“I can’t break my fast without…”

Welcome readers, if you did not know, to the month of Ramadan! The month where Muslims all over the world show their respect  to Allah, and their faith by not eating or drinking, smoking or (as the French news put it “partaking in any form of sexual activity” *classy french news, classy*) from Sun up to sun down.

Some peoples phones have built in Ramadan alarms that tell you when the sun set is for the area, and when the sun rise is. I have a calender, and if I am ever confused I have the first and last calls to prayer that I hear.

Tajikistan is a Muslim country, but after 70 years of soviet control not everyone partakes. Actually during the soviet union many people still partook and it was a “great embarresment for the Communist Party heads” according to a few writers. But today, at least in Khujand, arguably the most Russianized of the cities in Tajikistan, about 1/2 of the population observes Ramadan. That being said I seem to know a fair number of people who observe and have gone to a few breaking of the fast meals.

These meals are huge, and there is always interesting things laid in front of you. After 16 hours of fasting (sun up is around 3:30 in the morning, sun down is 7:30) they are usually more thirsty than hungry, but as my mom pointed out when I was younger “you drink a lot on an empty stomach, you have a hurt stomach”.

Thus when I ask if there is anything I can bring to these dinners (its tradition to bring a gift of some kind whenever you go to a house), the response is always, “You know, I can not break fast without….

A watermellon.”

I have thus far bought four watermelons to help with breaking fast, and to be honest I think they are the perfect food to do it with. You get lots of liquid and you get food at the same time (I’ve seen a family of four demolish a watermelon in about 5-6 min. Its like watching my family eat corn.)

Yet this not just perfect Ramadan food in Tajikistan. Tajikistan produces OBSCENE AMOUNTS of watermelon and melons in general. Pictures below. Its the fourth largest export after Aluminum, cotton, and Electricity (more on the last two later).

Watermelon... just two piles in the big market

So many, you can try some as you walk around.... mmmm delicious

Along every street you can find watermelons being sold, from small head size, to big torso size, watermelon is easier to find then just about anything else, except maybe heat. Every cafe you can buy a fourth of a watermelon to eat at the end of your meal. Most people get one. Every person I’ve talked to has said they usually eat at least 1 a week, if not more, during the summer.

When I asked people what they thought about when I said Central Asia, most Russians and Ukrainians said melons and watermelons as their first thought. This area of the former soviet union produced almost all of the watermelons for the whole soviet union.

So the next time you sit down to eat a watermelon, realize that you’ve never seen watermelon sold like this, look like this, and be eaten like this.

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