'Let's not forget the true meaning of the holy month'

 Lets not forget the true meaning of the holy month
Although Ramadan means exciting dishes being served on the Ansari dinner table, Imtiyaz believes Muslims must remember the true meaning of the holy month.

Abu Dhabi - For their small family of three - Imtiyaz, his wife and their three-year-old son Zayan Ahmed - Iftar is a fairly simple and quieter affair.

By Jasmine Al Kuttab

Published: Thu 15 Jun 2017, 9:04 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Jun 2017, 11:10 PM

When it comes to celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, the Ansari family like to keep their Indian traditions alive, even if when they are more than 1,400 miles away from their home in New Delhi. 
Shanifa Ansari, 26 and her husband Imtiyaz Ahmed Ansari, explained why they wait all year for Ramadan.
"We wait all year for this holy month because it is such a special month for us," said Imtiyaz, who has been living in the UAE for over 12 years, and currently works at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). 
Imtiyaz said back in New Delhi the families would have grand Iftars, gathering family members and community people for a lavish meal.
But now here for their small family of three - Imtiyaz, his wife and their three-year-old son Zayan Ahmed - it's a fairly simple and quieter affair.
However, Shanifa's Iftar - comprising dishes using traditional recipes - helps the family reminisce the Iftars back home and talk about their favourite dishes to Ziyan. "We try to stick to our roots, through these traditional recipes," Shanifa told Khaleej Times.
Once a week, the family gets together with their friends from Dubai and Abu Dhabi and enjoy a lavish feast together during Ramadan.
"My wife enjoys cooking and at such get-togethers she cooks for around seven families, and after Iftar we all pray together. The whole feel of being with your friends here, eating and praying together with all makes us feel like we are back home."
Shanifa, who has been living in UAE for five years, said although she tries to create new dishes for Iftar, it is her mother's traditional recipes that keep making a comeback. 
"Traditionally, women would wake up early and start preparing the Iftar, but since it is just my husband and I, who are fasting, I begin preparing Iftar in the afternoon, until right before we end our fast." 
"I love to cook new dishes while sticking to our traditional recipes, especially when it comes to the spices, blends and ways of preparation."
Shanifa says their all-time favourit and staple is definitly the 'fruit chaat'. The dish consists various sliced fresh fruits, such as mangos, apples, strawberries, bananas, kiwi, pineapple, berries and grapes, often sprinkled with black pepper, cumin powder and black salt.
"We first end our fast with dates and then start with the fruit chaat," she said.
Like the popular Vimto beverage, which is especially loved during Ramadan by millions of families in the UAE, the Ansaris like to drink their own traditional beverage, 'rooh afza,' which is a concentrated fruity-rose beverage, that is best served mixed with cold milk or water and ice.
"This drink is a must for Indian and Pakistani families at Iftar time. But I give it a little twist. I also add lemon to it," she added.
The famous 'pakora' is also served at the Ansari dinner table. The crispy snack consists various mixed vegetables mixed in a flour batter, similar to the traditional fritter, but filled with opulent Indian spices. 
For the main course, the couple enjoy digging-in a 'chana masala,' which is a curry that consists a variety of chickpeas and vegetables, including tomatoes and onions, and mixed with herbs and spices, including chiles, ginger, coriander seeds and garlic.
Shanifa also prepares 'mutton korma,' which is a succulent lamb curry, as well as the famous tandoori chicken, biryani, and her husband's all-time favourite, the 'shami kebab.'
The family also enjoy their traditional Indian deserts during Ramadan, including the milky rice pudding 'kheer,' as well as 'zarda,' which is made of sweetened rice, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, and garnished with almonds. 
Although Ramadan means exciting dishes being served on the Ansari dinner table, Imtiyaz believes Muslims must remember the true meaning of the holy month.
"Although we all get excited about what is being prepared for Iftar, simply because food makes everyone happy, what makes us more happy and excited, is how we observe Ramadan."
"We have been fasting since the age of nine, and have not missed any fasting since, so the holy month is not only a time of joy for us, but it is also a time to show your devotion to your faith."
Imtiyaz noted that one must pray and do acts of kindness and generosity to their community members, as well as to those in need. 
"My wife does not only cook Iftar for us, but she also cooks for our neighbours, because this is part of our religion, custom and traditions." 
"My favorite time is the 15 minutes before Iftar, because of our family - although we are only three - all gather on the table and pray together, even my three-year-old son prays with us."

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