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Fatma Salim, a Dubai government employee from Yemen, preparing traditional sweets for Eid. Satish Kumar / The National
Fatma Salim, a Dubai government employee from Yemen, preparing traditional sweets for Eid. Satish Kumar / The National

Nations are preparing for Eid across the UAE

Families from across the world are preparing for Eid Al Fitr in the UAE. Some share with us the traditions of their childhood and what Eid means for their family.

With Eid Al Fitr just around the corner, Muslim families of various backgrounds across the UAE are united in their preparations for the festival: they are all busy cooking, baking, cleaning and shopping as anticipation for the big celebration continues to build.

Zahid Altaf, a 26-year-old IT consultant from Pakistan living in Abu Dhabi, says that the time leading up to the holiday always brings a big smile to everyone’s face at his home.

“The female members of the family usually get their new dresses stitched, buy jewellery and new sandals. A similar thing goes for the men – Arab men usually get their kanduras stitched, but as we’re from Pakistan, we go for traditional Pakistani wear called shalwar kameez. The ladies also head out to beauty salons to get henna painted on their hands and feet,” he explains.

Altaf says that although he is away from his home country of Pakistan, the spirit of Eid in the UAE is the same. “We do all the same rituals, including shopping, and visiting friends and family,” he says. “But it is more festive back home – in Pakistan, celebrations continue even after the three days of Eid. Due to the [small] number of relatives we have here in the UAE, Eid days are usually lazy but evenings with friends are colourful.”

Altaf’s fondest memory of his family preparing for Eid over the years revolves around the preparation of a certain sweet dish – unsurprising, considering how important food is during the holiday.

“Mum usually prepares sheer-khorma, which in Urdu means milk with dates, although it also contains almonds, raisins, pistachios and vermicelli. Preparing it has become an annual ritual and it is very tasty as well,” he says.

For Fatma Salim, a 31-year-old Dubai government employee and community manager from Yemen, Eid preparations revolve around cleaning and cooking. Salim says that thorough cleaning begins a few days before Eid to prepare the house for the influx of guests, as well as all the food preparations.

“Mum prepares the sambusas and stores them in the freezer until Eid when we have them along with karak and sponge cake,” she explains. “Our Eid is incomplete without them.”

When the men of the family go for prayers early in the morning, Salim says the women sit at home and make a point of being ready and dressed by the time they arrive back home.

“We then have our breakfast, which consists of the aforementioned food along with strong Arabian coffee for my dad – he can’t do without it,” she says.

While Salim holds fond memories for every single Eid holiday, she says that she tries her best to keep the celebrations the same throughout the years, as that’s what makes it special.

“I love Eid. It’s the blessing in the air, and the excitement and bliss that surrounds you. It’s the chants of the people at the Kaaba in Mecca from the TV in the background. It’s the visits from family and friends all day. That’s what I love about Eid.”

Food preparations are also a big part of how Suad Shamma and her family get ready for Eid. Shamma, a 25-year-old Emirati communications and external affairs professional, says that a couple of weeks before Eid, her mother begins to prepare ma’amool, which are semolina cookies filled with dates or nuts. “Those are a must. They’re an Eid tradition and you will find them in stores everywhere around the time of Eid. Patchi chocolates are also an Eid tradition for us,” says Shamma.

Around this time, the Shamma family also complete their shopping, during which they attempt to find new outfits to wear on the first day of Eid – a Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed, who wore new clothes on the first day of Eid. “My mum, sisters and I all groom ourselves – we like to get our hair and nails done. Then we all decide on where we’d like to have lunch so we can make the reservations,” she continues.

Shamma’s fondest Eid memories are from her childhood, as many members of her extended family used to be living in the country, which meant that instead of going out for lunch, they’d spend the day at home all dolled up. She explains how the house would be filled with family members, everyone talking over one another and generally just having a good time.

If Shamma had to pick one fond Eid memory, however, she says it would be her mother allowing her to wear lipstick for the special holiday. “As a child, I was never allowed to put on any lipstick or make-up in general, but the one exception would be the first day of Eid when our mum would sit us down and apply a soft, light layer of lipstick on our lips to go with our outfit.

“I would sit there with my mouth slightly open in the shape of an O so that my lips wouldn’t touch, refusing to eat to drink anything so that it wouldn’t fade,” reminisces Shamma.

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