How I Spent Ramadan In Phnom Penh
Sitting in front of the TV waiting for the Ramadan announcement on TV1 had me thinking about this moment where it would be my first time fasting abroad, without the presence family and friends back home. I felt a tinge of homesickness when The Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal made the announcement that the beginning of the fast for Malaysia was set for Sunday, June 29.
First Sahur Without The Family
On every first day of Ramadan, I would usually be with my family so that we could wake up and sahur together. Although I rarely have early morning meals, this was a tradition that I try not to miss. So spending the first day of sahur abroad felt strange because my mom was not there to knock on the door at 4 o’clock in the morning, preparing food for us while we try to keep our eyes open for the meal. Instead I stayed up until midnight, had cereal and then went to bed.
Explaining Ramadan To Colleagues
The most common questions my colleagues had asked me was whether I could drink if I couldn’t eat during Ramadan. When I explained to them that Ramadan is about abstaining from food, water and etc, they were surprised and kept asking if I would have the energy to do it continuously for 30 days. They were concerned for my health and well being. I had explained to them that my body would have to go through the adjustments during the first week and it would get to used to the changes after that.
Missing Ramadan Bazaars
When RAW suggested I contact the Embassy to find out if the Malaysian community here hosts Ramadan bazaar, I did exactly that except that I should have asked when Ramadan just started instead of halfway through to the month. Nevertheless I missed walking to the Ramadan bazaars back home in KL where the aromatic smell of ayam percik would greet you before you even reach the first stall. The smokiness of grilled meat, the loud voices of sellers inviting you to their stalls and the colourful kuih muih was not something that we could find here so we opted for cooking meals at home for the break of fast.
Receiving Ramadan Care Package from Kuala Lumpur
We are grateful for family and friends who think of us during the Ramadan month and put together a box of goodies from back home. The first box with kurma (dates) and Raya cookies came from Anis with much anticipation. Then came a box of serunding, nasi himpit, kuih popiah and kuah kacang from my family, just in time for Aidilfitri celebration. Since I couldn’t have my usual kuih cara berlauk, the kuih popiah was the next best thing. The rest of the items will be saved for Aidilfitri celebration here which I can’t wait to prepare.
Cooking At Home Vs. Eating Out
Learning to cook and practicing it here has been good so far. I’ve learned how to choose meat and vegetables from reliable sellers at local prices. Looking like a local helps a lot and bargaining turned out to be easy even though I’m still picking up Khmer words daily. We would cook simple dishes, mostly grilling the meat (healthier it seems) and follow recipes from the cookbook. By the time I reached home, it would be 5 minutes to the call of azan so sometimes we eat out at the nearby vegetarian restaurant or our favorite Halal Restaurant on Street 130. Breaking fast at home not only saves money but it’s more convenient to catch up on prayers after that. We didn’t have a chance to break fast with the Muslim community as it is quite a distance from our town.
Double Celebration for the month.
This year was also the first time I celebrated my birthday on the same day as Nuzul al-Quran and in the Ramadan month too. It was a humbling day and instead of a big celebration out with friends or family for a week, I had a simple dinner (break of fast) and a cake from the office. Although I could only eat the cake after 6:30pm they kept a slice for me so that I could eat it later. I was happy to have experienced my first birthday(the local way) which was a birthday cake filled with fruits together with a plate of rambutans and mangosteen. The fruits were gone even before I had a chance to take them home but I had the slice the cake instead which was equally good.
Other Aidilfitri Preparations
Before we went back to Kuala Lumpur for the Aidilfitri celebrations, we searched for markets that sold cloth and tailors who would be able to make a baju kurung. While walking around in the Russian Market, we found a stall which sold pretty cotton cloths which were already cut to 4 metres in length. They also had different grades of Cambodia silk with plenty of designs and colours for a nice baju kurung. Surprisingly the girl asked me “You want to make baju kurung?” and I was glad to know that the tailoring price was not more than RM80. I decided on a mixed Cambodia silk cloth (which was not 100% silk) that was not as thick as a songket material. That is important because it can get really hot during the month. I brought my baju kurung for reference and in 3 days, it was ready, just in time for Aidilfitri too. We had also gotten some souvenirs, t-shirts and cloths for the family since there weren’t any Raya cookies for sale here. As much as I am glad that the month of Ramadan went by smoothly, I am looking forward for it to arrive again next year, perhaps in another city.
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.