Faithful and determined, he fasts like any other during Ramadan
Ali Al Ameri has down syndrome, but fasts like everyone else during Ramadan and performs his daily work as a waiter
Smartly dressed in his waiter's uniform, confident and relaxed, Iraqi expat Ali Al Ameri works part-time at a boutique café in Emirates Towers.
He will be turning 18 on Monday (June 4) and has been faithfully and determinedly fasting in Ramadan for five years now. He says he is doing a sacrifice not just to fulfill his religious obligation but also to increase awareness and counter the social stigma for people of determination like him.
"I was able to obtain and sustain employment and I hope my story can change any negative opinions people have of us," Ali tells Khaleej Times, adding: "I also fast like normal people. I do not drink or eat from sunrise to sundown."
Ali, born with down syndrome (DNS), began fasting gradually five years ago, according to his sister Roqaia. "At the beginning, Ali did not eat any food or drink water for half day until, through the years, his mind and body eventually were able to cope fasting for whole day," Roqaia shares.
"Sometimes, when we sense that he is tired, we would ask him to break his fast but he would always refuse. He is piously doing his religious obligation," Roqaia adds.
There are, however, no major changes in Ali's daily routine except that during Ramadan, he has to wake up early for a hearty and healthy suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and the obligatory Fajr or dawn prayer.
After Fajr, Ali takes a quick nap before either going to school or work at around 8am. During Ramadan, Ali works on alternate days and he helps at the café by taking orders or preparing takeaways.
By 1pm, Ali is back home and takes a nap for a few hours before preparing himself for the Asr (afternoon) prayers.
Ali likes to wear a kandura and spends time waiting to break his fast by listening to his father, Arkan, who reads the Quran before Iftar. Sometimes, Ali sits down with his sister Roqaia, older brother Firas or mother Suad.
At their home in Oud Metha, Ali also assists in setting up the table, bringing the food from the kitchen, making his favourite freshly-squeezed orange juice and preparing dates and laban milk for everyone. He breaks his fast with soup, laban and a few dates.
Sometimes, Ali spends Iftar outside with friends and schoolmates from Rashid Centre for the Determined Ones, or at a relatives' house. Like last year, he is also planning to have an Iftar birthday party with family and friends at his house this year.
After Iftar, Ali goes for a walk or light workout before joining his family for Taraweeh prayers. Some nights, he has a quick swim or he plays bowling or watches his favourite Iraqi or Kuwaiti TV serials, then retires to bed before midnight.
Family support has always been vital for Ali. His parents' care and stimulating upbringing coupled with a supportive environment allowed him to express himself creatively and productively.
By sharing his story, Ali and his family hope that his faith and "success story" will be replicated with other families who have members with DNS and, more importantly, society will give them equal opportunities and rightly see them as people of faith and determination.
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