July 15, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Looking for the Early Moon in Cambodia

By Katie Conlon ’16
History HTC and Law, Justice &  Culture
Research Externship in Cambodia

After my first experience working with the Siem Reap Muslim Community Development Organization (SRMCDO), I returned to Phnom Penh to resume research there. After only a few days, I found myself missing the friends I had made and work I was able to do in Siem Reap. After some discussion with Dr. Haley Duschinski, we both decided to return to Siem Reap for one more week; I resumed my work with SRMCDO and she planned another trip to Anlong Veng.

My last week in Siem Reap wasn’t all work however; I also spent time with my friends in the community. My last day in Siem Reap was right before Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, was about to begin. I was invited to accompany about a dozen students on a bike ride to look for the early moon, an indicator of when Ramadan begins.

Ramadan is ninth month in the Muslim calendar, a lunar calendar put into place at the beginning of Islam. To determine the precise start of Ramadan in different places across the world, Muslims look for an early moon. If the early moon is sighted, Ramadan will begin the next day at sunrise. If not, Ramadan begins one day after.

Sunset on the mountain after a long bike ride

Sunset on the mountain after a long bike ride

I left the mosque with my friends, excited for our journey. Little did I know, I was in for a very long and bumpy ride in the blistering Cambodian heat. I survived the ride and we arrived on top of the mountain just before sunset. The early moon did not appear, so Ramadan began in Cambodia on Sunday, June 28.

We left to return to Siem Reap when it was already dark. While I’m certain riding a bike down a mountain in the dark with no helmet on is quite near the top of the list of things my mother told me never to do, I sped down the road after my friends.

We stopped at a nearby mosque for the evening prayer and a dinner after which we made the long journey back to the city, followed by a motorbike attempting to guide us by its headlight. In what I learned was a rare occasion for the students, we wandered around Pub Street and the Night Market. I took in my last bits of Siem Reap nightlife laughing among my new friends and answering questions about American nightlife. They walked me back to my hotel and I said my goodbyes.

With some of friends at the mosque after dinner

With some of friends at the mosque after dinner

It was even harder to say goodbye this time, knowing I wouldn’t return in a week, but I sincerely hope to return to Siem Reap in the near future. I cannot think of a better way to have spent my last night in Siem Reap and one of my last nights in Cambodia than with this group. I will be forever grateful for their hospitality and friendship!

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