Our visit to Kyrgyzstan also coincided with Ramadan, the Muslim holiday of reflection and fasting. In Karakol we were treated each night to Ramadan carols. Our first evening, we were with Banura’s husband when the doorbell rang in the early evening. As we opened the door, a group of young boys burst into song.
We were skeptical initially, thinking it was all an easy money-making scheme but Banura’s husband’s smile grew the longer the boys sang. He did pay them, but as we took in the whole scene, our hearts softened.
A few days later we visited the Chinese Mosque. The local Imam showed us around and answered our questions. He explained that the mosque was open all the time and welcomed people at all hours of the day and night. As he joked, the day the mosque closes is the day the world ends.
He asked about our religion and, in particular, the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. The Imam’s genuine curiosity pushed Audrey to really stretch her Russian language skills. After the Imam explained the Muslim relationship between a person and Allah, we discussed similarities and differences within Christianity. It was a refreshingly open religious discussion where we were all curious and took away some new information and perspectives.
A week later, while at Song Kul Lake, we were welcomed to an evening feast to celebrate breaking the day’s Ramadan fast. We were fortunate to have experienced Ramadan in Kyrgyzstan; it offered us a different and nuanced view of Islamic culture and community.