Ramadan is a month of fasting for practicing Muslims around the world, in which Muslims abstain from food, drink, and worldly temptations. It is a month of spirituality and dedication to get closer to Allah. There are misconceptions about Ramadan being a hard month – and it's certainly not meant to be easy – but Ramadan, of course, is so much more than that.
On a personal level, I aim to set goals for myself every Ramadan that I strive to achieve. I like to challenge myself each year during the Holy month with daily tasks to make sure that I don’t get lazy and lose sight of the purpose of Ramadan when I get tired or hungry on the harder days, especially daily recitation of the Quran and duaa.
Every family has their own set traditions for Ramadan. They eat certain foods or drinks that they don't have on any other day of the year. For my family, when we get together for iftar, it usually means that we're going to stay up until the wee hours of sunrise. For me, nothing says family fun more than an evening gathered together during Ramadan.
Iftar and evening entertainment
Family iftars usually start out quietly. We manage to reserve our energy levels and certain people approach hunger with absolute silence, while others grumble about it. After the Maghrib athan signals that we can eat, we suddenly come alive with lively chatter and cheer.
After iftar, we make our way to the living room for a cup of tea or Turkish coffee, sometimes both. Platters of dessert cover the table. The selection varies from apple pie, warm katayef, brownies to asafeeri.
Huddled on sofas in front of the TV, we watch our preferred Ramadan program, and leave the TV on as background noise when we're not paying attention to it as we work ourselves up to a sugar rush over a game of cards. Ramadan is a time when TV shows – and ads – reach their peaks, but in my family, we don’t follow any particular one show, we'll watch anything that will make our over-enthusiastic energy levels find release.
Suhoor in my family means hearing someone rummaging in the kitchen around 3 a.m. and slowly ambling toward the sound of plates clanking, cutlery clattering, and the microwave heating. But ultimately, it's the smell of something wafting in the halls as you make your way to the kitchen that wipes the bleariness from your eyes.
What I love about Ramadan most is how it gathers family and friends together for a shared experience. For me, it is the most rewarding month of the year, in every way possible.
On the nights when we're too tired to make suhoor food from scratch, we eat some of the essential leftovers from our iftar. It's usually leftover fattoush salad, where the previously crunchy bread bits are softened but still delicious, with a side of leftover oven-baked macaroni mixed with nuts that we only ever eat during Ramadan, and a quick grab of the always-delicious rolled fried chicken sandwiches that are also an exclusive Ramadan treat in our family.
However, when we're feeling particularly awake and energetic, we like to feast on our favorite suhoor food: fresh summer watermelons that help us stay hydrated in preparation for the next day's fasting, with a side of crunchy-soft fried halloumi cheese and a cup of tea. Other dishes might include regular morning breakfast foods that we miss during Ramadan like eggs, labneh, olives, and toast.
We eat with the intention that we'll try everything we can to avoid possible food cravings and regrets the next day, with the TV on in the background of our early morning family discussions.
We always promise to make smart choices for our suhoor, but often end up eating more than we planned and ambling our way to pray for Fajr – but not before chugging a bottle of water – and eventually sleeping with a protruding stomach. Sleep isn't easy to come by at this point because digestion gets complicated during Ramadan.
Ramadan is certainly a month of self-restraint and spiritual dedication to Allah. But what I love about Ramadan most is how it gathers family and friends together for a shared experience. For me, it is the most rewarding month of the year, in every way possible.