The first time I experienced Ramadan in Saudi Arabia was in 2000, when I arrived in Riyadh to begin my first diplomatic posting as second secretary at the Australian Embassy.
For the next three years, I enjoyed observing Ramadan with family and friends in Riyadh, Makkah and Madinah at iftars and suhoors, at Taraweeh, and then closing the month by celebrating Eid Al-Fitr.
I returned to the Kingdom in June 2018 as the ambassador of Australia, and I feel very honored to have another opportunity to experience Ramadan in Saudi Arabia with new friends and colleagues.
The sacred month of Ramadan serves as a season of inner reflection, forgiveness and spiritual renewal.
It gives those who are fasting an important opportunity to stop and think about what is taken for granted, refocus their minds on faith, and redirect their hearts to charity, so that they can understand the lives and experiences of those who are less fortunate than them.
Ramadan is a special time of service and support for those in need, and also a time to join with family and friends in celebration of our common humanity. The practice of breaking bread, sharing food across religions and bringing people of diverse backgrounds together, establishes links across cultural communities and builds new bonds of understanding.
Ramadan is also an important time of the year for Australia’s 600,000 Muslims. They and non-Muslims gather together at Ramadan iftars throughout the country, and share in the spirit of fasting and giving.
There is a vibrant, festive atmosphere during Ramadan — in Sydney, for instance, there is a suburb called Lakemba which has a very large Islamic community, made up of Muslims from all corners of the globe, including the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
Lakemba hosts a month-long food festival called Ramadan Nights. Food vendors cook on the footpath, with crowds flocking down the main street to break their fast with a wide variety of traditional and international cuisines. This event attracts large numbers of Australians, including many non-Muslims. It is a wonderful example of how Ramadan brings people together in a spirit of friendship.
It truly is a special month, and on behalf of my family and all the staff at the Australian Embassy, I would like to sincerely wish everyone a happy, safe and blessed Ramadan.
• Ridwaan Jadwat is the Australian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.