Ramadan

The Islamic Fasting Month

Restaurants that serve food during daylight hours put up curtains so that fasting Muslims won't see people eating. Outside the City of Jambi, people are forbidden to eat in these restaurants, though they can buy the food packaged, as "take-away."

A Restaurant with a Curtain Across its Opening
Restaurants that serve food during daylight hours put up curtains so that fasting Muslims won’t see people eating.
Outside the City of Jambi people are forbidden to eat in these restaurants, though they can buy the food as “take-away.”

In 2013 the Islamic fasting month (Ramadan) occurred from 8 July till 8 August (some denominations of Islam say the 9th). When Westerners hear of the fasting month, they think Muslims fast for the entire month. That is not the case. They only fast during daylight hours, and there are often celebratory meals conducted in the mornings and evenings. The food prices tend to rise during this time of the year because more food is consumed during this month than the other months of the year.

There are also other significant changes that take place during Ramadan, and for guests in Indonesia, we’ve listed below some of the changes we observed in the Indonesian City of Jambi.

42 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
We observed large displays of dates being set up in stores, though no Ramadan specific signs close to the displays.

28 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
Larger quantities of dates were on display in stores, yet no signs mentioning Ramadan attached to the dates.

Power Outages
We were told that a lot of maintenance takes place on the electrical grid prior to Ramadan so fewer power outages will take place during Ramadan festivities. We recorded no fewer than 8 power outages during the month proceeding Ramadan.

21 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
Huge pallets full of flavored syrup were set up for sale in stores. This syrup is used to make drinks, commonly served to guests.

15 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
The menu at Pizza Hut has was changed with it including Islamic (green) colored pictures and Islamic emblems.

Large display of dates in the Hypermart grocery store.

Large display of dates in the Hypermart grocery store.

15 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
Larger displays of dates were seen in stores, with the addition of Islamic symbols and banners over the top of them, mentioning the month of Ramadan. Music in all major department stores were playing Islamic music.

10 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
Large displays of cakes were seen.

3 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
There were large stacks of flattened gift boxes that were put on sale. These were just cardboard boxes that are decorated with Islamic designs, which people will buy and use to fill with various gifts, to be given away when they visit friends and family.

3 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
Large displays of the famous Japanese produced drink, Pocari Sweat, were see in many stores. This drink is the most popular brand of “Gatorade” in Indonesia. With Muslims not drinking during daylight hours, they like to get refreshed with this electrolyte.

3 Days Before the Start of Ramadan
Larger than normal displays of Muslim specific clothing.

After the Start of Ramadan
Several times during the month there was an activity referred to as Suhur. This consists of a group of people who travel through the neighborhoods beating on drums and other improvised instruments, calling out to people to wake up and eat before daylight. We were awakened several times during the month, usually from 2:00 and 2:45am. Some of our Muslim neighbors said that that was much too early for them to be doing that, but they said that they probably have a lot of streets to go up and down, and ours was possibly the first one they started on. In days gone by that may have been helpful, but now, with every Indonesian having multiple cell phones in their homes, which have alarms, and with clock alarms being readily available, the suhur activity has become more of a tradition.

After the Start of Ramadan
The food peddlers (pedagang keliling) are nowhere to be seen, and the thousands of roadside food stalls (warung) are not set up. There are random stalls that are open, and they usually have a lot of business! These warungs will have curtains up, blocking the view of passerby’s.

Displays of cakes and cookies.

Displays of cakes and cookies.

Most restaurants in the City of Jambi remain open, though curtains are put up on windows so Muslims who are fasting won’t feel offended. Some Muslim acquaintances told us that they feel offended if they see people eat and drink in public, and that it is insulting to them.

If you go outside the City of Jambi, to other major cities in the province, the restaurants that are open will sell you food, but it’s packaged for “take away.” You are not allowed to eat in the restaurants.

Although Islam permits some to eat during daylight hours of Ramadan (nursing mothers, children, the elderly, and those that are sick), they are expected to eat in private. Adherents of other religions are also expected to eat and drink in private as well, out of view of Muslims who are fasting.

In the afternoon many set up roadside stands to sell packaged foods, not to be eaten in public, but to be taken home for breaking the fast after dark.

After the first week of Ramadan, the many food peddlers are out with their carts again, beeping their horns and clanging their dishes, in their attempt to attract the attention of customers. Many roadside food stalls are also open. The peddlers say that the food is to be eaten at night or early morning, not to be purchased and immediately consumed.

During the fasting month hotel costs are considerably lower. There are often promotional discounts given because there are so few travelers. Air travel is also much cheaper. People make plans for traveling at the end of the fasting month, usually returning to the village of their origin to see family members. The return to the village of your origin takes place on the day following Ramadan, and the holiday is called Idul Fitri.

List of prayer times found in the hotels during Ramadan. Other times of the year this prayer schedule has never been seen laying out for customers in hotels.

List of prayer times found in hotels during Ramadan. Other times of the year this prayer schedule has never been seen laying out for customers.

The roads in the City of Jambi have almost two times the amount of congestion during Ramadan. At a much higher percent than normal, the traffic laws and traffic lights are in general seen as a suggestion. Parking places at stores are difficult to find. It is similar to the Christmas Season in the USA, with shoppers frequenting stores.

Islamic songs and music will be heard in stores and along the streets. This is also similar to Christmas music played in stores in the USA during the month of December.

The central part of the City of Jambi (pasar) was filled with extra stalls. It is so congested that you can’t enter those areas with a car. Motorcycle parking is also overflowing in that area. The shopping centers are elbow to elbow.

Hotel rooms display a list for the times of prayer.  These are not seen at other times of the year (note picture immediately above).

For those staying in the City of Sarolangun, at the Abadi Hotel, you may want to leave your phone off the hook if you don’t want waken at 3:00am. We don’t know if it’s an automated call or not, but when we picked up the phone there was only a busy sound. Though this hotel does this throughout the year, your wake up call for morning breakfast during Ramadan will come at 3:09am.

After Ramadan is the Holiday—Idul Fitri
Not many people travel outside their areas during the fast, but they make a major exodus beginning 3 or more days before Idul Fitri. The traffic in the cities during those 3 days, as well as during Idul Fitri, is noticeably lighter.The traffic is “lighter,” but with the lighter traffic, people take even greater liberties on the roads. With relatively no police posts being manned at busy intersections, required helmets are almost non-existent. With people making many visits to homes on Idul Fitri, their helmets are left at home, and in place of helmets you will see men wearing pecis and women with jilbabs (hijab) as they ride on their motorcycles.

The typically bustling and overly crowded market (pasar) was strangely silent on Idul Fitri.

The typically bustling and overly crowded market (pasar) was strangely silent on the day following Ramadan–which is the Holiday Idul Fitri.

On Idul Fitri the mosque speakers are silent, except for azan (the call to prayer 5x per day). During Ramadan the speakers from the mosques can be heard practically the entire day, with the accompanying beating of the bedugs (you can read about the bedug in our article on the Jambi War Museum). Some days the Mosques will be reading from the Al’Quran or preaching for 24 hours.

During Idul Fitri there is also an eerie silence, with the mobile food vendors (and their accompanying horns, bells, clanging of a spoon against a china plate, and their loud voice calling out to potential customers) taking the  day off, or having returned to their village of birth.

Our neighborhood was strangely vacant. It is usually filled with people walking and children playing on the street. On Idlu Fitri the doors of most homes were closed and people were out visiting their family in other cities, or they were visiting family members and friends in other areas of the City of Jambi.

People visit their closest family members on the first day. The second and third day they travel around and visit all their other family members and friends.

Gifts are not given to others, like what Christians do on Christmas. The things that are purchased are basic snacks, like an assortment of very small cookies, as well as drinks, such as water, Fanta soda, and Bird’s Nest Soup Drink.

This is one of the busiest intersections in Jambi, known as Simpang Abadi. On Idul Fitri the City of Jambi was like a ghost town.

This is one of the busiest intersections in Jambi, known as Simpang Abadi.
On Idul Fitri the City of Jambi is like a ghost town.

Restaurants, and Shopping Areas that were Closed on Idul Fitri

  • Pasar Angso Duo (The Central Traditional Shopping Market)
  • “The Pasar” (the stalls and stores in the center of the city)
    • We did see about 10 stalls selling children’s toys.
  • Pizza Hut
  • Dine & Chat
  • Gramadia Book Store
  • Prima Mall
  • Tropi
  • Jambi Town Square Mall (Jamtos)
  • Meranti Shopping Center

Stores that Were Open on Idul Fitri

  • Mitra Swalayan
  • Ancol (Tangga Raja) was bustling, with the many food stalls being open
  • Saimens by the pasar
    • Saimens located my Jambi Town Square Mall (Jamtos) was closed.
  • Wiltop Trade Center (WTC)
    • With the exception of a handful, most shops inside the WTC mall are still open.
  • Hypermart
  • Ramayana
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • A &W Root Beer
  • JCOs Donuts

It takes about 1 week or so after Idul Fitri before everything is back in full operation. Though most stores are open, there are many privately operated businesses, and some government offices, that are still closed or not yet 100% operational.

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