6 Arab Designers on What Ramadan (Really) Means to Them

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The holy month is a testing ground, asking one to put their faith into action by fasting during the day and, though we are conditioned to expect it after so many years, it’s never easy. The end of the fast is celebrated in style as family and friends crowd around tables of delicious dishes, both savory and sweet, but each country in the Middle East has its own traditions. In fact, you’ll find that each family is likely to have developed their own. Ramadan is a time of servitude, reflection, and self-improvement, and it offers plenty of opportunities to involve yourself in new communities and gain insights about how others observe and honor it.

Curious about what Ramadan looks like to Arab designers, we tapped six of the region’s most illustrious names to share their memories, recipes, and traditions.

1

Huda Al Nuaimi

Best Ramadan memory?
Coming together as a family. We used to sit with my grandfather and laugh and make jokes. That is one of the best things about Ramadan: the ability to spend time with your family and really appreciate them, reflect on what you have, and be grateful for what you have.

Best Ramadan tradition in your home country?
Something we’ve started doing a lot more is engaging with initiatives that happen during Ramadan, so that we can give more to people who need help – that is one of my favorite traditions at the moment.

An activity or tradition that you love to do for Ramadan?
Eating healthily! Literally. Eliminating carbs – that is me right now. And gathering with the girls is amazing. People come together during this time and they make an effort, something we tend to forget because of our hectic lives. Ramadan brings people together, people from different dimensions and lifestyles – that’s a wonderful thing.

Huda Al Nuaimi Ramadan memories
Photo: Courtesy of Huda Al Nuaimi
2

Rami Al Ali

Best Ramadan memory?
Fasting as a kid was not an easy task, especially during the summer days when there wasn’t much to do and very limited entertainment. Therefore, gathering around the table at iftar was something I looked forward to every day because it makes you aware of those who are not fortunate enough. This is the only time you get a sense of what unfortunate children go through.

Best Ramadan tradition in your home country?
The exchange of home-cooked food between neighbors and loved ones.

An activity or tradition that you love to do for Ramadan?
Connect more socially – not necessarily only with those who are fasting, but with all those near and dear. The sense of togetherness is the main element during Ramadan.

Rami Al Ali portrait Ramadan memories
Photo: Courtesy of Rami Al Ali
3

Nadine Kanso

Best Ramadan memory?
My best memory would be the days when we were young and would drive to Saida to have our iftar with my grandmother. We would all gather around her amazing home-cooked dishes.

Best Ramadan tradition in your home country?
The kayaker bil joe dessert alongside mint tea with homemade orange-blossom water.

An activity or tradition that you love to do for Ramadan?
I do not fast myself, but I always make sure we eat at the iftar timing, inviting friends and coworkers and serving them home-cooked meals. It makes me happy.

Nadine Kanso portrait - Ramadan memories
Photo: Courtesy of Nadine Kanso
4

Faiza Bouguessa

Best Ramadan memory?
I would say my best memory would be when I was a teenager and my father would wake me in the early mornings of Ramadan to have suhoor with my mother and three brothers. Those moments always felt very special.

Best Ramadan tradition in your home country?
We don’t really have a tradition during Ramadan in France – if anything, it is actually very difficult to observe the traditions of Ramadan in a European country. In Algeria, my family always make it a very important tradition to have guests over for iftar every single day of the month.

An activity or tradition that you love to do for Ramadan?
I don’t really have a favorite activity, but as a Muslim, I always feel very blessed to be living in an Arab country – especially during Ramadan. It makes it so special, and everyone is happy.

Faiza Bouguessa Ramadan memories
Photo: Courtesy of Faiza Bouguessa
5

Lubna Al Zakwani

Best Ramadan memory?
All Ramadan memories are special to me. I cannot forget the first time I invited family and friends for an iftar that I cooked myself.

Best Ramadan tradition in your home country?
Ramadan traditions are similar in the GCC, and the most important ones are on the table. You’ll find all the women in the family gather before iftar in the kitchen, and each one is busy preparing a special dish on her own. Iftar is never free from all kinds of dates, and we are lucky because my family owns a factory that makes gourmet dates. You can imagine the various kinds, like the ones stuffed with fruits and chocolate. We also make sure that we have luqaimat with Arabic coffee.

An activity or tradition that you love to do for Ramadan?
Besides the usual daily activity that we do like – taraweh and prayers in the last ten days – we make sure that we spend Ramadan with family members, relatives, and friends. We also make sure we do charitable activities, like visiting the elderly. The month is also full of nights spent in a Ramadan tent,  enjoying traditional drinks like sahlab.

Lubna Al Zakwani Ramadan Memories
Photo: Courtesy of Lubna Al Zakwani
6

Selma Benomar

Best Ramadan memory?
It is when we all, as a family, meet together with our cousins in our grandmother’s house and around the iftar table. It was – and still is – the best Ramadan memory.

Best Ramadan tradition in your home country?
In Morocco, we have special dishes and recipes for Ramadan like chebakia and sellou, and they are special to the holy month as we don’t usually make them other times of the year.

An activity or tradition that you love to do for Ramadan?
A nice suhoor with family and friends.

Selma Benomar Ramadan Memories
Photo: Courtesy of Selma Benomar
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