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August 21, 2011

The spirit of Lahore lives in Ramazan


August 21, 2011

Before I came to live in Lahore, when I told people I was going to be assigned there, they told me I would love it. Lahore is the cultural heart of Pakistan, the people are so friendly, the social life is so lively. When I told them I was arriving during Ramazan, they told me that was unfortunate, because nothing happens during the Holy Month. I m currently experiencing my third Ramazan in Lahore, and while I now understand both comments, I disagree with the part about it being unfortunate to be in Lahore during this period of fasting and sharing, of charity and reflection. Since my arrival in 2009, my Pakistani and American colleagues have arranged for us to host over 500 guests during Ramazan to break fast at sunset and share dinner after prayers.
The friends who have joined us are the people who help us better understand Pakistani politics and economic affairs; the people who keep us safe and make it possible for us to live and work here; the people who with whom we coordinate humanitarian and development work; the people who share their culture and creativity and everything that makes this a very special place. Ramazan was my introduction to Lahore, and I remember thinking that if this level of activity was nothing, I would not be able to keep up with the normal social season.
Sometimes I do have trouble keeping up, but for two years I have treasured the relationships that started during that first Holy Month. Those friends invited me to their Iftaris, to their homes during Eid, into their lives at weddings and birthday parties and cricket games and restaurant openings and fashion shows and classrooms and offices and charity fund raisers. I learned that many friends had been welcoming Americans to Lahore for decades, and that our Iftaris were part of a long tradition. That tradition is not limited to Lahore. All over the world, US embassies and consulates hold Iftaris for their local communities, and US presidents have hosted an

official Iftari at the White House annually since President William Jefferson Clinton s time in office. Some consider the very first White House Iftari to have been hosted by President Thomas Jefferson in 1805, when he moved the time of a dinner to accommodate a Muslim guest. It has been an honor and a pleasure to continue this tradition of sharing and understanding here in Lahore.
This Ramazan is probably the last I will celebrate in Pakistan for a few years. Next month another American Consul General will take my place. Throughout this Holy Month, I am saying farewell to the friends and colleagues who have made this my most rewarding assignment in fifteen years of diplomatic and consular service to the United States. I know they will be as generous and welcoming to my successor as they have been to me. On behalf of all of us at US Consulate General Lahore, Ramazan Mubarak and thank you.
(The writer is the US Consul General in Lahore)

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