CAIRO - Fasting for long hours under summer scorching sun, US Muslims are preparing for the holy fasting month of Ramadan which arrives this year under sizzling heat.
"This is one of the most effective ways of learning self-control," Anwar Arafat, the imam at Al-Noor Mosque near downtown Salt Lake City, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday, July 5.
"It teaches you to abstain from things that are normally OK and focus on the spiritual."
American Muslims are expected to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, on Tuesday, July 9.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
"It is not meant to be detrimental to someone's health," imam Arafat said.
"In fact, fasting for them is a sin."
To avoid the heat, many Muslims prefer to take their vacation days around Ramadan, so they can nap or rest in the afternoon.
For Sharifa Al-Qaaydeh, the thirst is difficult.
In the mornings, she stocks up on water and sports drinks.
At night, she prepares large, home-cooked meals, some of which she made this week and put in an extra freezer in the garage.
"The hardest thing is not drinking," says Al-Qaaydeh, who teaches nursing at the University of Utah.
"When I was younger, Ramadan was in the winter. It is definitely harder in the summer."
The high temperatures worry Miriam Jaziri, a Muslim mother who lives in Holladay with her husband and two sons, ages 8 and 11.
"I am a little scared, but it usually turns out all right," Jaziri says.
"Last year was really hot, too, but you get used to it."
Sunrise is about 6 am these days, which means a Muslim family needs to arise, say prayers and finish eating for the day by then.
Sunset is about 9 pm, after which the family members break their fast with a big meal often with others or at the mosque and then have evening prayers. Some people don't get to bed before midnight.
"We usually get up about 45 minutes before dawn starts," Jaziri said, "and first start off making myself some cereal and drink a lot of water."
Jaziri plans to let her 11-year-old boy take part in the fast for Ramadan this year.
"You want them to experience fasting by age of 7," she says.
"Some Muslims let kids have a nice breakfast and then fast 'til noon. Or they have a snack fast â¦ or fast from lunch 'til nighttime."
Ramadan focuses "you on the essence of life," she said.
"It reminds me why I am living, what really matters. It enhances my relationship with God."