I am delighted to introduce you to Zeyna Sanjania. A British mum in Dubai, I have followed her expat adventures on her blog “Mummy on My Mind” since she first started writing and seen her amazing journey from anonymous blogger to revealing so much about herself – motherhood, religion and especially her journey to becoming a Hijabi.
I have invited her to guest post today to explain in a way I simply can’t as an “outsider” the Islamic celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr – which has started on 25 June 2017 in the UAE at the conclusion of Ramadan.
This post is part of our series Discover the UAE
Eid-ul-Fitr. An occasion of happiness and celebration that is a three-day feast. Celebrating the fact that you just fasted for an entire month, not just refraining from food but also from bad habits that cloud spirituality, in the hopes to renew one’s faith and grow closer to Islam.
The night before in our home, we huddle close to the TV whilst flicking through the Islamic news channels, waiting for the new moon sighting to be confirmed. Once it is declared to be Eid, we exchange hugs and congratulate one another by saying “Eid Mubarak”.
This soon turns into a frenzy of panic though, as preparations need to be made! Preparations for food because let’s be honest, Eid mainly consists of eating, and boy is a lot of that done during Eid.
Oh, and who can forget the henna! The henna cones are out and intricate designs are drawn on the hands of ladies to adorn themselves and get into the festive spirit.
Eid prayer timings differ in various countries, but it is rather early in the UAE, usually held at 6 am on the morning of Eid. You may hear the “Takbeerat” early in the morning, sounding out from all the mosques, which are the words “Allaahu Akbar Allaahu Akbar Laa ilaaha illallaahu Wallaahu Akbar walillaahil hamd”. This is, in fact, a sunnah (act) of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and is encouraged to be uttered by every Muslim on their way to the Eid Prayers.
Before the prayers, we make sure to give a small charity to the needy, known as “Fitra”. Though prayer is normally done in the Mosque, the Eid prayer is preferred to be performed in the Eidgah, which is essentially a huge open ground.
The prayer is short, and followed by a Khutbah (religious sermon), after which you spend a good length of time hugging and congratulating one another.
After returning back home from prayer, it is the most special and exciting moment during the day for me, as we each wish each other Eid Mubarak, and proceed to make those long-distance phone calls to loved ones.
When we were younger, this was also the time when we received Eidi, which is money or presents, from my parents after my father returned from Eid prayers. Actually, I still do receive Eidi from my parents back in the UK!
However, now I have the responsibility of carrying on that tradition and giving Eidi to my own child, as well as other younglings in the family. The next best part is the amazing feast for breakfast, enjoyed by the whole family.
For us, it includes a few dishes that are repeated each and every year without fail. For starters, we have bowlfuls of Doodh Khurmo, a delicious vermicelli and milk pudding, followed by meatballs with parathas and a yoghurt dip.
The kindness and generosity that is carried over from the month of Ramadan is infectious and each Muslim wishes to carry out as many good deeds as possible.
In most households, Eid biscuits are also exchanged and this is a great way to involve the kids, not only in the baking process but more importantly in distributing them around the neighbourhood.
This is made more special as you do this wearing your best Eid clothes, each child gleaming in their crisp and shiny attire for the day. It is common for many families to visit the graveyard and pray for the departed family members.
Along with this, visits to the neighbours and family members are also made, and thus the feast begins as we all exchange sweets and biscuits, whilst hugging and exclaiming “Eid Mubarak” to one another.
We normally go to the graveyard, which is a humbling experience, and return home for a home cooked special lunch. The UAE government declares an official Eid holiday that runs for a minimum of two days.
With the raging heat of Dubai Summer, Eid celebrations begin from late afternoon onwards, and whether it is a shopping spree, adventurous trips to theme parks or extravagant dinners with family and friends, it is filled with happiness and love.
Since there is always a new place to discover in Dubai, we normally set off to a new destination for Eid, and now that we have a toddler in tow, this normally consists of a child-friendly place, which there are plenty of in Dubai! In between all the other activities, there is plenty of eating, eating and more eating.
Though Eid is a celebration of the sacrifices made during Ramadan, it is also a reminder of all the blessings we have and more importantly that we must appreciate these all year round, not just on the three days of Eid-ul-Fitr. Just as we strive to become better Muslims during Ramadan, we must now strive to remain so, if not improve, until the next blessed Ramadan.
How will you be spending this Eid-ul-Fitr? Share your plans in the comments section below! Whatever your plans may be, I wish you have a blessed Eid with your loved ones.
Hi…I’m Zeyna! I am a British expat, Wife and Mother to my 2 year old son (Baby Z), living in Dubai. Mummy On My Mind is a collection of musings on all things Parenting & Family related, along with a little bit of Fashion, Cooking, Beauty, Reviews, Travel and Expat Lifestyle too!
Truly touched and humbled to have this explanation from Zeyna on what happens during Eid. As the Holy Month of Ramadan has fallen over the hot summer months and school holidays for several years now, there tends to be a mass exodus of non-Muslims from the UAE during Eid – mostly escaping the heat but also capitalising on those public holidays.
Although two days are called as a minimum by the Government for all workers, on many occasions Government employees and associated companies are given the whole week off (as we did last year) resulting in a 9-day celebration for some!
Non-Muslims remaining in the UAE or visiting have nothing extra they need observe during this time (other than the usual respect for the culture) but may notice many attractions, restaurants, shopping malls are extremely busy as a lot of daytime activity recommences.
Eating in public is allowed again – and enjoyed! Many shopping malls may also have super sales on and extended trading hours. Having Zeyna explain this celebration in such detail has been wonderfully enlightening and put yet more perspective into understanding the culture we are living and raising our children in here in the UAE.