Muscat – While Ramadan is a month of devotion to God, it is also a month to observe traditions in different forms – especially in evenings and nights when families bond over iftar and suhoor. Shopping is another aspect of the month wherein people throng markets for new clothes in preparation of Eid.
In today’s edition of the series ‘Ramadan around the world,’ Muscat Daily meets Syed Shaandar Bukhari, marketing assistant at Towel Auto. Hailing from Attock in North Pakistan, Bukhari describes Ramadan as a time when special connections are made among people transcending cultures creating memories that remain forever.
“In Pakistan, families are close-knit and it is customary to meet for iftar and suhoor. Ramadan creates great memories while gathering at the iftar table over endless chatter. Memories of decorated neighbourhood food stalls are still vivid for me. All these daily activities make precious moments that are forever etched in our memories,” Bukhari said.
“In Pakistan, we celebrate Ramadan like a festival and special arrangements are made not just for prayers but also for the two special meals of the day, iftar and suhoor. As soon as the Ramadan moon is sighted, the whole country lights up.”
Bukhari explained that the practice of waking up before dawn for suhoor led to several traditions many of which are dying, but in North Pakistan, these are still enthusiastically practised.
“At iftar and suhoor, we wait to hear a loud bang signaling it’s time to either stop or start eating. This custom has continued despite devices available to tell us the time.”
According to Bukhari, Pakistanis take food very seriously and spend time creating and perfecting dishes. Iftar is usually heavy, consisting mainly of samosas, pakoras and namak para, besides dates and water. Other items often on the menu include roasted meat, chicken rolls, shami kebabs and fruit salads.
Pakora – the main item on the iftar menu – is a fried snack popular across the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh and Nepal. “Iftar is incomplete without pakoras. Fruit salad is another common dish for iftar, comprising various kinds of fruit, sometimes served in a liquid, either fruit juices or syrup,” Bukhari said.
For suhoor, khajla and pheni (similar to vermicelli) are common. “Had with milk to start suhoor, khajla and pheni are considered to give extra energy while being light on stomach. This is in addition to special and traditional drinks which can be both sweet and salty,” Bukhari said.
During Ramadan, night markets come alive in North Pakistan. These markets are for ladies, who shop at their own pace, as men folk attend Taraweeh prayers.
“The night markets are usually open from 4pm to 4am when women have time off from their busy Ramadan schedules.”
As for the men, they compete to finish reciting the Q’uran. “From the first day of the month, we begin reciting the Q’ur’an. Completing recitation of our holy book within the month requires total commitment and discipline. We encourage children to do the same by awarding the winners. By doing so, they learn about Islam from a young age.”
Ramadan is also a time for sports in Pakistan. “Our favourite sport – cricket – is part of the celebrations, too. Every Ramadan, boys form teams and participate in competitions,” Bukhari recalls with nostalgia the excitement the month brought in his childhood.