Dear fellow travellers
It is four years since an issue of our e-news highlighted some of the world's remotest mosques. We mentioned a number of Muslim communities that are well up in the Arctic Circle. Ramadan, the annual month of prayer and fasting for the world's Muslim population, is of course just starting, so it is worth sparing a thought for Muslims who live in Europe's northern regions. To refrain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset is a tough challenge, though one doubtless made easier when underpinned by a firm faith. But with Ramadan moving forward towards mid-summer each year, the issue of an appropriate fasting regime for Muslims in Europe's polar regions is a very real one.
Sunset in Tromsø tonight is not till after 11pm. And sunrise just after 2am, thus affording barely three hours during which the Muslim devout might eat and drink. Further north, in the Svalbard archipelago, the long polar day still prevails. But this does not mean that Muslims in Europe's far northern regions are condemned to starve during Ramadan. They make pragmatic decisions about how best to meet the spirit of Ramadan in a way that is appropriate to their own circumstances.
It is a question of finding a sensible compromise. There are a handful of Muslims in Svalbard, an area where just now the sun never sets. Many will follow the fasting times for Mecca. A Muslim student in Tromsø says he will stick to the fasting times for the Moroccan town where he lived for 20 years and where his family still lives.
Belief is often about making compromises. Catholic explorers did not refrain from setting off on long polar expeditions for fear of missing Mass on Sunday. And the spirit of Islam does not require that Europe's polar Muslims now endure a month of dehydration and starvation.
Ramadan Kareem! To all our Muslim readers, be they in Europe or farther afield, may it be a blessed Ramadan.
hidden europe 34
Religion takes centre-stage in the latest issue of hidden europe, published on 15 July 2011. We look at the very different ways in which the Orthodox Church contributes to national narratives in Finland and Macedonia. And we have an intriguing little piece on places of pilgrimage in Europe which appeal to the devout of more than one religion.
Religion apart, we look at some of the bizarre names given to trains. We have travelled on Austrian trains named after shopping centres and brands of salami. Would the Orient Express ever have been a success if it had been named after a mobile phone? And we pick up the railway theme in an account of a superb train journey from Zürich to the shores of Lake Geneva.
hidden europe 34 escorts us from Croatia to Tatarstan and from Malta to Karelia. It's a roller coaster of a ride. Please do take a look at the table of contents.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)