Millennium Post

Syrians crack up on Ramadan humour

As Syria’s Muslims observe the fasting month of Ramadan at a time of war for a third year running, many people are turning to black humour to help them cope. Jokes are a way to weather the difficulties of food shortages, violence and death that mar the sense of community and celebration supposed to accompany the religious month. One popular joke plays off the traditional cannon fire that marks the end of the fasting day and the beginning of the iftar evening meal.

‘Watch out! Just because you hear the sound of cannon fire doesn’t mean it’s time to break your fast,’ the joke goes, a sad testament to the frequent sound of warfare across the country. In areas less affected by violence, residents might each night still be able to hear the msaharati, a man who walks the streets before dawn, waking people to eat before the fast begins. But in areas ravaged by snipers and shelling, upholding such a tradition has become impossible.

A text message joke picture doing the rounds shows a tank topped with the traditional fez hat worn by the msaharati, rumbling through the streets to waken the faithful instead. In Homs, where regime forces are pressing an assault against several rebel-held areas, residents have been able to maintain an edgy sense of humour, despite the tough times. ‘Breaking news!’ reads a text message forwarded among residents of the city in central Syria.

‘The msaharati spent hours beating his drum, trying to get people to wake up. But when they didn’t listen, he decided to blow himself up!’ Much of the humour is dark, playing on the chronic food shortages experienced by many people across the country. ‘It’s not hard to fast in Ramadan... What’s hard is to find food with which to break the fast,’ one young Syrian writes on
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