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Saturday, July 21, 2012

My 30 Days of Ramazan (Ramadan) - Day 1

Hard to see but there is a bed on top of the roof. It is cooler
to sleep on the roof at night than inside those cement ovens
No, I am not Muslim. But all my staff are and they observe the 30 day fast of Ramazan. It is Ramadan in Arabic but Ramazan in Persian, Urdu and Dari, languages common in Afghanistan. The start of Ramazan here began on Friday, July 15, at 330am. Here, daytime temperatures in the protected shade of my indoor/outdoor Taylor thermometer had the outside at around 115F. I am glad I installed the evaporative cooler on the fourth floor on the roof because inside the temperature during the day dropped to 95F.  With fans it was tolerable. It was, after all, dry heat.

I was struggling what to do about Ramazan. I am not Muslim so I was not compelled to follow this annual reglious event. However, I felt it would be very inconsiderate for me to have water or food in sight of my staff who were following it (almost) religously. One of my staff I saw had hot tea during the afternoon of the first day of Ramazan.

So I decided to join them in Ramazan. Not for religious reasons but to not weaken them in their own fight with temptations. This meant no food or water from about 330am to 730pm. When the Mullah had his call to prayer in the morning, all eating and drinking stopped for the day. At night, when he made his call to prayer again was the signal you could then eat and drink. During the day there were three more calls to prayer for the religious.
Blue mosque at Mazar i Sharif. Even though I walk by it
frequently this is not my picture. I havenever taken one of this
mosque but "borrowed" it from Wiki.
I didnt go around and tell everyone I was going to follow the fasting part of Ramazan. I just did it. The first day of Ramazan fell on their Holy Day, Friday, so I was alone. Here is my recounting of my first day of Ramazan.

1st Day.
Many Muslims will get up about 230 am and eat and get their last drink before the fasting part of the day begins. I did not. I got up at my usual time of 430 am to start my day. I could tell I was having caffeine withdrawls. I usually have a cup of coffee to get me awake and ready for the day. Not today. I substituted two ibuprofin for my cup of coffee. Dry. Medicine is permitted.

One of my staff who is a fourth year student at the University and works as our security person in exchange for a room at ground level, said he got up at 230 am and made some eggs, bread and tea (chai) for his breakfast but could not eat it. He told me, when he asked his Mother about fasting when he was much younger (children do not fast), she told him to get up at 230am and fix his breakfast so that he would not be late for the beginning of the fast when the Mullah had his call to prayer. Just like any Mother.

Evaporative cooler on the fourth floor roof of our building.
My headache subsided by 5am and I began my days work on the computer. Even though it is my day off (Friday) there is still work to do and the work kind of fills the void between the the sixth day of the week and the beginning of the next. I was feeling quite good until the temperatures started hitting around 105F and building heat inside the thick concrete walls of our building. They are quite resistant to temperature changes but once they have absorbed heat they are slow to give it up as well. So it is a bit like an oven in the house during the night. By about 4pm it was about 95F inside and about 115F outside, in the shade.

My throat was getting parched and dry and I looked at the clock. I had at least 3 hours to go. I was inside out of the sun. What about all those workers outside working? They start right after the call to prayer is finished, taking advantage of the cool night air, and retire to the inside when it gets hot. But tomorrow I will be working again outside. Restaurants and stores with food are closed all day long until 730 pm when they will open their doors again. Who will buy food during that time anyway?

The hunger by 4 in the afternoon was not the big thing. It was the lack of water. It was uncomfortable but not debilitating. I kept wondering about what it would be like when I was working outside starting tomorrow.

Vent system we build to vent the cool air from the swamp
cooler to the lower three floors down the central staircase.
At 7 pm I went down to my staff's room and knocked. "Are you ready to eat?" He politely told me he would eat later. The Mullah did not yet give his permission to eat. So I waited as well. 730 pm came and I downed a liter of water, some milk and some pasta mixed with spaghetti sauce. My staff member joined me. "Did you take enough?" I said. "There is plenty."

He showed me his large bowl. It was full of spaghetti pasta. "I will eat half now", he said. "At 230 I will wake and finish the rest."

At 1am the power went off. My ceiling fan stopped and I started to roast in a pool of sweat. I got up, drank about 1/3 liter of water and opened an outside door located in the hallway. A cool night breeze entered the third floor but avoided my room due to a lack of cross ventilation. The thick plastic covering on the windows to prevent glass from shredding you in case of a bomb blast sealed them. I grabbed a straight back chair and sat in front of the breeze, sleeping a little while sitting upright, trying not to waken too much. About an hour later the power came on. The fan was turning again and I went back to bed and fell asleep. At 430 am Saturday I was up again and back to work. On to the second day of Ramazan.


  1. Stay safe always Hon!

  2. I am so interested in your descriptions of life in Afghanistan. In some ways it is easy for us in S. Nevada to relate, because of the desert environment, but the culture is so different. Thank you for taking the time to fill in these details.

  3. In Tucson, AZ where the evap cooling works better than Phoenix due to it being slightly cooler, with longer periods of the dewpoint remaining below 55 degrees F (in which evaporation occurs), you can add 3-4 drops of liquid detergent to the circulating water to act as a wetting agent. This ensures better contact with the fibers and possibly helps lubricate the pump too. Claims are to lower evap cooling exhaust air by 2-4 degrees F.

    If you can add a small amount of EDTA as well it can help keep Calcium salts in solution or at least off of your fibers and maybe from plugging the spider. This seems to last months.

    Detergent and EDTA should inhibit bacterial growth though I have seen fungal growth on weak dilutions of detergent (though not in an evap cooler).

    You need to learn to put cool in quotes when cool is 95 degrees. Shade is huge. Shade under a transpiring tree more so.

  4. Ramadan Mubarak to your staff and friends there, Bob! Hang in there, you are doing an awesome job there.

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