Last night I went shopping with my family to Al Khobar, a nearby city where stores opened around 9 pm and went on forever into the night/ next day. The streets were packed, and the roads jammed with people finally getting out of the house after breaking their fast and crowding the markets. There are so much lighting and decorations everywhere to celebrate Ramadan, from lamp posts, to the hotels and private buildings. The Saudi version of Christmas lighting.
There are “Ramadan discounts” everywhere and people taking advantage of it like no other. I went into a jewelry shop and could not find a counter space at all as flocks of people lined every free inch, mostly men, to buy gold. The counters for the clothing were a bit insane too, and I think it also drove the men running it insane who either spoke no English or just did not want to speak because they were afraid we would demand something.
The woman guarding the ladie’s fitting rooms were also a bit out of nerves. It is definitely not like the United States. I am trying on clothes and literally another woman and her daughter are standing outside my door staring at me, in a distance like as if they are about to come inside. It was… awkward. I was not sure if they were like, lining up to get in or just wanted to stare at me (both possible). One of the woman guarding it came and told me to hurry up in broken English to which my mother and sister snapped at and the woman just backed away because I am pretty sure she did not understand a single word and did not have a comeback. Having so many languages spoken at once just adds to the utter chaos of the stores.
I loved the vibe of the city though. I have celebrated a Muslim holiday I can remember just once in a Muslim country, which was Eid years and years ago in Bangladesh. Being in Saudi Arabia felt foreign to me even though it should not, I suppose. The entire month is a celebration, but only at night- during the day, everything is closed since people are fasting. It is dead silent. And around 3 am, an hour before sunrise when you have to start fasting again, restaurants and fast food places are packed with tired families and single men eating away. It reminded me of Las Vegas where the nights go on forever and the next morning you see dead silence as people sleep through their hangover. The hangover here is from overeating and carrying too many shopping bags, I suppose.