A Ramadan Day in Yemen

(Repost from last year from main blog)


9:30 am.

The normally bustling streets are almost totally deserted……

Where are the people?

Where is the traffic?


The streets are usually busy by now……

Why are most of the stores closed? The big protective metal security doors are all mostly shut except a few here and there.

A busy suq area is desolate…………….

Why are the traffic booths unmanned?

Looks like a Jumuah morning, except……………

the restaurants are closed too!

…. and besides, it’s a Monday.

Well, there’s only one other possible reason…..

It’s Ramadan!

Here’s a look at a typical Ramadan day out on the town in Sana’a, Yemen as seen through the eyes of an American……

By 10 or 10:30 am, the city begins to awaken.

A few more people will have emerged from slumber and make their way out onto the almost empty streets. A few more cars begin to occupy the quiet roads.


Not too many children are on the street, most of the children are in school as usual. The public school boys left for school earlier this morning. The public school girls will leave for school at around dhuhr, following their normal schedules.

A few more stores have opened. More big metal doors have opened up.

If you are planning on going to big supermarkets like City Mart or Shumayla Hari, however, you’ll have to wait another hour for City Mart and until after dhuhr for Shumayla Hari. Some stores that are typically open in the morning and close at dhuhr will not open up until after dhuhr, but stay open in the afternoon when they are normally closed.


Fast forward a few hours and its dhuhr. The adhaan has been heard and the dhuhr prayer has been prayed. The streets and sidewalks begin to fill. Only a few shops remain closed.

By 2pm or a little later, things look almost normal. Street vendors are out, but a little earlier than usual. They would typically start selling their wares after asr. And street vendors of a different type are present…….those selling samosas and others selling sweets covered with sticky sweet syrup! The wonderful smell of crispy recently fried samosas begins to fill the air……


Samosa stands. You will find seemingly dozens of these in just a few blocks…

Bakeries and sweet shops are bustling with customers buying sweets.

You also see vendors and military personnel sitting around reading Quraan.


30 minutes or so before Maghrib……

The streets begin to thin out again…………………

The sun begins to sink behind the mountains……

At many sites around town people gather outside storefront areas to await free food for their iftar as part of a Ramadan “mashru’ ” (project) for giving iftar to those in need.

The adhaan is called and people all over are breaking their fast with samosas, dates, sweets, soups, etc. Some houses are filled with guests breaking iftar with their hosts, their voices can be heard from outside the houses. The maghrib prayer is made and people return to their homes for the delicious food that could be smelled cooking during the day, teasing hungry fasters, but forbidden for consumption at that time.

After dinner, people will gather together and watch Arab soap operas, chew qat, light firecrackers, and pray the taraweeh prayer. Much to the chagrin of those unfortunate to live nearby, construction on houses will pick back up in the late night hours, their workers having slept a good portion of the day. Many people will stay up into the wee hours of the morning or until salatul Fajr and then sleep for most of the morning and then another Ramadan day begins…..


The Approach of Ramadan in Yemen

This is a repost from last year (2007) when my Yemen posts were at my main blog……


Shaban 29.  Ramadan is almost here. 



Living in a Muslim country, alhamdulillah, you “feel it in the air.” And you can see the signs of it……especially in grocery stores.  I had my first grocery store at Ramadan time experience.  Trust me, you don’t want to go to a major grocery store on Shaaban 29 after asr……


We walked into the store thinking that we were going to run in and get a few things.  When we walked through the doors we instantly saw a sea of black in every direction. If I had been smart, I would have turned around and walked back out, but…….


So we headed for the turnstiles—the point of no return. Once you go through those, you can forget it, you are stuck, as I found out.


The aisles were packed, similar to the stores during Christmas Eve, probably, but worse.  And the majority of the people were sisters. Everywhere you looked, as I said, a sea of black (of course, a beautiful sight for a Muslimah from the west.) 


So we attempt to make it upstairs to the school supply section to get some glitter, crayons, etc.  Alhamdulillah I had already done my food shopping.  But we never made it upstairs.  We made it about halfway to the stairs and realized that we were not going to be able to get out of there anytime soon so we scrapped our idea and turned our efforts to “escaping.”


Well that proved to be a challenge, too.  People were pushing everywhere and when I say push, I mean push, as in its one thing to bump into someone, but women and children were actively pushing. Alhamdulillah there are checkout on both sides of the store and we headed towards the back which is usually less populated.  Going through the front, we would not have been able to make it out without going through a checkstand, so that was out.  So minutes later, we found ourselves within sight of the exit and thankfully out onto the street.


Moral of the story: Never go shopping on the last day of Shaban in a Muslim country at a major grocery store if you don’t absolutely have to……..lol…


Is it (Ramadan) here yet? (Oct. 2007)


We were asking ourselves on  the 29th of Shaban. We heard people lighting firecrackers outside, but we hadn’t heard any official word by bedtime. Around 3 am or so, we heard that they had announced in Saudi that Ramadan wouldn’t start until Thursday.  But we waited until later to get confirmation for us here in Yemen. My son ventured out at about 8 this morning and ran back with the news that Ramadan did not begin today here.  One of the surest signs was that restaurants were open and people were eating like food was going out of style.  During Ramadan here, the restaurants are not open at all until after Maghrib (or maybe shortly before for people to pick up things like samosas) and it basically looks like a ghost town around town until that time too.


It’s wonderful just before maghrib during Ramadan. Those who are out are scrambling to get home or to the masjid before maghrib.  If you are caught out and the adhaan is called, strangers may offer you some of what they have and if you’re in a store they will usually give you something as well.  When I was in the states, Ramadan was not as big of a deal as it is here and was when we were in Egypt. In a Muslim country, it really feels like a special time of the year, alhamdulillah

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ramadan…….

(repost from main blog from 2007.)


It’s beginning to look a lot like Ramadan…….

(My kids assembled this “collage” )

With Ramadan less than two weeks away, it’s beginning to look like it. Well actually it started about 3 weeks ago, most notably in the food retail sector.  I thought I would share a little of what its like here as Ramadan approaches……



If you walk into a grocery store, whether the small neighborhood stores or the big modern supermarkets, you see signs of Ramadan.


Huge pyramids of products that are eaten/purchased during Ramadan tower high above you.


Some of the things that are considered Ramadan products (though are sold year around, just not in such extravagant displays.):


This was the first thing I noticed go up.  Although Quaker oatmeal is sold here, it’s more expensive than the Saudi/Middle Eastern brands that you typically see stacked up.  A can of the Saudi produced runs about $1.00 – $1.50.  I had intended on posting pictures of the store displays but sometimes the personnel get a little paranoid or something…..so I have taken some pictures of some of the products that I have purchased.



Again, these are sold year around, but they also have large displays of these this time of the year. 


Mishmish sheets.  (Apricot). They kind of remind me of a thick “fruit rollup” that is sold in the states.  In Egypt, my first experience with this was a drink (called Qamr al deen) that was made from putting the pulp in water and letting it dissolve.  I mention this on TJ Ramadan’s Recipe page: http://tjramadan.talibiddeenjr.amanahwebs.com/ramadanrecipes.htm  and have another recipe for a pudding made with the mishmish sheets. My kids like eating it plain as well. 


Powdered Milk.

Again, sold year around but I guess lots of yummy Ramadan goodies are made with it so the displays are even larger than usual.


Also, on the street (and in stores) you will see larger than usual candy displays.  Typically many smaller grocery stores will set up a mini store outside of their store that sells candies, nuts, etc.


In the grocery store, you will see many products that come with a free Ramadan gift such as a dish or bowl.  Last year, after Ramadan I bought a huge can of powdered milk and it came with a pot with a deep fryer basket. 


Typically sold only during Ramadan (though I have spotted some “out of season”) these are fried up by street vendors and restaurants.  They are a triangle shaped filled pastry. For recipes and pictures, see TJ Ramadan’s Recipe page: http://tjramadan.talibiddeenjr.amanahwebs.com/ramadanrecipes.htm  They usually start selling them the first day of Ramadan right after asr. 


As far as non-food items, last year I remember some stores put up lights, but I notice most of the signs of Ramadan are food related, either for suhoor or iftar.


I hope to post a few stories about what its like during Ramadan here, so insha Allah stay tuned……

Ramadan store hours

As Ramadan approaches, here are a few reminders:

Grocery Shopping

If you shop at the major grocery stores or some of the larger ones, try to avoid going on the last day of Shaban. It can be a nightmare. I went to City Mart last year and it was packed, people were so rude, pushing, etc.

Shumaila Hari had their Ramadan hours posted on the door last year. Can’t remember the exact hours but they are different.

City Mart seemed to open up later in the morning during Ramadan.

DHL is usually open 24 hours but they have special Ramadan hours which were posted on the door last year.


Internet cafes tend to remain open as usual, except some may close to break the fast.


Western Union

Can’t remember what the Ramadan hours were like but during Eid some close for several days so take that into account.