Ahmad and family
Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Rahimi Shawari with his family Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

‘The spirit of Ramadan was a lot simpler in our days’

Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Rahimi Shawari

Emirati, employee at Dubai Police

One of the earliest memories I have of Ramadan is playing with my friends every evening in our closeknit neighbourhood in Satwa. Until it was time for iftar, all the kids would gather outside and play music with makeshift instruments. We would even dress up and try to scare the neighbours by running into their houses.

By the age of 10, I was fasting regularly, and the Ramadan activities had changed into football and competitions to memorise the Quran.

My mother Khairi and other women folk were mostly confined to the kitchen. Since houses were close by, delicious aromas would waft through the kitchens which would really test one’s resolve. Food was always distributed among families so every day, we had a nice spread of dishes. Each family would send food in similar plates. Once I asked my mom how she knew whom to return the plates to. She turned around the plate and showed me a small, coloured line. Apparently different families used different colours for their plates and the womenfolk knew whom to return it too…laden with their own special dish as a return gift.

My mother never went to school and relied on learning the Quran and religious concepts from some sheikhs and clerics. During my school years at Jamal Abdel Naser School, fasting was difficult as we had to walk a long distance to get to school. But we took it as a challenge and used to compete with schoolmates about who would fast the most.

As a father of four, I feel children today are a lot more knowledgeable and spiritual about Ramadan. My three older daughters are in university now. My youngest daughter Hanan is 10 and studies at Al Maktoum school. When she was younger my mother used to encourage her by making her fast an extra hour each day. Now, Hanan is self-motivated to complete her fasts.

Hanan is also very particular about food wastage and extravagance, thanks to the mentoring she got from her school. She discusses the iftar menu with her mother and ensures that the food is not wasted at the table. Some of the traditional dishes that have adorned our table through the generations are harees, marqouqah, leqeimat, and reqaq bread. As sides we have soup, salad, yogurt with cucumber and dates.

Hanan fondly remembers the Ramadan we went to Makkah and spent the first week there. We prepared iftar bags for people every day and gave it people in the Haram (Holy Mosque). It was a great learning experience for her.

My children are also involved in social service activities like volunteering at Ramadan Aman program with Al-Ehsan charity.

It is an event where we give drivers on the road iftar boxes before maghrib prayer so that they do not have to rush to their houses for iftar. This year, the children are also planning to volunteer with Emirates Red Crescent this year.

During the last 10 days of Ramadan, we visit family members and have special family iftars where everyone brings a dish.

Overall, I feel that though the spirit of Ramadan was a lot simpler in our days, the present generation has imbibed the concept of it more and have inculcated it into their lives.

Rashida with her mother and daughters
Rashida (right) with her mother and daughters

‘Ramadans in the 80s were filled with family get togethers’

Rashida Muzammil

Indian home maker

The year was 1976 when my mom, Jameela, carried me as a toddler in her arms and boarded her first flight to Dubai.

I grew up hearing stories of my mom’s Ramadan in her large tharavad (ancestral home) in Kozhikode, Kerala. The preparations would begin almost a month in advance with a process called nanachu kuli (washing down) where every room, cupboard, furniture et al in the house would be cleaned to a sparkle. They would also stock up on food provisions that would last the entire month. Being in a joint family, my mom and her cousins would go after iftar to have ice achar (scraped ice mixed with different flavours), a speciality back home.

Since most women did not go to the mosque for the Taraweeh prayers back then, they would gather at a neighbours house and offer prayers. Another important aspect of the community during Ramadan was sending over khol (feast, in Malayalam) to other families, especially the in-laws. Most of Ramadan would tide away in the giving and receiving of these khols.

Our Dubai Ramadans in the 80s were filled with family get togethers since my uncle, Usman, lived right above our flat in the famous Sheikh Rashid Colony of Al Shaab. Sometimes we would go out to buy Suhour at a hotel in Naif Road which was known for its Kerala cuisine. My other uncle, Kunhamed, lived in Abu Dhabi and we eagerly awaited his visits as he would bring lots of gifts and goodies for us.

My mom would prepare Ramadan treats right from scratch, hence having to spend most of their time in the kitchen. Still, she never compromised on her prayers and worship.

Nowadays, since we have a lot of ready-made options like samosa sheets and puff pastry, Ramadan is quite hassle free. Also, the focus has shifted from cooking o practicing more ibadah (righteous deeds).

My husband Muzammil Alikoya is an Export specialist at Karcher. My elder daughter Riham is doing her second year MA(Hons)Business & Finance at Heriot-Watt University and younger daughter Razaan is a grade 3 student at Our Own English High School, Warqa.

I find the new generation is a lot more health conscious than us and they prefer airfried or steamed food to oily snacks during Ramadan. They research and imbibe different aspects of faith rather than practice it mechanically. Razaan took her first fast this year. We have promised her some money as a reward for every fast she keeps, just to keep her motivated.

Ramadan for me is all about spirituality and family. I am lucky to have my sister Ramida living in Sharjah and we get together every weekend. My other sister Raeeda, who lives in Saudi and brother Rashad, who works in Mangalore, also visit Dubai often. Spending Eid with all of them under one roof is one of the biggest blessings of my life.

Nausheen with her mother, husband and daughter
Nausheen (centre) with her mother, husband and daughter Image Credit: Supplied

‘I try to inculcate the essence of fasting and patience in my daughter’

Nausheen Abidi

Pakistani, senior motor underwriting officer

My parents came to Dubai in 1985. Growing up, Ramadan was a very exciting time. We used to live in Bur Dubai which, even back then, was the hub of festivities. Watching the cannons being shot near Dubai Museum gave us kids the feeling of exhilaration that the festivities had to begin. Life in Dubai during those days was simple and there was a lot of camaraderie among people. Most of the neighbours treated one another as their own family and we would exchange iftar meals frequently.

In the early days, my mom Shahina, really missed the Ramadans back home in Karachi. She lived in a large joint family, where all the womenfolk would be doing everything together…from praying, to doing ibadah to cooking.

Now, since we are a large joint family of 13 members, which include my brothers, sisters-in-law and all our kids, we have created our own haven here. And Ramadan is a special time of faith, family and food of course.

During this holy month, we spend the days in prayer and try to recite as many verses from the Quran as possible. I try to inculcate the essence of fasting, abstinence and patience into my daughter Noor Fatima. Since all three generations sit together to make dua and recite the Quran, she automatically imbibes the values of Ramadan. Noor has just started reciting the Quran and fasting regular this year, which makes this Ramadan even special.

The iftar staples in our house include fruit chaat, chana chaat, pakoras and samosas. We try to keep Suhoor light so that we don’t feel lethargic during the day. From cooking dishes, to setting the table and ending the fast together, we have a great time with my mom and sisters-in law. We end the day with a small cycling session at the Marasi drive.

I vividly remember the Ramadans we had to spend in lockdown without getting to see our family members even though they were so close. So, this Ramadan I am grateful to Allah and thank Him for all the blessings on the table, in our house and in our lives.