"As does fasting in Christianity, Judaism and Indic religions, the fast in Islam helps the believer focus on what is important. Fasting is closely connected to prayer and contemplation. It is the setting aside of the ordinary that allows the believer to focus on the transcendent...
"To be sure however, Ramadan is not only celebration. Muslims challenge themselves to live all their spiritual obligations with particular intensity and devotion during the month. They must not only fast, but pray, read the Quran and demonstrate just behavior, honesty, kindness and faithfulness to their word. Harsh or vulgar speech and arguments are frowned upon during the month. Violence of any sort is seen as a serious violation of Ramadan.
"In addition, Muslims also engage in other spiritual activities. It is not uncommon for Muslims to read the Quran (approximately the size of the New Testament) from cover to cover during Ramadan. Though the Quran comprises 114 chapters, ranging in size from four to 287 verses, it is divided into 30 juz (or sections), each of which Muslims read as a unit, one per day, so as to read the entire Quran over the course of Ramadan. Muslims also lay particular importance on acts of charity during Ramadan."From the standpoint of the Arab world and Iran, any discussion of Ramadan should probably include a discussion of the TV miniseries (plural) which have become an important part of popular culture. More in the spirit of the month, however, I remember how mosques are decorated with lights, and how breaking the fast often becomes a communal event.
The picture above shows people who work in a string of shops in Luxor breaking their fast together shortly after sundown. I've also been on public transportation between cities, and people will bring food with which to break that fast that they share with everyone, even if it's just a sack of dates.
The quest to become better people also gives rise to one of my favorite brief travel stories. When crossing the border into Egypt from Eilat in Israel, there were a bunch of taxi drivers to take people on to destinations in Sinai. One guy (to the disgruntlement of his colleagues) immediately offered us what I understood to be a good rate. When asked about it, he said he had given up charging tourists high prices for Ramadan.