x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Observing Ramadan is easier with family than at university

For a student it can be difficult to match iftar timings with a takeaway lifestyle.

"I appreciate my mum so much more now," I said to my friend as I came back inside my dorm room after getting the food we had ordered.

Half an hour had passed since we were allowed to break our fast and the food had just arrived. Not surprisingly, it was cold. I was so irritated.

Back home, my only responsibility was to eat what was put before me at the end of a very long Ramadan day. Living in the halls of residence has taught me to notice things I never did before and, sadly, took for granted most of the time.

My family lives in Abu Dhabi and I study at the American University of Sharjah and although I'm not too far away, I decided I would have my first Ramadan away from home apart from them. It was a complete disaster. I had no sense of time. I slept in until after iftar. Consequently, I wouldn't have food ready on time and I kept throwing fast food and junk down my throat because I was too lazy to learn to cook or even, after a very long day at university, to help out friends who were more confident in the kitchen. In a way, I had lost the sense of Ramadan, the family coming together, the home-cooked meals, the peace of mind: it was all gone.

During my second year, Ramadan was not as bad, although I still couldn't get myself to learn to cook. Something was still missing. My family. Ramadan was just not the same away from home.

In my third year of university, Ramadan happened to be during the summer holiday. I finally got to experience Ramadan the way I remembered it before university. No more ordering fast food and no more worrying about sleeping in and not waking up in time for iftar.

I could finally sit with my family and enjoy a home-cooked meal for iftar, which is the time families come together during Ramadan, making this meal, which breaks the fast, truly special. This year, too, Ramadan is during the summer holiday and I'm not complaining. What makes this Ramadan all the more special is that I will be spending it in Jordan with the rest of my family.

Imagine a very long day when all you want to do is just eat your heart out, and right there in front of you is a table of mouth-watering appetisers such as fatoush, main courses such as warak inab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat), and let's not forget about the famous Ramadan dessert atayef (equivalent to pancakes) stuffed with your choice of cheese or nuts.

The delight of that table to my eye would not be the same if my family members were not seated around it.

I still haven't learnt to cook, but that won't be an issue for the next few years at least.