A small community reunites in a big way

A small community reunites in a big way
The 17 families and bachelors were treated with traditional Sri Lankan Iftar by the organisers.

Dubai - About 80 people from Akurana village, in Srilanka, met and ended their fast together at the Mushrif Park in Dubai.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Mon 19 Jun 2017, 8:14 PM

Last updated: Mon 19 Jun 2017, 10:19 PM

What started as a WhatsApp group of about 10 members from a small village called Akurana in Sri Lanka few years ago, has now bloomed into a full community of about 150 members.
A handful of Sri Lankan expats from Akurana, a village with 100 per cent Muslim population in the island nation, got together in Dubai and decided to set up a WhatsApp group, United Akurana, in search of their countrymen. Last Ramadan, they met for the first time at a community Iftar they organised. This Ramadan, the meeting, however, got bigger and better.
Last year, it was only bachelors of Akurana who met at the Iftar but this time the gathering was a lively lot that comprised men, women and kids too.
About 80 people from Akurana village met and ended their fast together at the Mushrif Park in Dubai.
"I felt I was back in my village," said Ziyana Amjad, who is a Dubai resident for the last 20 years.
"This Iftar is very special and will stay with me for a long time as this was the first time we ladies of Akurana met and shared tales of our childhood. We get to meet Sri Lankan expats often but this Iftar was a reunion of people of our closely-knit village. I felt as if I was sitting in our village with my people. The dialect, the traditional food, the tales of our village brought back so many memories," she told Khaleej Times. 
Ziyana also said that this Ramadan reunion was particularly helpful for some newbies in the UAE, who felt homesick and lost as they didn't know many people here. " We met couples who have recently moved to the UAE and gave them the moral support they needed. The women also formed a separate WhatsApp group where they share their concerns and plan their next meeting. In fact, the fresh off the boat Akuranians felt so happy after meeting their compatriots at this community Iftar that they have planned more such get-togethers," Ziyana added.
The 17 families and bachelors were treated with traditional Sri Lankan Iftar by the organisers (a handful of seniors from Akurana) who had ordered a lavish spread from a Sri Lankan restaurant in Sharjah. The special Iftar included the famous beef kanji, which is a kind of porridge or stew made from garlic-flavoured rice (red and white rice mixed), beef, coconut milk and spices such as mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves.
Other dishes that adorned the spread included short-eats like pastries, patties, rolls, cutlet and even home made cakes by some families. And finally, they bonded over home-made tea that some families got in flasks. 
"I shared my story to comfort and inspire some young lads and couples from Akurana who have recently landed in the city and are worried about their future as some don't have jobs while others miss home," said Amjad, one of the organisers.
" When I first came to Dubai in the late 90s, I had thought I would earn for two years and go back. It has been 20 years now and I am still in Dubai.
"Although I miss my village Akurana, I don't want to leave this city due to the facilities, freedom and security here."
Reminiscing about Ramadan in Akurana, Amjad said: "During Ramadan, our village would have a different feel. In those days, people would go from home to home waking each other up for Suhoor; mosques would be full till late night; prayers would be soulful and lengthy. And the UAE is not very different from my hometown. Here too there is a special feel to Ramadan, the streets are buzzing with activities, the mosques go full and there is abundant food available for everyone."
While the families dispersed at 9pm, the bachelors bonded some more over a football match from 9pm to 10pm.

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