Is Ramadan easier in Nigeria than New York?

Bim Adewunmi
‘When the day begins this much earlier, the hours stretch out in front of you.’ Photograph: jamesharrison/Getty Images/RooM RF

It’s that time of year again. Thanks to the vagaries of a lunar calendar, Ramadan 2018 is upon us a little earlier.

When I lived in Nigeria, the rules were simple and the daylight hours of the fasting month remained (almost) constant. Day 1 was not that dissimilar to Day 15 or even Day 26, year in, year out; our position just north of the equator served to bring a reliable sameness to the holy month. Day followed night in a strict schedule which is, as a teen, exactly what you crave after a day of fasting.

Sitting down in my New York apartment several Ramadans later, I miss that quiet constancy. Further away from the equator as we are, the day’s length changes with the seasons. The traditional adage rings (partly) true: April brought showers, but this May brings a quest for self-control and bonus spiritual growth alongside the flowers.

When the day begins this much earlier, the hours stretch out in front of you, begging to be filled. Fasting is a good cure for procrastination, it turns out, because you are constantly in credit when it comes to time: you might as well go ahead and send that invoice, or winnow your messages until you get to Inbox Zero. Mostly, though, I will be attempting a form of time travel: seeking to recreate Ramadans past with the most reliable time machine there is – cooking. A friend has shared the location of an African market, and I’m going in search of essentials: garri, and of course, some of the very West African seasoning cubes my mother crumbles into her stews. Even more than the comfort of an unchanging Ramadan, it’s my mother’s cooking I miss most of all.