'We must start light just the way our Prophet did'
Mohamed Al Ameen said Sudanese food is a mixture of Arabic, Turkish and other international cuisines. But for Ramadan, most Sudanese households turn to traditional dishes
We broke the long day fast by drinking a traditional unique Sudanese drink hilu-mir and and tabalde, both bitter acacia fruits; with the Sudanese family of Mohamed Al Ameen, his wife Sara Diyab and two children Sakeena and Saad.
Since we reached minutes before Iftar, we found the whole family gathered at the dinner table waiting to end their fast. Although the table was adorned with colourful dishes, when we heard the azan (for Maghrib prayer and also time to end the fast ), everyone at the table opened their fast wiith just dates and water. " That is the way of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and it is indeed the best as we must start light with the most nutritious food item, which can be none other than dates," said Mohamed Al Ameen.
We then went on to drink the traditional Sudanese drink Hilumur (made from corn flour and spices) and fruit Tabaldi which has the ability to prevent thirst and also is known give protection from several diseases.
Hilumur (literally translates to sweet-bitter) a typical member of the authentic Sudanese Iftar, is a special Ramadan drink prepared from sorghum and different spices.
While taking our meal, we discuss about various Ramadan traditions in the Arab world especially prevalent in the Sudanese traditions.
Mohamed Al Ameen said Sudanese food is a mixture of Arabic, Turkish and other international cuisines. But during Ramadan, most Sudanese households turn to traditional Sudanese dishes.
Other Ramadan cuisine also include aseedah, a porridge made from sorghum, and gurrasah, made of wheat flour, salads, and other highly nutrient-rich foods and also the main traditional food including kisra, made from sorghum and eaten with a mixture of powdered okra and dried beef - called sharmoot or taglya.
Some people also add yoghurt to this, and then it's called nemiaya. It's often added to hot dishes or served with a side sauce, to add texture and flavor to the main dishes. "We also drink hibiscus and lemon juice, and various kinds of arcadia. This is in addition to fruit juices like guava, mango, orange and strawberry, " Sara said
The Sudanese Iftar is a smorgasbord of traditional foods and the lady of the house Sara gave us a brief on how women before the month of Ramadan prepare for certain food items used regularly to make Iftar. For Sara these include preparing dry onion and dry meat.
"My mother is the one who prepares all traditional food in Sudan and she is the one who either prepares it and gets for me these pre-prepared items from Sudan or else she sends it with some other family member coming from Sudan." Sara said that preparartions for the holy month begin well before Ramadan. " We do the shopping and buy foodstuff like dried fruits and peach, tea, coffee, from local market. We even buy new dinner sets in order to receive the guest who came to end their fast with us."
Coming to the food part, Sara explained that she prepares the traditional drink hilumur as her mother did back home as many women got together to make the process much quicker, Seham and Sara has shared cooking of food and they prepared traditional food including the aseedah, tagalya, and and basic salads and appetisers (with plenty of peanuts. The main courses are followed by delicious desserts of ligamat, basta and um ali.
"The holy month brings us all together. It is a period of special significance to family and we all get to spend some quality time with each other," Sara said.
This year, Sara's mother and sister came to spend Ramdan with them.
Sara's other sister Siham and her husband Mohamed who live in Sharjah also joined us at the Iftar.
Calling Ramadan as the season of faith, Mohamed Al Ameen said: "We are keen to spend our nights going for Taraweeh prayers and reciting the Holy Quran. We also invite friends and family to join us for prayers."
After the hearty Iftar meal we enjoyed while discussing various Sudanese traditions and food, we joined Mohamed and Sara in watching a few Ramadan related programmes on the TV. As the clock struck 8 in the evening, we thanked the family and headed straight to the mosque for the Taraweeh prayers.
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