“For the past three years, Aman Ali, 27, a comedian from Ohio, has spent Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (it began this year on July 20), visiting a different mosque every night”, writes The New York Times. “With Bassam Tariq, a photographer, he has documented their journeys on their blog, 30 Mosques in 30 Days. In 2009, they covered mosques in New York City. The next two summers, they hit all 50 states, going from the East Coast to Anchorage.
“Our mission wasn’t to promote Islam or change perceptions of it,” Mr. Ali said. “We just wanted to tell stories about Muslims.”
Here are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Ali on traveling during Ramadan.
Q. Before starting your blog, you spent Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt. Is that a good time to visit countries with large Muslim populations?
A. It’s a fantastic time because the celebrations after sunset, when the fast is broken, are so vibrant. In Mecca, people set up picnics on the ground of Masjid al-Haram, the mosque surrounding the Kaaba. And in open-air markets around Marrakesh, Morocco, sellers open their booths and invite you in to share their meals. I remember walking through Jemaa el Fna, the city’s largest square, and a mosque had set up a tarp outside its doors and passed around dates, bowls of lamb soup, lentils, mint tea. You couldn’t pass by without joining them. Even when tourists explained they weren’t Muslim, they’d insist, “Sit, break bread with us, have this, have that.”
Q. Any practical concerns for travelers during Ramadan?
A. Tourists, of course, are not expected to fast — even Muslim travelers are exempted, according to tradition. Restaurants get very busy this time of year, so I suggest calling ahead for reservations and avoid making them the hour that fast is broken. After abstaining from food and water all day, people get a little testy, so it’s a courtesy for you to let them eat right away. Businesses may close a bit earlier or shut briefly for prayers during the day, but otherwise it’s normal working hours.
Read on at The New York Times.