Dubai: It’s 15 minutes to iftar and this picturesque villa in Jumeirah 1 is buzzing with residents of various nationalities as they lay out a diverse range of dishes on the floor of the spacious living room.
“I made scones with raspberry jam,” says British expat Clare Davis to her friend Swati Rokade, an Indian expat, holding a tray of samosas. Seconds later, two Arab men enter carrying containers filled with minced lamb in gravy and mandi.
The spread soon becomes lavish comprising salads, zaatar bread, coleslaw, grilled chicken, tacos, caramel pudding and fruits among others. “It’s a potluck iftar and we are expecting 35 nationalities,” says Syrian Wissam Barake, 42, owner of Taijitu House of Om, a wellness centre.
Located near Dubai Zoo, the centre conducts free meditation, yoga, healing, belly dancing and self-development sessions all year round. In an attempt to bring people of different backgrounds together under one roof every Ramadan, Barake and his team host a potluck iftar daily. “It is a great way to create a close-knit community,” he says.
The iftar last week saw various nationalities bringing pieces of their culture and energy to the potluck. It was the first time for Haidy El Hakem, an Egyptian from Sharjah. “I usually spend Ramadan with my family back in Cairo, but this time I couldn’t travel home. However, interacting with people from 35 nationalities is also an unforgettable Ramadan experience. I prepared some koshari for iftar just like my mother does.”
German expat Regina Angeli, a regular at Taijitu, finds the food sharing concept very thoughtful. “It’s so nice to savour traditional flavours and learn about customs of other countries. I brought my eight-year-old along so he can learn and also cultivate the habit of contributing to society,” she says.
The meal was followed by a card-designing workshop in collaboration with Play4Smiles, an NGO involved in improving the living conditions of orphans around the world.
“We made nearly 150 cards and will be sending these to some less fortunate children in Kenya,” says Barake, who has been living in Dubai for 18 years. He quit his job at pharmaceutical company a few months ago to devote his time to the community centre.
“Taijitu means ‘harmonious life’ in Arabic,” says Barake, as he explains what inspired him to build the vibrant home. “My dream is to open similar community centres across the world. I want to help people by reducing their negativity, by promoting tolerance and forgiveness.”