Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: Muslim
Friday, 16 September 2011 15:43

Fasting in the Far East

An interview with Hanane Khlifi from Morocco

"I had some doubts in the beginning, about the ALL FEES COVERED...", admits Moroccan participant, Hanane Khlifi, chuckling in retrospect. "But I knew there would be participants from all over the world... I just loved the idea of meeting new people. I kinda needed that change in my life". With that in mind, her last-minute application was sent, to the Republic of China (Taiwan) International Youth Week: Centennial Homestay committee.

Following two tough selection processes, Hanane and 237 other international participants, from 131 various countries, were shaping up to celebrate, with the respective 200 Taiwanese host families waiting to welcome them.

After two transits and a total twenty-four hours in the air, Hanane arrived safely in Taoyuan International Airport, for the centennial celebration of the founding of the Republic of China (Taiwan)... and coincidentally, her 23rd birthday.

In contrast to many of her starry-eyed fellow participants, who were quick to add "a couple of kilograms" to their list of Taiwanese travel gains; Hanane spent the daylight hours of her stay fasting - in recognition of the Islamic holy month, Ramadan.

"I had explained to people that I was fasting and it was Ramadan in that period, and people were so understanding and caring to that situation. My hosts were trying to get me the food I was allowed, by religion, to eat. They tried so hard to keep me away from anything I couldn’t have."

As a part of their cultural beliefs, Muslims are unable to drink alcohol, eat pork, or any other animals that were not slaughtered in the halaal Muslim way. "Muslims usually slaughter the animals we’re allowed to eat in a special way - we actually have to say the name of Allah (God) before doing it. So I could eat vegetables, fruits, rice, fish and seafood - which I actually loved in Taiwan," explains Hanane.

Hanane began her days of Ramadan, with a pre-dawn food dash to none other than Taiwan’s beloved 7-ELEVEN.

hanane_portrait"At night I went to any beloved 7-ELEVEN store I could find…and they were many! One of my positive culture shocks in Taiwan, was how safe we felt, even if we were out alone in the night.”

“I woke up to do all the activities with everyone else. They actually made it easier for me... they kept asking if I’m feeling okay…everyone was so supportive. I had to break my fast at sunset again, and my new friends were all keeping an eye on their watches to remind me that I had to eat something.”

“I actually didn’t find any mosques in Taiwan. I know there’s one in Taipei, but didn’t know where... I mainly visited temples - there are a lot of temples. Maybe not for religious reasons, but for the beauty of the architecture and the stories they had. I was curious to know the story of each temple."

Like most participants, Hanane had Google-ogled Taiwan, but later assessed that not even the mighty Google could adequately have prepared her for the wealth of Taiwanese hospitality she experienced: "There’re some stereotypes about Asian people that I had in mind... workaholic, too serious…But what I saw and experienced while discovering different counties of Taiwan was way better. I had never met people so nice... They’re so welcoming and ready to help anyone at any time...sometimes without even being asked.”

“I believe the hospitality of people is similar in the two countries. People in Morocco tend to help each other as much as they can - especially foreigners... Although food is definitely one hundred percent different", she adds laughing.

Hanane makes it clear that the constraints of Ramadan in no way restrained the pleasure of her experience of Taiwan – if anything, this enhanced her experience of Taiwanese hospitality, during her stay in the further East.


Read Hanane's blog on Homestay website


Published in
Focus: SayTaiwan

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