Asian Lite is marking Holy Month of Ramadan with a new column by Masarat Daud. Ramadan Musings will reflect on the Holy Month and will carry comments on relevant issues concerning the Muslim community
It was lovely attending an Iftar with a group of Arab students studying in London. One of them was a common friend and many others making new friendships through her, finding commonalities and shared memories over an Iftar table. Recreating the lavishness of an Iftar back home, there were salads, rice and chicken dishes, vegetarian bakes, fried items, Lgeimat, Kunafa, more sweets and Arabic coffee and tea were also served.
Opening the fast with dates soaked in a tahini (sesame seeds) sauce, the chosen drink was the Khaleeji Ramadan staple, Vimto. Struggling to deal with the homesickness that this month brings, each person shared what they missed the most about this time of the year in a foreign city.
Zainab said she missed the call to prayer and the daily family gathering at the Iftar table. They are a family of 17 people in total who gathered around the table in time to break the fast. Student life in London can get lonely and monotonous with workload not giving any time to take time and reflect.
Fatima shares the sentiment. Her study schedule is intense and there are days she returns home to her flat five minutes before Iftar and having dates and water before falling on the bed asleep.
Mai loves the night prayers she manages to attend on Edgware Road and loves the Ramadan ‘feel’ it holds. “It is one time during the year where after prayers, when it gets very late, I still feel safe walking back home. There are many others out on the streets and you don’t realise how late it actually is!” she adds.
The food and the family gathering carried the main nostalgic sentiment for many. Asma remembers her favourite time of Ramadan being the dessert-time, settled in the large sitting room. All her family members would be present, including her father, who has always had a hectic schedule but this would be the only month when he would be at the dinner table and in the sitting room, watching TV and enjoying laughs with the family.
Fatema agrees and adds that she misses being around the elders of the family. She misses listening to their stories and hearing old tales. One of the friends, an Egyptian-Kuwaiti, brought nicely wrapped sweet parcels for everyone. It was the trick-or-treat time for Egyptians which falls in the middle of Ramadan.
As Zainab ended on a wise note, “That this is temporary. We will return home and we will enjoy the same Ramadan once again.” But this year, this cosy Iftar will forever be a delicious London memory.
(Masarat Daud is many things. A girl’s education campaigner, a TED speaker, a TEDx curator, a recent SOAS MA graduate and a politically-incorrect humourist currently based in London)