'I felt the heat as soon as I landed'
Indian expat Mohammed Ihsan bin Abdullah recalls his first fasting after reaching the UAE in 2012.
Like any new person in a foreign land, it wasn't easy for Indian expat Mohammed Ihsan bin Abdullah to fast for the first time in the hot weather of the UAE.
Ihsan arrived in the UAE in July 2012, the hottest month of the year, on the 15th day of the holy month of Ramadan. And it was "tough" said Ihsan, a practicing Muslim from Malabppuram district in Kerala.
"It was a tough experience for me as I had never fasted in such hot temperatures," he said.
"I remember landing here at night and feeling the heat. I was sweating as we walked from the airport to the car parking area."
He said his cousin, who picked him from the airport, advised him to drink a lot of water during suhoor so that he stays hydrated in the hot temperatures.
"I took three glasses of water and biryani rice for my first Suhoor here. But by noon, I was already thirsty," said Ihsan.
"I had reported to my employer's office but was lucky enough to have an off that day. I was taken to the company accommodation in Baniyas area where I spent the rest of my day indoors."
He added: "I couldn't risk going outside in the sun again as it would have meant breaking my fast by drinking water to avoid dehydration. The fasting day here was also a long one- about 15 hours compared to 13 hours of fasting back home."
The Indian expat said his first three days of fasting in the UAE were hard but later he got used to the situation.
But he confessed that the holy month of Ramadan in a new country was different from how it was back home in India.
"I found Ramadan in the UAE totally different from India. In India, our extended family with uncles, aunties, my parents and we the children always gathered at our grandparents' place for Iftar," he said.
"At home it's family getting together, having joint meals and exchanging gifts. It used to be a joyous month for us."
Ihsan says it was, however, different here as he had to endure days of loneliness.
"You know when I arrived here, I was put on the afternoon shift. My duty was from 2pm to 10pm and always had my iftar from office," said Ihsan, 29, who has been working as the operations and maintenance officer at the Tunnel Traffic Control Centre in Abu Dhabi since he came to the UAE.
"I used to break my fast alone at work, sometimes with some Muslim colleagues. And it was a bit weird compared to what I was used to back home. I always felt lonely and couldn't enjoy the meals."
And during the weekend, Ihsan said he used to visit his cousin brother in Maqta area who was staying with family and had some iftar with them. "I felt a bit of relief whenever I visited my cousin and had iftar together as family," he said.
He said also the food here was different from that their meals used to have. "Here it was Biryani rice, Hubza and samosa unlike home where we had plenty of dishes," he said.
But as time went on, he says he got used to the situation.
"I now find Ramadan normal here and I enjoy it. The good thing with this country is that spirit of Ramadan is felt everywhere, be it in workplaces, shopping malls, you can see that all people are in the holy month," said Ihsan.
"Also, there is plenty of time to worship Allah during Ramadan given the conducive Muslim environment."