Traditional clothes, flowers, long wait times: How Kerala expats in UAE celebrated Onam

People thronged popular restaurants in Dubai to relish Onasadhya

Photos: Shihab
Photos: Shihab

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Thu 8 Sep 2022, 5:46 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Sep 2022, 6:18 PM

Thousands of Malayalee expatriates in the UAE dressed-up in traditional attires, made colourful flower carpets (Pookalam) and waited long hours for their annual feast called Onasadhya on the day of Thiruvonam - the last day of the ten-day countdown to Onam.

Onam is a harvest festival, observed by Keralites worldwide, and is often accompanied by a host of cultural programs.

Huge crowds thronged popular restaurants in Karama to relish the yearly feast - Onasadhya. Some expats had to wait up to two hours to get their sadhya. “We booked (for a table) and were expecting some crowds,” said Anish, who was waiting with a group of friends. “But this is way beyond what we expected.” Some others arrived as early as 11 to beat the crowd.

The Onasadhya is a feast of rice and several different kinds of curries, each meant to activate our tastebuds. While the pickles are meant to promote gut health, the sambhar and rasam ensure good digestion and nutritious value.

Flowers form an integral part of Onam celebrations as families adorn the entrances of their homes with intricately designed floral carpets called Athapookalam. Several offices and businesses made these floral carpets using fresh, colourful flowers and petals.

Historically, Onam celebrates the mythical king of Kerala, Mahabali, who is said to have been a just ruler. During the celebrations, it is common for people to dress up as the pot-bellied ruler who carried an umbrella.

For 2.5-year-old little Jiyan, this is his first Onam he has experienced after the Covid-19 pandemic. Dressed in the traditional Kerala attire of mundu and a shirt, he posed in front of the pookalam.

Colleagues and friends Keerthy, Shruthi and Moushami were in Karama to enjoy an Onasadhya with their office mates, when they stopped for a selfie with this Mahabali.

Many expats took time out of their busy schedules to have Onasadhya along with their friends and family at restaurants around the city.

Keralite Sai Krishna brought her non-Malayali colleagues Aiyappa and Charu, dressed in the traditional Malayali attire. “It is a little difficult to balance the mundu (waistcloth) and the towel on my shoulder,” said Charu.


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