By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: On the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, Kuwait Times is chatting with ambassadors to Kuwait in an attempt to see Ramadan through their eyes. Kuwait Times spoke with German Ambassador to Kuwait Hans-Christian Freiherr von Reibnitz to learn about his experience of Ramadan in Kuwait.
Kuwait Times: What would you like to say to the Kuwaiti people and residents on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan?
Hans-Christian Freiherr von Reibnitz: At the beginning of the holy month, I am grateful for the opportunity to wish all Muslims – in Kuwait or elsewhere – a peaceful, festive and inspiring month of Ramadan. On behalf of the German Embassy in Kuwait, I am sending warm Ramadan greetings and best wishes to Their Highnesses the Amir and the Crown Prince and all people and the government of this country.
Ramadan is a very special and important time of the year – both spiritually and socially. It is the holiest month for Muslims and it is the time when families and friends come together and celebrate. It is a time to be cherished, to lift our spirits and take mental rest. We feel united with the people of Kuwait and share your aspirations for peace and prosperity. May the spirit of Ramadan bless you with cheerfulness. Ramadan Kareem to you all!
Kuwait Times: Have you experienced Ramadan in an Arab country before? Tell us about your experience.
Reibnitz: This Ramadan will be my first in Kuwait. However, from the beginning of my diplomatic career, I had the opportunity to celebrate Ramadan in countries as diverse as Turkey, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Oman and neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The casual observer might assume it‘s all the same – but I beg to differ: Wherever I lived, I experienced the inspiration of this time with different flavors, as it was expressed, lived and celebrated by the people, each with their distinctive national, regional and social characteristics. Over the years, it has become part of my life as well and I am now keen to celebrate Ramadan in Kuwait for the first time and experience local traditions like Girgian and ghabqas firsthand.
Kuwait Times: How do Muslims in Germany celebrate Ramadan?
Reibnitz: Germany is home to a large and growing number of Muslims, many of whom came to Germany in recent years in search of peace and stability for themselves and their families. And as they settled down, they brought their beliefs and traditions along from their countries of origin – this is how celebrating the holy month of Ramadan has also found its way into everyday life in Germany. In many places, Germans and Muslims gather socially for the traditional breaking of the fast (iftar), and churches and mosques open their doors for people to learn from each other. The customs around Ramadan and the various foods prepared during the month of Ramadan are as diverse as the Muslims who have set up homes in Germany.
Kuwait Times: Are there common factors between Kuwait and Germany in the month of Ramadan?
Reibnitz: As German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has put it repeatedly: “It is nice to see that Ramadan has now become a natural part of life and the community in Germany. It shows that we can rejoice together, live together and treat each other with respect and care.”
These are universal values and I personally believe in them, and I will support them whenever and wherever I can. Respect for our beliefs and traditions and care for each other, our families and the less fortunate in our societies are values to be defended by us all.
Kuwait Times: In your opinion, did the coronavirus pandemic change the atmosphere of Ramadan?
Reibnitz: During the pandemic, it was very difficult to gather in crowds and observe the traditional iftar. But the restrictions were necessary and served to protect more vulnerable people among us from infection, disease and suffering. The spirit of Ramadan, however, did not change and I am sure that it will always prevail – even in difficult times.
Kuwait Times: What types of traditional dishes have you got to know during your stay in Kuwait?
Reibnitz: Kuwaiti food is full of flavors and Ramadan will not be complete without them! Murabyan is my undisputed favorite, but I also enjoy machboos, harees and jareesh. There is so much to discover and trying different tastes and experiencing all the preparations has turned into a welcome pastime for me.