During the month-long fast, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sex between daybreak and sunset. While this is a challenge for people everywhere, in certain parts of the world the length of the day and the high summer temperatures can cause real problems
The reason there are different lengths of fasting is simple. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle and thus 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. Because of this it moves back 11 days every year.
According to twenty-six year old Fez local, Fatima Zohra, nobody alive now can remember a Ramadan where the days were so long. "When I grew up Ramadan was in winter and fasting was not a the big problem it is today."
The longer days at this time of year have the added burden of intense heat and biggest health problem for most people is not being able to drink water. "People become dehydrated and cannot concentrate,' explains Fez shopkeeper Omar." Late afternoon is not a good time to take a taxi," he says with a wry smile then whispers, "of course many people do drink a little water, but not in public."
The length of the Ramadan fast differs depending on where you live. Spare a thought for those in Finland, Iceland and Sweden the average fast lasts around 20 hours per day - leaving little time to replenish in between each day. In Denmark it is 21 hours.
Here in Morocco this year's fast lasts for 14 hours a day during the holy month of Ramadan.
Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Algeria and Libya will make Ramadan for 14 hours a day. Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Bahrain and Palestine can expect around 15 hours a day.
In Spain, Muslims have to fast 15 hours a day, 16 hours in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany the Netherlands and Belgium. At the other end of the scale are Argentina and Australia on 9 and 1/2 hours and 10 hours respectively.
In many Muslim countries, the fast is often broken in the evening with long and elaborate meals. But with Swedish and Finnish Muslims experiencing only a few hours of darkness, this becomes harder to do.
|Expect a long days fasting in Finland|
However, the conservative Imam, Mahmoud Khalfi, at a Stockholm Mosque, is adamant that the principles of fasting at Ramadan are clear: “There is still day and night, so Muslims should follow the rule that you fast during the hours of daylight. Sometimes Ramadan falls in the winter, and then the hours of daylight are very short.” Most people ignore his advice
Back in 2005, the month of fasting stretched from October to November, when daylight hours were shorter. But by the time Ramada is observed in 2015 it will begin on the 18th of June, when many parts of Sweden, Finland and Norway don’t get dark at all. With just over three and a half hours to eat, sleep and prepare for another 20 plus hours of fasting, it is little wonder that most people decide to fast according to the length of the day in Mecca, which is a mere 15 hours.