DUBAI – Long-term British expatriate Nick Watson has been living in the Emirates for 20 years and so far, he hasn’t missed one Ramadan.
“While living in the UK, my exposure to Ramadan was limited, though I was familiar with the basic concept of the Muslim tradition. My perception of the month of fasting has changed dramatically since coming here in 1998,” Watson told Khaleej Times on June 3.
When Watson and his wife, Delphine, first moved to Dubai, they felt Ramadan was a lot quieter and took some adjusting to.
“20 years ago, the majority of food and beverage outlets closed. It was a new experience for us. We really wanted to learn and understand more about Ramadan but we were a tad nervous in the first year in case we broke any rules that we weren’t aware of. We didn’t want to be disrespectful,” the non-Muslim expat expressed.
But with their curiosity piqued, they were keen to immerse themselves in the holy month as a way of familiarizing themselves with the culture and traditions of their new surroundings.
Working as a personal trainer, Watson decided to join his clients in observing the fast. “In those days, when we first arrived, I worked as a personal trainer and had many Emirati clients, so out of respect and curiosity, I used to join them in fasting through the day.”
“I learned so much. I learned more about Ramadan as a whole by asking countless questions to my clients, and I learned a lot about myself through self-reflection of the experience. It made me connect closer and have more empathy and understanding for the practice and reasons surrounding Ramadan,” Watson continued.
Now, Watson looks forward to the commencement of Ramadan, something he didn’t think would be the case 20 years ago.
“We really look forward to and enjoy the month. It’s a special, quiet time of reflection for all of us. It also allows us to feel very grateful for the place we live in that it respects and embraces all cultures, religions, and nationalities.”
He happily expressed that: “We have had the honor and pleasure to have been invited to join many Emirati families at their homes for Iftar, which allowed us to truly experience Ramadan first hand; for which we’re very grateful. It’s probably one of the reasons we still live in the UAE, as we have had the opportunity to be and feel a part of the community, by experiencing the culture with these people.”