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    R&R troops discover Ramadan in Qatar

    R&R troops discover Ramadan in Qatar

    Photo By Dustin Senger | U.S. Army Capt. Kenneth Bacso, from Caldwell, Idaho, is greeted by an Islamic dancer...... read more read more



    Story by Dustin Senger 

    Area Support Group - Qatar

    Mr. Dustin Senger
    Area Support Group Qatar
    Public Affairs

    DOHA, Qatar – Ten U.S. service members, bravely serving within military operations throughout Southwest Asia, gained a cultural opportunity during a four-day respite in Qatar on Sept. 28. The troops took advantage of the Area Support Group Qatar Rest and Recuperation Pass Program (R2P2) for U.S. Central Command war fighters in Southwest Asia. The Islamic state is located off Saudi Arabia's eastern coastline. Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, can cancel many off-post venues. To create a cultural opportunity, the ASG-QA Public Affairs Office sponsored service members to depart the installation and attend a five-star Islamic celebration at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha.

    While on pass in Qatar, gaining off-post sponsorship during Ramadan can be unrewarding. Much of the nation is desolate throughout daylight hours. With few exceptions, all adult Muslims must abstain from drinking, eating, smoking or anything leading to impure thoughts which draw attention away from worshiping God. More time is spent praying in congregation at the Mosques. All expatriates – Muslim or otherwise – must abide by the local religious environment and never engage in any activity which might tempt a Muslim into breaking religious duties. The fast is ended at sunset with "iftar," an Arabic word for the fast-breaking meal. "Suhur," is an Arabic word for the meal eaten prior to dawn.

    "We lucked out," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Philip Henderson, from Jacksonville, Fla. "What we hear about Ramadan is what you can not do – this was a unique opportunity. We had off-post sponsors with experience in Islamic customs. Being able to understand the culture and see how generous the people are is something to appreciate. We had a VIP tour at the hotel that explained everything!" Souheil Kebdani, Bar and Lounge Manager, escorted the group through the hotel, providing explanations of the event's traditional customs and religious significance.

    Several five-star hotels in Qatar provide Ramadan tents that combine Arabic tradition with modern hospitality. People of all religious faiths attend the suhur festivities. Muslims seek an evening venue for family get-togethers and community celebrations – others join to gain further cultural understanding and soak in the prolific Arabic atmosphere. Depending on the venue, meals and entertainment usually begin around 8:30 p.m., and last throughout the night. The religious celebrations are amplified by symphonic combinations of extravagant hotel hospitality, exquisite international cuisines and an ambience of traditional Arabic music and dancing.

    "The Islamic people are friendly and welcoming," said U.S. Air Force Cpt. Alex Mares, from Melbourne, Fla., experiencing a rest from military commitments in Iraq. "Even in Iraq, once you meet them, they are welcoming. Obviously they have different traditions and customs but they seem very much interested to share their culture and learn about others. Since we can experience peace in Qatar, it makes you feel hopeful for peace in Iraq."

    "I have never participated in an Islamic celebration before," said U.S. Navy Lt. Kirk D. Mundal, from Fargo, N.D., during his rest from operations in Afghanistan. "It's great being able to see the good things – the beautiful side of the Islamic people. I have seen so many things on missions; it's nice to see the other side. When you are used to being in the grind of dust, wind, heat and there are no days off, it's refreshing to see civilization again, to participate in growth and not destruction."

    "A lot of people in Qatar are working to make sure everyone has a great time during their pass," said Mundal. "There are a lot of unsung heroes helping the R&R participants – from the front desk personnel to the selfless sponsors."



    Date Taken: 10.01.2007
    Date Posted: 10.01.2007 12:31
    Story ID: 12646
    Location: DOHA, QA

    Web Views: 701
    Downloads: 448