x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE residents prepare for the longest Ramadan fast in 33 years

Muslims will abstain from food and water for 15 hours a day this Ramadan - but parents have been assuring the younger generation they can cope.

Sri Lankan Fareena Hafeel, a nursery director who has lived in the UAE for more than 25 years, says she is looking forward to the holy month. Ravindranath K / The National
Sri Lankan Fareena Hafeel, a nursery director who has lived in the UAE for more than 25 years, says she is looking forward to the holy month. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // This year’s fast will be the longest for decades – but parents have been assuring the younger generation they can cope.

Muslims will abstain from food and water for 15 hours a day this Ramadan, making this year the lengthiest fast for 33 years.

And with temperatures in July soaring as high as 50°C – the hottest recorded was 52.1°C in July 2002 – many residents have been seeking advice from parents who fasted during previous summers.

“I’m scared of the thirst,” said Dalia Ahmed, 25, who has developed tactics for surviving Ramadan. “I have to wake up before fajr, even though some people just eat at night before they sleep.

“I found waking up at fajr is the best thing to do, and then drink a lot of water.”

Fatima Mohammed, an Emirati mother of four, said people should try to stick to their usual daily routine to cope.

“The most important thing is to not change your schedule,” she said. “There is no need to stay up late. Treat it as a normal time.”

She said potassium-rich foods should be eaten for suhour, and that beans would fill the stomach.

Mrs Ahmed said her teenage nieces and nephews found fasting difficult.

“At least they have summer holidays, so they can sleep in,” she said. “We are all encouraging them and have told them they will be OK. If the worst comes to the worst and they feel they cannot go on, they can break their fast and fast later.”

Abdullah Mohammed, who has lived in the UAE for 10 years, fears overeating.

“The hunger just makes you eat more than you need,” he said. “And being invited to iftars almost every night does not help. I will gain weight this month, as usual.”

Mrs Mohammed said the best way to deal with overeating was to follow the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed and break your fast with a date and a glass of water. After prayers, eat soup or a small portion of food.

Dr Mohammed Alo, a cardiologist from Chicago, agreed that eating gradually was a must.

For those fearing the long hours of fasting and the extreme heat, one mother said to relax because Ramadan was easier now than it has ever been.

Shamsa A said: “It isn’t too hard, especially now that conditions are better than back then. Now everyone has air conditioning and will hardly feel the outside heat.”

Despite their fears, many eagerly anticipate the holy month, saying it brings the excitement of iftar gatherings, shorter working hours, socialising and dedicating time for worship.

Many were part of a last-minute rush to supermarkets to stock up on food, some with unusual items on their shopping lists.

Sana Mitab, a mother of three from Jordan, was yesterday looking for apricot leather, a dried version of the fruit.

“I came to shop today so the food is fresh for Ramadan,” she said. “This is the first time I have bought apricot leather and dried food since last Ramadan.”

Other shoppers were heading to the Arabic sweet sections of stores – and especially to the date aisles.

“It is always better to eat at home during Ramadan, because of the family gatherings,” said Najla, an Egyptian mother of three.

Saleh Al Tamimi, a Yemeni shopping with his friend, Abdullah Al Yafai, said he had been waiting all year for Ramadan.

Sri Lankan Fareena Hafeel, a nursery director who has lived in the UAE for more than 25 years, said she was also looking forward to the holy month.

“It is a way of spiritual cleansing in every way, a detox,” she said. “A time to grab all the blessings you can. My advice to people is to grab the month, take it and live it.” 

osalem@thenational.ae