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|11 May, 2019

Ramadan 2019: Dubai has become a home away from home for expats

The man of the house, Raza Siddiqui, speaks about a little rule he has set for the family every Ramadan

Delicious iftar and heart-warming hospitality, these are the two defining traits of a typical New Delhi Iftar and although away from home for almost 20 years now, the Siddiqui family ensures their values and traditions remain intact.

The man of the house, Raza Siddiqui, speaks about a little rule he has set for the family every Ramadan.

"Back in India, we stayed in a joint family with my two elder brothers and their families, and also with my sisters staying in the vicinity. So Iftars were always done together. And that was one set rule by which our mother raised us - come what may, all brothers and sisters must come together on the table, pray and eat together during Iftar. Since we moved to the UAE, we would miss those Iftars when all the family gathered on the dining table to open the fast," Raza said.

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However, slowly many of the relatives of the Siddiquis also made their way to the UAE and now they have around 10 of them staying in different places around Dubai.

"Although not every day, but for the last 10 years or so we have a set rule for Ramadan for all our extended family members here in the city. The first Iftar of the holy month is always held at our place, wherein we make all our traditional New Delhi dishes, dress traditionally, eat and then pray together."

The foodies of Delhi is how the Siddiquis call themselves and their relatives, who all arrive usually half an hour before Iftar, dressed in traditional attire with men wearing crisp kurta pyjamas and ladies in salwar Kameez.

"This time's Ramadan is special as my elder sister is also here with her children and grandchildren. Apart from that, I have my brother's son and his family also here, so it feels like we are back in New Delhi, sitting and eating with my loved ones. Dubai has now become a home away from home," Raza said.

Raza's wife Nilofer Siddiqui is no less than a master chef and loves to innovate food recipes. "Of course, we have our typical Delhi dishes for Iftar but imagine if we have the same dishes every day for 30 days then it may get boring for all. This is why I give all our dishes some twists in terms of spices or ingredients to bring on some variety to the table."

Their two daughters Mariah and Sarah, both in their 20s, also join their mother in the kitchen to help with Iftar preparations, especially since they host many Iftars for their relatives.

Their Iftar, as Nilofer explained, is a typical north Indian style that comprises hot pakodas with different fillings of onions and sliced potatoes with mint chutney; then comes the typical aloo-dahi chaat. " Aloo-dahi chaat is a staple for us (and for most Delhi Muslims), wherein the boiled potatoes are laden with the special homemade spices, tamarind chutney; I sometimes innovate and add fried fritters instead of boiled potatoes sometimes. We don't usually have aloo-chaat alone, we mix it with chana chaat in our separate bowls (boiled chickpeas with spices) and the taste doubles. The mixing of two dishes is something that is exclusively our family style, " Nilofer said.

The family sums up Iftar with fruit chaat or fruit salad. "Ramadan is the time I get into the kitchen, even without my mother asking me to help. This is because our Delhi Iftar bristles with varied delicacies, which I love making and enjoying with my family. Also, the tantalising aroma of different food items my mother makes keeps me quite entertained in the kitchen, said Nilofer's elder daughter Mariah.

Nilofer also prepares a new street-style fritter that she calls 'rainbow bread pakoda'.

"These are basically mashed potatoes stuffed in bread and coloured with home-made green and red sauce and then deep fried. These are a bit heavy and we have them with tea that will be served after Iftar," she said.

As the body gets renewed with fresh energy and vigour, the Siddiquis thank Allah for all the blessings and split for the Maghrib prayer.

While food plays an important part for the Siddiquis, they ensure they pray on time, avoid going to hotels or restaurants during the holy month, and instead make Ramadan an occasion of not only attaining spirituality but a time to bond with family.

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