During the month of Ramadan, at approximately 5:30 every evening, many Muslims venture outside their homes to break the fast. By this point they haven’t consumed a single meal or beverage (water included) for over twelve hours and their bellies, roaring, wait for the signal to eat. It comes at sundown.
At a university campus ten minutes from my homestay, before daylight delivers its final wink, an ordinarily quiet street becomes a boisterous market. Students and families shuffle down the avenue as if in a one-way parade, choosing food from street-cart vendors tightly stationed along the side of the road. Among the options for purchase are fried spring rolls, grilled kabobs, fruit cups filled with shaved ice and condensed milk, and rice dishes of seemingly endless variety.
The pedestrians buy their foodstuffs of choice, some served in cutlery and others in plastic bags. Hands full of traditional cuisine, the pedestrians find spaces in the nearby grass where they can later enjoy their food. There they sit, remove their purchases from their respective plastic bags, and arrange their cutlery neatly in front of them. They wait. Cross their legs. They look at their food, which is fantastically aromatic, succulent, and colorful. They wait. The sun dims over the display and nothing is touched.
By the time the sun settles, pedestrians have filled every open space. The call to prayer rings out and, at last, the teeth flash. To a non-Muslim, the call to prayer sounds not unlike a somber plea or melodic cry of agony; but to the Muslims shoveling sustenance into their dry mouths, the call signals a time for thanks: the time to empty every bowl, to thank God that they can always ask for more before the sun rises.