Food, drinks and nostalgia fill Iftar of expatriate bachelors

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Food, drinks and nostalgia fill Iftar of expatriate bachelors

Sharjah - Ahmad Smadi, Mohammed Essa and Mohammed Assaf open their fast at a restaurant in Al Qasba, Sharjah. Living alone has made these bachelors appreciate their families more.

By Sherouk Zakaria

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Published: Wed 22 Jun 2016, 10:42 PM

Ending fast in a familial atmosphere brings about a special sense of delight, but I never knew that having Iftar with three young men would be equally joyful. 
Arriving at 6.30pm to Al Qasba in Sharjah, I met the Jordanians Ahmad Smadi, Mohammed Mahmoud Essa and Mohammed Assaf who live alone in UAE. 
The three met through mutual friends in the UAE, but each has his own story. 
"I am not the original Mohammed Assaf," joked Assaf, referring to the popular Palestinian Arab Idol winner and singer. 
As we take our seats at a restaurant recommended by Essa, Assaf tells me: "This is the last Ramadan I will spend alone as I am getting married next year." He came to the UAE in 2014 to work at Emirates Transport. 
It is the first Ramadan for Smadi in the UAE. The assistant public relations manager who left Jordan nine months ago is experiencing the country's heat for the first time. "It is very hot," he said. 
Recalling Ramadan back home, Smadi said he misses uniting with his family of seven over the table. "The holy month was the only time my siblings and I gathered to break our fast. Our busy schedules always kept us apart." 
After being constantly surrounded by family and relatives, Smadi's days are now limited to work and home. 
If not with his friends, he ends his fast at home with simple sandwiches, especially after several failed attempts to cook. "Back home, my mother would wake me up for Suhoor, but here I am on my own. If I do not wake up, I do not eat," he said. 
As Maghrib azan is heard, the trio end their fast over dates and water. After rushing to get their food from the buffet, they recall Jordan's feelings of celebration. 
Dishes like mansaf (lamb cooked in fermented dried yogurt and served with rice), sambousek and hummus are Ramadan traditions, along with desserts like knafa and qatayef (sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts). 
Specific themes of festivity made their homeland experience different. Assaf said decorations would light up Jordanian streets a week before Ramadan starts and street vendors would roam around selling juices just for the holy month. Greetings of families and friends and the Mesaharaty (a person who wakes people up to have suhoor) are other deep-rooted traditions missed. 
Though fasting in the UAE is easier, there is no joy of being surrounded by the loved ones. 
Assaf, who ends most of his fasts alone on dates and milk, said: "I know how to cook, but Iftar has no meaning without family." 
He added: "Living alone made me appreciate my family more. Now I understand the true meaning of a sister, brother and parents." 
The expat who is closest to his young siblings stated that sometimes he wakes up from a dream of hugging his brothers. "While we usually complain about Jordan's tough life, we cannot stop missing it when we are far away," said Assaf. 
Essa, who has been in the country for only four months, finds it easier since some of his siblings and cousins are residents of the UAE, too. Yet, nothing replaces the get-together with the big family. 
"I have five siblings and 28 nephews and nieces in Jordan. The holy month becomes a different experience with them," he said. "When you live alone, you have to do everything by yourself." 
After the laughter and chatter that continued for nearly two hours, I bid farewell to the young men at 9.30pm. My encounter with them left me with strange feeling of positivity and thankfulness for the blessing of family.

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