World News Saudi Arabia’s traditional markets thrive as Eid approaches 

RIYADH: Despite being away from their families and home countries, expatriates in Saudi Arabia love to stay in their second home during Ramadan.

The expats spending the holy month in the homeland of Islam are fortunate, both in terms of spiritual satisfaction and piousness as well as personal experiences.

For those who are new to the Kingdom, there is a lot to look forward to for a whole new experience.

“You can sense the Ramadan spirit here everywhere you go. The streets at night during Ramadan are packed and everything that is dull during the day comes to life in the night,” said Iffat Aabroo, an Indian mother of three who is spending her 10th Ramadan in Riyadh.

“I can say from my experiences of over a decade here that there is no other place better than Saudi Arabia to spend time in Ramadan and celebrate its purity. We have the opportunity to go to the mosque and do group Taraweeh prayers,” said the home maker.

She added: “Ramadan is a time of great significance for Muslims and it is observed with great importance in Saudi Arabia. You also have the opportunity to go to the Two Holy Cities — Makkah and Madinah — and perform Umrah and Ziyarah.

“Markets are open till Suhoor, there is the crowd bustling in the streets keeping the night alive and those that are shopping to prepare themselves for the Eid Al-Fitr festival,” she said.

She pointed out that Ramadan is not just a religious observance but a cultural phenomenon, reflected by acts of spirituality and social bonding, which is why many expats prefer to stay in their second home during the holy month and go on vacation for Eid Al-Adha to be with relatives and friends.

Sharing her experiences, Ambreen Faiz, a Pakistani housewife and a noted Urdu writer, told Arab News: “I have been living in Saudi Arabia for the past 26 years or so. When I first arrived in Riyadh in 1998, I was sort of mesmerized witnessing the festivities of the holy month of Ramadan in the Kingdom. Every Muslim anxiously waits for the advent of the holy month of Ramadan. I am also very excited when Ramadan begins to knock on the door.”

She added: “Many women that I know of from Pakistan and India become as excited as I do when the holy month arrives. We do not want to go for vacation during Ramadan and in fact want to stay in the Kingdom to welcome Ramadan and enjoy the festivities that it brings along.

“We women friends chalk out our programs of iftar parties. And we prepare Pakistani delicacies of Ramadan — Chole, Pakore, Samose, Dahi Barey, Fruit Chart and what not. Such delicacies are liked and enjoyed by all ages,” she said.

“Ramadan is very much enjoyed by the kids especially when we go to Harmain to perform Umrah,” she said, adding: “I am thankful to Allah that he has blessed us with the opportunity to live in Saudi Arabia and enjoy the festivities of Ramadan.”

Dr. Kifaya Ifthikar, a prominent Sri Lankan female social worker in Riyadh, and a doctor by profession, told Arab News: “We love staying here during Ramadan and enjoy a mix of Sri Lankan and Saudi delicacies.

“In Sri Lanka, where a significant percentage of the population observes fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan, their iftar meals are characterized by a special blend of flavors and traditions. A customary dish on their iftar table is a porridge made with rice and coconut, often complemented by the addition of beef or chicken, along with a spicy chili chutney known as katta sambol. Bringing it to our Iftar table here with dates, an essential component of an iftar meal, and some Saudi delicacies are a must-have. The iftar spread is further enriched with other delicacies such as cutlets, and pattis,”she said.

“To quench the thirst, tropical fruit juices featuring wood apple, pineapple, and king coconut are favored choices, ensuring a healthy and refreshing conclusion to the day of fasting. Additionally, chia seeds are also added for a delightful yet healthy touch to these iftar drinks,” she added.

“Ramadan in Saudi Arabia is way better than it is in our sub-continent,” said Maisha Maimoona, a Bangladeshi expatriate.

“I always prefer spending Ramadan in Saudi Arabia and going home on Eid because everything is so smooth and there is so much dedication to the Almighty Allah during Ramadan here. People actually know the true value of the holy month and they act accordingly,” she added.

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