuh (dawn) calling to prayers, which basically tells you to stop eating and drinking.
From subuh to around 6 p.m. (which is maghrib or dusk) : fasting and doing your everyday routine. There will be more people napping than usual and less gossiping.
Maghrib is break-fasting time or buka puasa as soon as you hear the calling to prayer. Maghrib which usually lasts about 1-1,5 hours : gobble gobble gobble.
Around 7.30 – 9 p.m. : tarawih (night prayers) at the mosque or at home.
The rest of the night: more eating, praying, reading the Qur’an and sleeping. And still working for some of us. *cough*
I am a Moslem, in a sense that I was raised and taught much the Islamic ways by my parents and have been following and believing in a lot of the teaching in my everyday life. I personally haven’t searched enough about Islam and other teachings as I would like to, but so far I have been pretty comfortable with it.
Just like a lot of Moslems in the world, I, too, will be fasting in Ramadan month. Because Indonesia is dominated by Moslems, ones who practice or just for the formality because the government doesn’t allow atheism, the ambiance is going to be a little bit different than the rest of the year, except in a few places where Moslems are minority (like the North Sulawesi, North Sumatra, Papua and Bali).
Some things you could expect to happen on Ramadan in Indonesia that may affect your activities:
– Fewer options of diners in daytime. Some small diners close for business in normal operation hours, but they’re most probably open around maghrib (dusk), when the fasting ends for the day. The food court and restaurants at the malls or the fast food joints are usually open like usual.
– Some restaurants cover up with curtains or pieces of cloths to show respect to those who fast. I appreciate this, but I personally think it’s not necessary. When people have a strong intention to fast, the most delicious food in the world wouldn’t tempt them to break the fasting. However, there are people that DEMAND RESPECT to their fasting. Honestly, I don’t get it.
– We love to ngabuburit. It is a Sundanese term (the language of West Java) and I haven’t found the Indonesian term for it. It basically means killing time while waiting for the break-fasting. A common activity of ngabuburit would be taking walks or hanging out in the park or wherever that doesn’t require you to buy food and beverages, going to the movies (without the popcorn!), playing traditional games (in my childhood years) or video games (kids today!). “How come you still have so much energy when you’re fasting the whole day?” you might ask. Well, it’s the strong will, I guess. My dad usually plays tennis just before magrib and he’s about to turn 70!
– Free ta’jil at the mosques and many other places. Ta’jil is basically light food for break-fasting. When you’ve had empty stomach the whole day, it’s wise to start filling it little by little. Some say you should start with sweet munches, some say just plain water. Dates are among the most wanted fruits in Ramadan because Muhammad the prophet always broke fasting with just three dates. It is said to be enough to pump up your energy for a while, before you do the Maghrib prayer, and continue with other food afterwards. Toward dusk, I recommend you to visit the markets or big mosques to see the excitement of people, Moslems or not, shopping for ta’jil. It’s chaotic and full of yummies!
– Bukber or buka bersama, which means gathering with friends for break-fasting. Tables are reserved for break-fasting with old friends, co-workers, best friends or relatives, and usually end with group photos. The more, the merrier!
– Feel like hanging out at the bar and have a drink or two? Well, be careful. Some gangs of Moslem fanatics won’t allow bars and nightclubs to open because they’re considered as evil places for selling alcoholic drinks and accommodating just about all the worldly sins. Whoa. And some gangs wouldn’t hesitate to raid the bars and nightclubs and funny thing is, there’s not much the police can do about it. Go figure. However, I think the bars at the hotels would operate normally.
– Sahur “alarm” can be very noisy, be prepared with your earplugs. In some neighborhood, people walk around the streets or aisles, making noises with anything they can get their hands on, like pans, guitars, or just shouting out to wake people up for sahur.
– Chaos at every market! Toward the end of Ramadan, people would go on a frenzy preparing for the Eid, the big day. Because Eid symbolizes the start of new page of ‘enlightened’ life, many think they have to wear new clothes, paint their houses anew, some even buy new cars and mobile phones. This is also supported by the bonus people get from their offices toward Eid. The upside is, DISCOUNTS EVERYWHERE!
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Ramadan might be considered to be a challenge amongst travelers, but it shouldn’t be, especially since we just gave you a heads-up. There are many rituals and ceremonies that happen in the month of Ramadan, some are local and traditional too. So, those traveling Indonesia should actually feel lucky to be in such a festive and religious moment of the year and see another side of the country.