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Over the phone, we asked Ali some questions about Ramadan and Iftaar from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. The following is the transcript.
Ali Tulbah served as the Chief of Staff for the Council for International Coordination at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Ali is a Muslim-American who was raised in Houston, Texas.
What is Ramadan?
Why do you fast?
Before sunrise you have a meal called "Sahoor." From dawn to sunset one is to abstain from eating food and drinking water.
At sunset you break your fast traditionally with a date and water. You pray and then you have a full meal, called "Iftaar," and it starts all over again the next morning.
When did Ramadan start this year?
Tell me about Iftaar?
The meals vary - anything goes.
We stop and remember our friends. You receive a lot of invitations from people you haven't seen in a long time. It revives the feeling of spirit in the Muslim community. It brings people together.
What is the mood in Iraq during this Ramadan?
There are many Muslims that work here at the CPA. Ambassador Bremer has circulated information for those people who aren't Muslim that helps enlighten them about its specific meaning and be sensitive to those Muslims who will be fasting during this month.
Tell me about your experience in Iraq?
It is humbling because they immediately refer to you as brother and consider you part of the family. There is an immediate bonding. The people that I've talked to are very warm, loving and receptive. It doesn't matter if you are talking to a government official, the young guy who cuts my hair, or the old man who operates the coffee shop I went to the other day - they are saying the same thing - words of great welcome, great affection and brotherhood, gratitude and a hope for a future relationship.
Just the other day I went into a restaurant I'd been in only once before, three months ago - and they greeted me by name. I've made some great friends here over the last five months - friends I hope I will stay in touch with over time.