Dubai: Ethiopian house help's first Ramadan away from home; balancing work, faith

The domestic help works six to eight hours during the holy month, while her employer allows her adequate break time for prayers and rest


Nandini Sircar

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Sameera Kadr. Photo: Supplied
Sameera Kadr. Photo: Supplied

Published: Mon 1 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 1 Apr 2024, 10:18 PM

This is the first Ramadan away from home for 21-one-year-old Sameera Kadr, who arrived in Dubai in June 2023.

The Ethiopian expat works six to eight hours during Ramadan, while her employer allows her adequate break time for prayers and rest.

"My employers follow the same religion as me; therefore, work during Ramadan tends to be lighter, as minimal cooking is required during the daytime. In the evenings, my madam involves me in preparing Ramadan meals. I really like the family I live with; they are kind," said Sameera.

However, Sameera started to work and support her family only after her father suffered from a brain stroke and was unable to take care of the household expenses.

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She and her sister decided to move to the UAE to work as house help and support their family back home.

"After my elder sister moved to Dubai and started working, my mother realised how good and safe it was to live here. We could earn a living and lead a good life here. My elder sister helped me find a job in Dubai. I'm grateful to her for connecting me with a caring family who now sponsors me," said the Ethiopia expat who originally hails from a town called Jimma.

While her sister mainly sends money to support her son's education and build a house for her family, Sameera aims to build a home for her parents and younger siblings.

"I also aim to have some decent savings so that my parents can get me married. Additionally, I am supporting my younger brother's education."

My employers encourage me to spend time in prayer

Sharing her routine with Khaleej Times, Sameera said she usually wakes up around 3.45am for suhoor. She begins her day by praying and assisting the family in the kitchen with preparations.

"This doesn't take me more than an hour, and I head back to my room after having suhoor and clearing the dishes. Although I am from Ethiopia and my sponsors are from India, I enjoy their cuisine. During Ramadan, my employers encourage me to recite the Holy Quran, take prayer breaks and make the most of this blessed month."

Later, by mid-afternoon, after finishing the basic cleaning and cooking with the lady of the house, she again retires to her room only to come and help with iftar preparations towards the evening.

"During iftar, I eat what the family eats and enjoy their dishes. I relish eating dishes made with yoghurt and boiled potatoes — yoghurt being a personal favourite of mine — alongside fruits, chickpea dishes, and fried fritters. After that, I attend to the dishes before engaging in prayer and a brief period of rest. The family doesn't eat dinner, so there are no post-iftar chores besides kitchen cleanup."

Sameera pointed out that she can allocate ample time to prayer and Quran recitals again.

"This is my first Ramadan away from home, but I thank God that he has placed me with a good family that takes care of me. My sister is also nearby, so I don't feel very far away from home. I keep speaking to my family over Zoom, so I don't feel I am away from them. Hopefully, I will see my family in Ethiopia during Eid A Adha."

Ramadan nights in Dubai

The new expat stressed that she deeply appreciates Ramadan because it's a sacred time filled with blessings, and she expressed how these blessings manifest in different facets of her life.

"During this month, work seems less burdensome, allowing me more time for prayer, reflection, recitation, and relaxation. Additionally, I cherish the moments I spend connecting with my family over phone calls.

"Another aspect I enjoy is accompanying my sponsor's family for shopping outings, especially in the beautifully adorned streets of the UAE during Ramadan. This experience is particularly special to me as it reminds me of the festive atmosphere in my hometown. I feel truly blessed to witness Ramadan in this unique country, and I am thankful to God for this opportunity," said the Ethiopian.


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