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33 HOLY MONTHS IN OMAN: EACH A SPECIAL ONE.

Aftab Patel, chief executive officer of Al Omaniya Financial Services, and his wife Afshan, have seen 33 Ramadans in Oman. They've observed the holy month in every season - starting from spring through to autumn - and cherished the experience equally every year because the emotions always remain same, they say.

Patel and Afshan take out time to be with family and friends over iftar in the month every year. Their two daughters are in Canada and England and the couple is often visited by Dr Daphne Khan, Afshan's mother, who is based in Hyderabad, India.

'I'm from Hyderabad, while Aftab is from a place in the border of Karnataka and Maharashtra, so our iftar meals are often a combination of dishes from both the regions. We have poha (flattened rice dish) and dahi vada (dumplings dipped in yoghurt) as well as haleem. We avoid fried and oily dishes and instead start with sugarcane juice or coconut water. The sugarcane juice is from cane grown in our own garden,' Afshan said.

According to her, it takes about two hours to prepare six-seven items, including starters and desserts, for the iftar meal. She has spent most Ramadans in the last three decades in Oman with her husband, barring a couple of times when she was in London with her daughter for a few days. 'I fasted during Ramadan when I was in London too. Ramadan in every season has a different charm but the experiences and the sense of oneness remains the same,' she said.

Like most Muslim households, iftar at the Patel household starts with dates and juices. Occasionally, there are chaats (savoury snacks). The main course, comprises authentic Hyderabadi delicacies - chana dal (split chickpeas) seasoned with green chillies, haleem, Nargisi kofta (scotch eggs), kebabs - and sometimes pizza. For dessert, phirni and Jouzi halwa - a speciality of Hyderabad - are served. Afshan avoids rice during this meal.

According to Patel, food is an integral part of the life and the culture of Hyderabad. 'People love to cook and feed guests and the variety of dishes in wide and diverse.

'Ramadan is a special month of the year when we divert our attention and focus to God,' Patel said, adding, 'In India, naturally there are more relatives making the month special but we are happy to spend Ramadan here. The environment is apt and conducive to espousing the spirit of the holy month here. People are considerate enough not to eat and drink outdoors, working hours are reduced, iftars are served in every mosque, people are more kind and humble and hence by default it makes us feel spiritual. One can observe a natural calmness and peace all around.'

For Dr Daphne, this is the first Ramadan in Oman and she's happy to be here.

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Publication:Muscat Daily (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:May 28, 2019
Words:518
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