x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ramadan was all a child could want

Preparations were made so precisely to ensure a variety of meals from all around the world were present on our table every evening.

My memories of Ramadan are so colourful and joyful - a mixture of spiritual and cultural experiences that seem to be vivid and clear after all these years.

It is a month associated with family gatherings, big meals and most definitely short school days.

When I was a kid I would know it was close to Ramadan by the way my mum started acting around home. Two weeks before our first fasting day in Ramadan our kitchen would be a no-kid zone.

Preparations were made so precisely to ensure a variety of meals from all around the world were present on our table every evening. Constant trips to grocery stores, butcher shops and vegetable markets were made to guarantee freshness and quality.

Attending school in Ramadan was a pleasant experience. All sessions were magically shorter and therefore much more enjoyable from a student point of view. Homework was rarely given to us and most of our teachers were surprisingly calmer and friendlier to approach.

Spiritually, the holy month brought peace and prosperity, which was evident in our increasing desire to read more of the Quran, attend religious classes and maintain prayers at mosques.

Upon coming home, watching TV was the only available thing to do waiting for maghreb prayers. I remember squeezing on our sofa with my brothers and sisters, watching TV and battling over the remote control.

As the hours passed, nothing caught our attention more than the smell of food from the kitchen every time the door opened. Then the doorbell would ring. It was almost iftar and the neighbours shared plates of food.

As a child, I remember asking my mum with every plate she sent out to neighbours: "Did you leave some for us?" The answer was always: "Yes, there is plenty of food for everyone."

As children we all had a role to play at iftar. The girls took charge of setting up the table while boys were in charge of waking up the sleeping family members.

It was important that we all attended iftar and were at the table together.

Once the prayer started and the green light was given to break our fast, we were in sweet heaven.  Surprisingly Ramadan was the only time of the year when our parents would allow us to eat all the sweets we wanted.

After iftar the family parted in two directions. The mums would take a nap and recharge after a long day in kitchen, while the dads and the boys went for taraweeh prayers.

After the prayers, the family would reunite for a late gathering and a visit to relatives, which were normally made until late in the night.

Overall, Ramadan was a happy time for us growing up. We were allowed to stay up late, watch as much TV as we wanted, eat loads of sweets and spend less time at school.

What more would a child want?

* Bader Alzarei, 33, from Dubai, is a communications manager in Abu Dhabi