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Divine love: Jakartan women study and recite the Koran at Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta on Saturday. Some of the city’s inhabitants spent the first day of fasting during Ramadhan in prayer and reflection. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
Within the past few days, 30-year-old Ahmad Sabran has been busy writing and replying to messages on Facebook and Twitter, carefully marking dates in his calendar as he goes along.
“My old friends and I are organizing get-togethers. We are going to have iftar [fast-breaking meal during Ramadhan] together,” Ahmad, a civil servant, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
The holy month of Ramadhan is always a joyful and blessed time for Muslims. During the month, Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, breaking their fast at sundown and offering special prayers.
Ahmad said, however, that adding to the joy of Ramadhan were the regular get-togethers with his friends during the month.
“Throughout the four weeks, I will meet up with my old school friends and those from college,” he said.
Ahmad, who recently became a father for the first time, said the get-togethers were an annual tradition. “Every year, we organize these reunions. It’s a lot of fun; we get to catch up, hang out and strengthen our silaturahmi [friendship],” said the resident of Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.
The government recently announced that Ramadhan would begin on Saturday, although members of the nation’s second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, began the fasting month on Friday.
Although it is a time of privation, Ramadhan annually sees an increase in demand for various food products, as well as local snacks, sweets and delicacies ahead of the daily iftar.
Qanita Fatia, 24, said burgeoning food stalls were one annual occurrence that she most looked forward to.
“I have this favorite sop buah seller, who only opens his stall during Ramadhan,” said the snack lover, who lives in Pondok Bambu, East Jakarta.
Sop buah (fruit soup) is a usually a mixture of melon, grape, strawberry, pear, apple, dragon fruit, cubed or shredded agar, jelly, condensed milk and ice.
Among the many go-to places to find sweet and savory snacks for breaking the fast in Jakarta are Bendungan Hilir market on Jl. Bendungan Hilir and along Jl. Sabang, both in Central Jakarta.
Vendors usually sell the city’s Ramadhan special dish of kolak (banana and sweet potato stewed in coconut milk and palm sugar); bubur kampiun (a mix of cooked coconut milk, sticky rice and colorful glutinous sweets); pallu butung (banana rolled in steamed glutinous rice with coconut milk); and various fruit-cocktail drinks.
Jakarta Police have warned that additional traffic jams are expected to occur throughout the capital during the holy month as sellers in the city’s traditional markets are expected to open stalls on public thoroughfares to cater to more customers.
The police are also expecting that the evening rush hour in the city will start an hour earlier every day during Ramadhan, from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m. as people will try to get home before dusk to end the day’s fasting with their families.
Bernardinus Realino, 31, said that as a non-Muslim, he found the earlier rush hour enjoyable.
“It means that after 5 p.m. the roads are much quieter than usual. Commuting will be easier for me this month,” Bernardinus, who lives in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, said.
Ramadhan will end with the Idul Fitri holidays, which are expected to fall on Aug. 19 and 20.