x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Expatriates find a home from home in capital

Some embassies open their doors to expats seeking a sense of home during the holy month.

ABU DHABI // This is the third year that Muhidin Wasid has spent Ramadan away from his family in Jakarta. "I'm alone here," said the 44-year-old aircraft engineer. "So I am having my iftar mostly in two Indonesian restaurants in the city. But I am joining the Indonesian Muslim community in their Ramadan activities." Mr Wasid is looking forward to Eid al Fitr, when he will travel home on holiday. "It is important that I spend time with my wife and three children during Eid," he said. "That is the only time we can be together."

Along with the rest of the UAE, Muslim expatriates from the capital's Malaysian and Indonesian communities are marking Ramadan with prayers, Islamic lectures and evening iftar meals. Lely Meiliani, first secretary at the Indonesian Embassy, said: "Once a week, we break fast together at the embassy or at the ambassador's residence. The community prays together and there are Islamic lectures." Bernad Siadian, 40, a project co-ordinator in Abu Dhabi and a member of the Indonesian Muslim community's Ramadan committee, said: "We are bringing one imam from Indonesia. He will hold a series of lectures."

Indonesian housemaids were invited to the gatherings, he added. Another Indonesian, Samsoedin Nasoetions, 39, an engineer in Abu Dhabi, said he and his wife had prepared their two children to wake up for suhoor and fasting. "We are teaching them about Ramadan and why fasting is important," he said. There are an estimated 75,000 Indonesians in the UAE, 30,000 of whom are in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Ruwais, according to federal government figures.

The Malaysian embassy in Abu Dhabi said there were more than 5,600 Malaysians in the Emirates, one-third of them in Abu Dhabi. About 70 per cent are Muslims. Perwakilen, a group of Malaysian expatriate wives in the capital, is holding a bazaar at the embassy each Friday during Ramadan. "We have many food specialities from Malaysia as well as art and crafts," said Saadiah Sulaiman, 40, a quantity surveyor from Malaysia.

With employees returning home from work earlier during the holy month, families are enjoying more time together to break their fast, take part in taraweeh and read the Quran. Azman Abdul Samad, 34, an accounts manager in Abu Dhabi, said there was not much of a difference between celebrating Ramadan in Malaysia and the UAE, apart from the reduced working hours here. He said: "My wife is excited to be part of the bazaar since we have a stall to sell food. It certainly feels like home."