Visiting different countries and exposure to other cultures are always interesting. A first visit to Dubai and Abu Dhabi that combined work and vacation is particularly interesting from a nutritionist’s point of view, when it falls during the month of Ramadan. Much has been said about Dubai and the other principalities following the Abrahamic Agreements. Many Israelis have since visited the Emirates, and one really has to see to believe. Dubai is unlike anything you know – it is a mixture of Middle East, Far East and West. The strangest thing about it is that most of its residents are foreign workers – from India, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Iraq and also workers from Africa, Europe and America. And yet about 70 percent of Dubai’s population are Muslims who fast from dawn to dusk.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims fast for 29 or 30 days, depending on the length of the lunar month. This year Ramadan began on April 1 and will end tomorrow. Children before adolescence, pregnant women, postpartum, breastfeeding or during the menstrual cycle, people with physical or mental illnesses are exempt from fasting in this month.
The daily routine of Ramadan includes breakfast before dawn (merchant) and meal at sunset (Iftar). The first thing to eat at the festive Iftar meal is an odd number of dates: one, three or five alongside a drink of water or juice. According to their belief, eating dates mimics the practice of the Prophet Muhammad. The dates contribute sugar available to the body that was lacking during fasting hours, delicious and beloved throughout the year. They grow in the region, and in the UAE alone grow 160 varieties of the fruit. One of the symbols of Dubai is the Palm Island, an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree.
We have already written about nutrition in the month of Ramadan, but the stay in Dubai has revealed other aspects related to fasting and body health.
Growing demand for gyms
Fasting days are associated with us for days of rest and prayer. During most days of the month during Ramadan, work and study routines are maintained during the day. It is surprising to find that during the days of fasting, there was an increase in registration for gyms. Most trainees arrive at the gym a few hours before the end of the fast, and challenge themselves physically, mentally and spiritually, others train after drinking and eating the dates and before the big meal. Either way, most of the training is at an intensity level adapted to fasting. Morning workouts usually do not take place due to a sharp drop in demand.
In some gyms, the coaches indicate that there has been an increase in the number of subscribers during Ramadan, possibly due to the need for caloric balance, due to the large number of large meals, and traditional holiday cuisine that includes many sweets, fried foods and large amounts of food. In addition, during this period there are believers who are interested in adopting new habits, among them those that promote the health of body and mind. One of the signs is an increase in demand for yoga classes during the month.
Our well-known campaigns to increase awareness of careful and safe driving are “if you drink do not drive”, to limit drinking alcohol before driving or “stop to refresh” in cases of fatigue. In the Muslim world in the month of Ramadan there is a unique reason for the increase in the number of fatal road accidents. The gurgling belly and haste to get to the Iftar meal and the holiday prayer, will benefit, leading to speeding, reckless detours, dangerous lane crossings and disobedience to traffic signs and traffic lights. In addition, fatigue and exhaustion as a result of fasting, which impair concentration and alertness. According to statistics, in recent years more than 50% of road accidents in Dubai during the month of Ramadan have occurred near the end of the fast.
A study conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led by researcher Ahmed Golek and published about a year ago found that hunger caused by the Ramadan fast in Turkey increased the probability of a car accident by 25%, which is less than the effect of drunk driving, but greater than the effect of sleep deprivation Easy and undoubtedly a significant and alarming increase.
Golk argues that except for the effects of hunger and even dehydration, in case the month of Ramadan falls during the hot summer months, during these months the duration of the fast is longer due to the lengthening of the days. As a result, hunger is greater and the pressure to get to Iftar is increasing faster, and congestion on the roads also increases the risk of road accidents.
To reduce the scale of the phenomenon, in addition to increasing enforcement and fines, the authorities in Abu Dhabi are tackling the increase in road accidents due to fasting in another way, more friendly and perhaps even more effective: distribution, with the help of volunteers, of tens of thousands of boxes with iftar meal and drink at drivers’ intersections. This activity adds value of formation, brotherhood, cooperation and contribution to society during this month, sacred to its believers.
on the way home
The alarming figures in the rise in road accidents in the month of Ramadan make one think and ponder the connection between nutrition and driving and accidents. Even for those who do not fast during Ramadan but tend to skip meals during the morning and afternoon hours or settle for a small, unsatisfying meal. Presumably some readers of these lines are familiar with the feeling of hunger while driving, on the way home at the end of a work day or school, before picking up the children from the educational settings. Added to this is mid-day fatigue and thoughts that can lower your concentration level. The risk can be easily reduced. It is desirable and important to eat something before setting out, fruit (dates?) Or a handful of almonds or nuts alongside a drink can provide a feeling of satiety for the length of time it takes us to reach the destination and a satisfying meal.