Yeru Ebuen –
On Thursday of last week, a colleague told me that he was planning to leave early from work because he made a commitment to his mother and sister to drive them and bring them to a grocery shop.
Apparently, preparations for Ramadhan take many days in advance and despite being a time for fasting, self-reflection and dedicating a great time to be close to God, collecting food is also one of the important things everyone must take note of.
“During Ramadhan, everyone goes into a panic mode. They end up buying everything in the store,” my colleague noted.
As an expat, I usually see Omani culture and traditions through my friends’ eyes. Whenever they complain or appreciate and proud of something, I take note of it. The things I don’t understand always lead me to ask 100 questions and thankfully, most of them are not only progressive but patient enough to explain things to me.
As Ramadhan is nearing, one topic that keeps on popping up is food. For a time when everyone is fasting, nobody can seem to stop thinking about them. Whether one is Muslim or a non-Muslim, the conversation often becomes a strategy on how to manage fasting or how to be self-conscious about others who do fast.
On the mall the next day, I did notice long queues in supermarkets. I can see families buying things together and because I became more aware of it, I do see trains of grocery carts filled to the brim, most of them food.
“For a lot of us, usually, Ramadhan is also the best period to spend time with each other. On the first few days, you eat at home. But later, you start going to your different family members’ house. Some visit your home as well. As Omanis, hospitality is very important. You never let a visitor go home without food or coffee,” my colleague said.
I relate well to this scenario. As non-Muslim, we have our fair share of panic buying. From birthdays to anniversaries to religious holidays, no one can stop us from running to the grocery stores. These holidays we celebrate are also time to impress friends and family members. Even for my birthdays in the past, I used to cook a lot regardless of how tiring the preparation was.
For me, there was something magical about having your friends and family in one place sharing a meal. The conversations are easy and dinner, most often, is the best time to catch up with each other.
One of the growing trends in Oman these days is eating out. Because parents have to be on their jobs in the morning, they usually don’t have the energy to prepare things at home. In Ramadhan, it’s no different. Almost all restaurants and hotels offer different banquets and iftar buffets that it is more logical to just eat out and be done with night meals.
I brought this idea to my friend who said he has nothing against convenience or progress.
“Sometimes, we have to adapt to a few changes. But for my family, it’s a valued tradition to be with each other. For the rest of the year, we are usually very disconnected, lost in our own worlds of adult duties. We only see each other on weekends and even on those days, we spend resting and not really being with each other. By sticking to this particular custom, we are reigniting family ties,” he said.
And I do agree.
In a world that has gotten so busy and obsessed with development and progress, it’s heart-warming to maintain human and family connection. For many expats in the country, the one thing many of us want is to spend holidays and long weekends with our loved ones doing meaningful activities. Missing important events like birthdays or weddings are something we have to live with. Provided an opportunity, we would love to spend a good dinner with our families whenever we can.
But we don’t have that luxury. For most expats that are in the country, we have to miss the daily catch ups. We have to be okay with it because sometimes as an adult, sacrifices have to be made — to realise a goal, to make way for a better future, to reach a dream.
Ramadhan is not my celebration, my festivity or however you want to refer to it. But it doesn’t stop me from reflecting and if there is anything I would want to urge everyone, it’s that time changes so fast and everyone grows up so quickly that whenever you can, spend the most time with your family. It doesn’t matter if that time is at the dinner table during Ramadhan for Iftar. The goal is to just be there. And that already means a lot.