“I am so happy the holy month of Ramadhan is here. I will devote all my time to repenting and asking for forgiveness,” says 31 year old Ali Muhumed, a resident of Nairobi. He is an addict of a leafy stimulant commonly known here as khat for the last 15 years.
By Kassim Mohammed
Ali is however eagerly awaiting the start of Ramadhan to quit what he calls ‘a devils workshop’. He made the decision after a Muslim religious leader who happens to be his neighbour told him about the perils of the stimulant.
But why does he have to wait until the start of Ramadhan? “I just want to end my bad habit in a special and memorable way. It will be more special to me and I promise to observe all the requirements of the month. Sheikh Umal Mohammed was inspirational and may God bless him,” says Ali while window shopping for a new Islamic dress.
Ali lives in Eastleigh a suburb of Nairobi which is now largely regarded as the business hub in Kenya. Here, most business outlets are owned by the predominantly Muslim community of Somali origin.
The businesses vary in nature from modern shopping malls, banks to restaurants. During the holy month of Ramadhan all restaurants in Eastleigh will remain closed during the day and those who don’t observe the fast will literally starve until after sunset.
Mohammed Abdullahi runs a renowned restaurant, “We don’t open the entire month. We lose customers but that’s ok as God says people should observe Ramdhan. I used to make approximately the equivalent of US 1400 euros per day but that amount will reduce to 550 euros.”
Follow the masses
Mohammed plans to operate in the evenings after the devout Muslims break their fast. “There are some people who will fast because their families won’t cook during the day and all restaurants are closed. The only option is for them to follow the masses and fast. I think we are helping on that front,” said Mohammed while briefing his employees on the new work schedule.
Some businessmen however opt to close shop during the entire month and dedicate their time to spiritual matters. Muslims in Nairobi, Kenya are preparing to stock up on food for use during the entire month.
“I have told my wife not to open our shop in which we sell foodstuff. We agreed to spend more time at the mosque and ask for forgiveness from the creator,” elaborated Yassin Bishara, a resident of Eastleigh.
Religious schools commonly known as Dugsi will also operate half day to allow the young minds to spend the afternoon at various mosques reading the Quran.
In the streets of Eastleigh, small scale businessmen are now switching gear to sell different kinds of goods such as dates and fruits close to worship areas. For some it’s an opportunity to set up a business venture. Sahara Mire is a 20 year-old high school dropout. She managed to raise 70 euros and is planning to make a ‘killing’.
“My parents couldn’t pay my school fees. I decided to bid school farewell and now it’s time to use Ramdhan as a ladder to gaining financial freedom. I hope to sell samusa, dates, black tea and juice near the sixth street mosque,” she emphatically said.
Economic analysts in Nairobi say businesses in Eastleigh would experience a lack of growth during the month, but are expected to pick up during the last days of Ramadhan as people shop for the festivities that mark the end of 9th month in the Islamic calendar.
At the end of the day, it seems for most Muslims here, spiritual gain takes precedence over the financial balance sheet.
The first in a two part series about Ramadhan in Africa. The second installment from Senegal will be published on Tuesday, 2nd August.