It is the final week of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. During the day, one of Ramkhamhaeng’s busiest roads, Soi 53, is still devoid of activities. But come sunset, as the muezzin calls for evening prayer from the nearby mosque and announces the time of the fast-breaking meal, the soi comes alive and the air is filled with chatter and aroma of food and tea.
The area of Ramkhamhaeng University — colloquially called na ram — is a student hub and a predominantly Muslim enclave. Due to the vicinity’s strong Islamic influence, it has become a magnet for thousands of students from southern Thailand. Their Islamic clothing, olive complexion and sharp features often distinguish them from the crowd. Away from home, some for the first time, they often opt to reside in dormitories across the university because of the easy access to halal food and a mosque to pray. Over the years, the area has become a pocket of subcultural vibrancy that’s all the more pronounced during the month of Ramadan.
The southern lifestyle can be seen in the students who hang out after class at tea stalls along Khlong Saen Saep, while an open-air market offers a nice selection of homemade southern dishes that attract a sizeable crowd each day. The side-street also houses the Santichon Islamic School and Muslim Foundation, two respected institutions that enhance the Islamic character of the neighbourhood.
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