Celebrating the start of Ramadan at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris
|Dates are traditionally served because the prophet Muhammed is said to have broken his fast by eating three of them.|
|Notice all the glasses - liquid refreshment is very important when you haven't had anything to drink all day.|
After experiencing five Ramadans in Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, I decided to request a couple of invitations for the annual soirée hosted by Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, at the Hôtel de Ville and join the Muslim community as they broke their first fast.
Seeing all of the people listening to the concert in the magnificent Salle des Fêtes and patiently waiting for the moment when they could eat reminded me of when we made the mistake of moving from one house to another in Indonesia during Ramadan. Imagine the movers, who were carrying heavy furniture and working in the tropical heat, adamantly refusing to drink or eat because it was against their religion. In between worrying that one of them would succumb to exhaustion or that they would drop our heavy teak furniture, I admired their conviction.
Just as in Indonesia, there was a great sense of elation with the setting of the sun and the breaking of the fast last night.
|As if by magic, everyone suddenly descended on the buffet tables just after the sun set.|
As soon as their bodies were fortified, everyone returned to the Salle des Fêtes to dance to the tunes of Fanfaraï, a brass band with a profusion of trumpets, saxophones, a trombone and a tuba. With eleven musicians of various cultural backgrounds, they play energetic North African music by skillfully blending brass, traditional percussion, arabo-berber, afro-cuban, latin and jazz sounds.
Happy Ramadan! And best wishes to the hundreds of Muslim athletes who have decided to fast while competing at the Olympic Games in London.