With the Covid-19 pandemic unrelenting, Eid celebrations are under the strictest social distancing norms. A cross-section of expatriate professionals shares their impressions about Eid celebrations before Covid-19 and about the present amid precautions.
Antonella Appiano, Writer/Researcher: My views about Eid are influenced by my studies on Islamic and Middle East countries. I believe our understanding of traditions and culture creates bridges and enhances the ability to connect. When Muslims and non-Muslims are able to interact without prejudices, preconceptions, there is a lot to learn from one another. Fasting tests your patience and willpower and also prove yourself of being a better person. However, an aspect that really touched me during the holy month is the strong sense of community, especially if you are living in a peaceful country like Oman.
I reflected on the relationship that I have with my family, neighbors and friends. Before Covid-19, I was invited to celebrate Eid al Fitr in a Muslim family in Muscat. As a non-Muslim guest, I really felt part of the community and recall the rich banquet with traditional dishes from Fattoush, Atayef, Grape Leaves, Rice Biryani, Kabsa with lamb, Basbousa and Carrot Halva. It is wonderful to see the Islamic theme, Ramadhan signs and the creativity towards making them.
Thomas Guss, General Manager, The Chedi Muscat: As a hotelier, my team and I thrive on the spirit of this occasion, dedicating our efforts to serving guests at The Chedi Muscat. The team unites as a big family, showing their support, respect and gratitude towards one another. In the Middle East region, Eid signifies an occasion where families and close friends celebrate and mark the end of Ramadhan.
Despite being a non-Muslim, Eid has become a special time for my family and me over the years we have been residents in the Sultanate. We celebrate this joyous occasion alongside friends and colleagues embracing the spirit of rich culture. I have often observed that people gift generously to their loved ones and strangers, which is important as many expatriates spend this valuable time away from their parents, relatives, and friends. This act of generosity and hospitality significantly contributes to the happiness of the community beyond the festive season.
Justin Meyers, Executive Director, Al Amana Centre: Eid celebrations are my favorite as one of my iftar stories though comes from the US with its Omani connections. We had returned to the US during Ramadhan, but I made sure to pack ample Omani dates into my baggage. Once in the US, I took a group of Christians to visit a local mosque. We had been invited by the imam to join for iftar. A hush fell over the room as the faithful in the mosque realized some unfamiliar people had entered the joyful celebration of iftar.
To break the ice, I pulled out my packages of Omani dates and approached a man about to break his fast. Greeting him with a traditional Salam Aleikum, I told him that I live in Oman and brought dates to help break their fast. He tasted the dates and proclaimed ‘Mashaallah.’ After everyone had tried the Omani dates brought by a Christian living in Oman, the Christians and Muslims in the US were chatting and eating with each other. The dates from Oman helped create a moment in the US where Muslims and Christians who were once neighbors, but strangers, became friends.
As a resident in Muscat for eight years, I used to celebrate iftar with my Muslim friends in Oman before Covid-19. From visiting a friend’s house to hosting iftar at the Al Amana Centre, or on the shop floor of a Kashmiri manager in Muttrah souq who is also a family member.
Robert MacLean, Principal, National Hospitality Institute (NHI): During Eid, I particularly remember the traditional Eid goat market in Al Wadi Al Kabir which I drove past on my way to work. Having been a resident of Oman for over 25 years as an expatriate, when you see the market and the characters there buying or selling goats it is as if time has stood still and nothing has changed for a long time.
Another great part of Eid is when we all get together as a team and enjoy iftar in one of the local restaurants. Eid is a happy time for people to come together and enjoy each other’s company and feel blessed even as a non-Muslim. I am humbled when I see citizens and residents greet each other and shower happiness while sharing food or gifts. It is a time that I will always remember wherever I am in the world.