By: Abdurrahman Shamlan
With the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan, it appears that purchasing power in Yemen – where more than five million of the population are food insecure and require urgent emergency aid – has strengthened, with thousands of people seen shopping and buying food products, including dates, milk, dishes, deserts and other Ramadan staple foods.
The number of shoppers at local markets has increased, this in spite of the economic hardships people have experienced as a result of 18 months of political deadlock which started in early 2011.
A day before Ramadan’s arrival, shops were crowded with women, men, and children carrying multiple bags bulging with goods. Spice shops, household product shops and supermarkets were filled with customers.
Most Yemenis regard Ramadan as a special time of year and therefore spend a great deal of money buying products for the month. According to the shoppers, they don’t want the happiness surrounding Ramadan to be dampened by anything, even financial hardships.
Most of the people the National Yemen spoke to confirmed that they used borrowed or cash laid aside over the past year for their shopping. Others said they were spending almost all their salaries on foodstuffs and beverages for Ramadan.
“Although Ramadan is known for being a month of fasting, during this month we [Yemenis] spend almost threefold what we usually spend on food and beverages, Mohammed Al-Matari, a citizen of Sana’a, said.
With four big bags containing foodstuffs for Ramadan dangling from his hands, Al-Matari, said, “Believe it or not, I had to borrow money from some friends in order to cover the basic needs of food and beverages for the holy month. We don’t want anything – neither financial problems nor anything else – to affect our happiness with Ramadan’s arrival.”
Om Ahmed, a mother of two children, said, “Many supermarkets offer special prices before Ramadan and we are trying to take advantage of the tempting offers.”
She pointed out to the National Yemen that money-wise, it’s preferable for families to buy what they need before Ramadan’s arrival because the special prices on food products will only rise during Ramadan.
For her part, Om Israa, a mother of three kids, told the National Yemen, “We took my husband’s salary and spent it all on foods we love to eat during Ramadan. We don’t want to be concerned about anything related to money in the holy month.”
“Once my husband received his modest salary for this month, we went to the market and bought everything we needed. I think that was way better than spending the salary on unimportant things such as Qat chewing.”
For his part, Ahmed al-Ansi, who owns a spice shop, said, “In the days prior to and during the holy month, we sell almost as much as we sell during the entire year. It’s the season in which our business thrives and reaches its highest point.”
Meanwhile, Mohammed Hussein, who works to feed more than a dozen people, said, “As a matter of fact, some people have plenty of money and they choose to make Ramadan a special occasion; but there are some people, on the other hand, who don’t have any money and don’t shop at all for the holy month.”
Concerning shopping habits, Hussein said, “For me, I would rather buy things at retail than buy them in bulk before Ramadan… though this might prove to be more expensive,” Hussein said.
Hussein asserted that Ramadan is not an occasion for food and entertaining television series: that it should instead be an occasion focused on worshiping God and securing a place in paradise.