Categories: Ramadan

A Ramadan in the Middle East

“Ramadan holds a special place for Muslims around the world, Rabi’ah.M talks to Omar Tahir, a resident in Riyadh about his and his family’s Ramadan routine.”

As Muslims, we look forward to the blessed and holiest month of Ramadan because it gives us the perfect opportunity to learn a new routine of self-discipline and strengthen our connections with our Creator (Allah) while simultaneously balancing our worldly affairs. Reflection, prayer, and fasting are the hallmarks of this time. 

Since Ramadan is a time of spiritual detox, spending Ramadan varies in the Middle East and Muslim countries to that spent in the West. I spoke to Omar Tahir based in Riyadh who shared his Ramadan routine. The routine and meals during Ramadan in countries such as Saudi Arabia and UAE tend to vary from those in the U.K. For example, during the suhoor (pre-dawn) meal, you are going to find dishes such as “foul” (fava beans) served with “khubbus” “qahwa” (Arabic coffee) and balaleet (vermicelli and omelette) to name a few. 

As Omar lives in Riyadh, he has observed that mosques tend to be extremely crowded during Ramadan. When it comes time for Iftar, he tells me he usually breaks it with dates and water followed by a meal. “Ramadan in Saudi Arabia is a time of heightened spirituality and community. Families and friends come together for Iftar meals, sharing traditional dishes and sweets.”  

For example, in Omar’s family, his wife Hayam cooks a variety of Arabic, Pakistani, and intercontinental food dishes. They serve an array of mouthwatering appetizers such as samboosa, puff pastries, shami kebab, spring rolls, and fruit salad, which are some of the favourites you can’t miss when visiting them. Whereas the main dishes consist of harees (similar to haleem), chicken, meat or veggie wrap, roasted chicken, pasta, chicken karahi, and others. Not to forget the dessert list that features Umm Ali, Baklawa, Lugaimat, Kunafa, Katayef, and others served with Arabic coffee or Karak tea. She even does Ramadan special flavoured drinks, i.e., Tang, fruit punch, lemonade, and others which are a personal favourite for the children. Then there is the live transmission of the Holy Kaaba and the Holy Qur’an recitation played at Omar’s place which strengthens the Ramadan spirit. 

As working hours tend to be reduced during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East, one can devote more time to worship and look forward to opening their fast. There is a religious obligation for Muslims to do charitable work, especially during such a sacred time of the year. In Saudi Arabia, the role of charity known as “Zakat al Fitr” is prominently observed. 

As Omar explains: “In Saudi Arabia, Muslims are encouraged to give to those in need. Organisations and individuals often organise food distribution, charity events along with various initiatives to support the less fortunate during Ramadan.” Living in a Muslim country is without a doubt a significant indicator of the spirit of Ramadan, as beautiful decorations are lit throughout the entire country as well as the sound of Azaan prayers and Taraweeh prayers being recited in a congregation, resulting in a collective feeling of celebration. As Ramadan concludes, it should be a time for spiritual cleansing and coming out as a better person. 

British Muslim Magazine

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