Ramazan started on July 20th. Since 3/4's of the population of Gostivar is Muslim, it's a very important time. It's a time to reflect on the past year of life, to remember the poor, and to feel solidarity with the greater community. Every year Ramazan (Ramadan in other places) moves up 10 or 11 days, and this year it's dead in the middle of summer. Observers do not drink or eat from sun up to sun down for 30 days, and in this heat, I just can't imagine it. It definitely changes the rhythm of life here!
In the summer, Gostivar has always been a city that comes alive at night, and during Ramazan that's even more true. After iftar, the traditional meal ending the day's fast at sundown, everyone comes out on the streets and the city takes on a festive air. Vendors are everywhere selling freshly made donuts with chocolate sauce, nuts and seeds, corn on the cob, toys and other trinkets. People walk around and visit, sit in the park and people-watch, and lounge at the numerous cafes and talk about politics and life. Families, including small children, stay up until midnight and beyond, and many revelers are still at it until 3, when the traditional breakfast is served and the fast begins again. Then everyone goes back to bed and and those who can sleep away as much of the day as possible.
During summer, the population of the town also surges. Families that have emigrated to the US, Europe, or elsewhere all come home. Single men come to find brides and get married, and there is a spate of weddings during the summer months. Suddenly you see big SUV's, Mercedes and other image cars clogging the streets and causing traffic jams. Of course, this is all very important to the locals, because the diaspora also brings money home, and the merchants generally make most of their profits during this time. I must admit, though, I look forward to Gostivar quieting down to its usual easy-going times. Now that I live downtown, I get to experience the party atmosphere and its noise first hand!
|baby storks waiting for their next meal|