It's Ramadan time in The Gambia - it started on Friday, and the days are slooooowly crawling by, filled with hunger and heat, not the best combination in the world. My cousin told me that the sun evaporates your body juices, and it's the best metaphor I have heard yet to describe what the sun actually does to you during the day, should you dare to venture outside. As usual, there have been some pretty wild/funny (at least to the spectators) street-fights, mainly between drivers of cars in the evening, about an hour before the break of the fast, when tempers are really short, and traffic jams really long. Indiana-Jones-style fist fights are not a rare sight during Ramadan.
But mostly it's been mellow and soft (the people, that is - the weather itself has been terrible, the heat harsh and unrelenting as usual), mainly because when you're that hungry and exhausted the last thing you want to do is anything that will make you expend even more of the precious little energy you still have left. Ramadan rules allow you to eat before dawn, so people wake up extra early to eat, all the time anxiously listening for the sound of the muezzin's call to prayer, which is the sign to everyone to stop eating, because the fast day has officially started. Then afterwards you go back to bed, only to wake up an hour later to go to work/school. So it's a pretty exhausting month as well, in addition to everything else.
All apart from religious considerations though, the hunger is not such a bad thing. It links people together, in a way being stuffed never will, makes them help each other out in small ways all over the place, and be more charitable. It's as if the gnawing, empty pain in their bellies all day long is a reminder to be nice to other people, because they feel as we feel, and are as we are. Yes, cheesy as that sounds - I couldn't find a better way to put it. Even better than books, even better than the latest Hollywood movie starring [insert hot young actor here], the best way to get one person to understand the suffering of another is to put them in that person's shoes. And so our common suffering during Ramadan, like boot camp in the military, creates this bond between us that is quite strong, if only temporary. For one whole month, everything is laid down - political, tribal and all the other kinds of machetes people yield here - and everyone helps each other survive through the lean, dry days, and make it to the end, the foodful Eid.