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Muslim Culture Glimpsed through My Business Trip

I am Megumi Fujita, in charge of Afghanistan projects in Tokyo Head Office. I have been in Islamabad Office on an extended business trip since 10 August 2012. I haven’t been here for long time yet though, I would like to write about my impression of Islamabad, the capital of Afghanistan, and its culture.

Islamabad is rich in green and nature―indeed my impression of this city has changed a lot since I have come here. You can see green everywhere, hearing birds chirp; I’ve seen woodpeckers in the office of JEN several times. In the central area of the city there are a green-abundant huge park and a few hills, where people come with their families and friends. Also Islamabad has Faisal Mosque, the biggest mosque in South Asia.
[A view of Islamabad from a hill]

[A night view of Islamabad from Monal―a restaurant on the hill. Photographed by Azmat Ali]

[A night view of Faisal Mosque during Ramadan. Photographed by Azmat Ali]

It was during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan―from 20 July to 18 August―when I arrived here. For the duration of Ramadan Muslims fast during the daytime and have meals between after sunset and before dawn. All of the restaurants except Western fast-food shops are closed during the day. In Islam, it is said experiencing fasting in Ramadan helps people know what a blessing it is to have food.

Muslims perform prayers five times a day; the Muslim staff of JEN Islamabad Office also pray at the office. Friday is a holiday in Islam, when Muslims close their shops to go to a congregational worship. There is a mosque near every market lined with a variety of shops. I realized that Islam is closely related to daily life becoming one with Muslims’ lives naturally.

I tried Mehndi, which is a tradition of Islam and Hinduism. It is to paint a pattern on the skin with paste made from Henna leaves. In Pakistan Mehndi is not only for make-up, but also people paint a pattern on the palm and the back of the hand for wedding. Also it is said Mehndi is a symbol of “happiness” and “luck”.

Paste of Henna, which is in the holder similar to a decorating tube, is squeezed in a decorative pattern. Once Henna paste is dry it is removed, then a mixture of water and sugar is sprinkled on the skin to keep the pattern longer. The pattern remains for about no less than one to two weeks, which varies from person to person. You might have dyed you hair using Henna at a hair salon in Japan, and that Henna is the exactly same as the one used for Mehndi.
[Getting Mehndi painted by a staff of JEN Islamabad]

[Drying Mehndi up]

[And voila!]

I would like to continue to learn much about Islamic culture, its life and Muslims, and discover them in many ways through my business trip. Also I am going to report the beautiful culture, daily life and people in Pakistan, as little is known about them in Japan.

September 6, 2012 in Afghanistan |