Fourteen-year-old Maleke Nabbus enjoys playing basketball with his cousins during their summer vacation, even while they are fasting Ramadan.
“It’s not that hard," he says. "Sometimes you can’t play that long, like you play for an hour or so.”
Maleke is among millions of Muslims worldwide who are fasting for the month of Ramadan, refraining from all food and drink during the daylight hours. In the northern hemisphere, these are the longest and hottest days of the year.
Maleke's cousin, Adeeb Baiou, 17, plays organized sports which are competitive and intense. That’s why he, like many other Muslim athletes, chooses to break his fast during games.
“The most challenging part is staying hydrated and not being able to drink water,” Adeeb says.
But there is an upside to the summertime fast, according to his younger sister, Sabrine, who finds it easier because there's no school.
“I actually like it better because we don't have to wake up as early," she says. "The days maybe longer, but you can sleep until like really late in the afternoon.”
Sabrine has a summer job at a local café, so she has to be around other people eating and drinking while she's fasting.
“It’s a little tough as a person who serves food and drink to people," she says. "It’s like hard watching them, but I’m kind of trying not to think about it.”
Serage Gerbbi, 15, says many of his non-Muslim friends wonder how he manages to keep the fast.
“In the very beginning they will be in shock, like 'How do you stay without water the whole day?'" Serage says. "They are very supportive, like sometimes too shy to eat in front of me but I'm fine.”
While Serage and his friends might feel hungry, thirsty and tired at times while fasting, they understand why they're doing it.
“You start feeling closer to your religion, closer to God," Serage says. "Second of all, you remember the poor and people suffering, we’re only staying throughout the day."
“Because of not eating the whole day, I realize you really don’t need the stuff they put in your mouth all the time,” Sabrine says.
Although young children are not required to fast in Ramadan, Nourene Nabbus, 9, is fasting this year, for the second time.
Wafaa Elmahgob cooks with her daughter, Nourene Nabbus, and her niece. (VOA)
“I wanted to fast because I wanted to see what it is like with my mom and dad," she says. "They were all fasting and I didn’t know how it felt.”
Nourene's mother, Wafaa Elmahgob, is pleased her daughter is joining in the ritual. “She wants to do it. When we told her she could practice, fast like half a day because the day is long, she insisted doing it.”
Elmahgob gets pleasure out of doing ordinary things, such as cooking, during this special time.
“During the regular day, not a Ramadan day, you prepare your food in rush, in hurry to finish a dish," she says. "But when it’s Ramadan, it’s different because you’re talking your time. Actually it’s the time when I call my sisters overseas and ask them for more recipes and new things. It’s really enjoyable.”
For Elmahgob, Ramadan is the best time of the year for family members to reconnect.