x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Family time even sweeter at Ramadan

Diary of the Holy month.

I started fasting for Ramadan probably when I was six or seven years old.

I don't remember my feelings at that age but I do remember the childhood mischief of my cousins as they sneaked into the outside kitchen to drink water.

Back then, I didn't think it was cheating because they didn't eat.

Ramadan is a special time for us Muslims; you can feel the spirituality in the air. The first day of Ramadan is so different. Everything and everyone changes.

Fasting is not just about abstaining from food and drinks, it's about controlling negative emotions and anger. You learn to be patient and tolerant.

The night before is even more special as you get a sense of Ramadan with the taraweeh prayers.

One of the last 10 nights is the exceptionally special Lailat al Qadr, the night of forgiveness and answered prayers.

To me the best time is suhoor, which is the meal we eat before the fajr prayer that announces the start of a fasting day. The last hours of the night are very serene and I like to spend them reciting from the Quran.

Ramadan is not about the food, it's about family. Even though we are a very connected community here in the UAE, quality time with the family tastes even better in Ramadan.

Iftar, or as we call it "ftoor", is only a means to get together - to break bread, bond and share the experience.

Typically, at the end of the day we would break our fast by eating dates because the Prophet Mohammed broke his fast with dates, and it was proven recently that dates help the body to maintain health after a long day of fasting.

There are some types of food that we only make during the holy month, which adds to Ramadan's uniqueness. We have nakhai which is made with chickpea and hot chilli. We also have lgaimat, a traditional sweet from the Gulf.

Ramadan is the time for spiritual renewal. Fasting teaches us to control our bodily desires, which in turn teaches us to temper our spirits as the two are intertwined, and one cannot grow without the other.

I promised myself I would never let anything ruin the Ramadan experience for me.

And so I always make the choice not to lose myself in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

* Hind Al Falasi, 24, from Al Ain is a PhD student at the United Arab Emirates University.