Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and Muslims observe a complete fast from dawn until sunset. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid al-Fitr, “the Festival of Breaking the Fast.” As it is based on the lunar calendar, the dates of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr change every year - for 2022, Ramadan started in the evening of April 1st, and will end on the evening of May 1st.
gLoBaL ERG members Asma Aldaghar, Najm us Saqib, Shahzeb Siddiqui, and Ziad Bousaleh shared more about this celebration.
What does Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr mean to you, personally?
Photo credit: Asma Aldaghar
Asma: In Dubai where I grew up, you can instantly feel Ramadan’s distinctive atmosphere. There were colorful lanterns hanging over the buildings and restaurants, spectacular evening markets and endless coffee houses that stayed open till 4:00 am in the morning. My family, friends and I used to spend countless nights in Jumeirah, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Dubai, for late night Suhor, great Arabic live music, endless discussion about our lives and livelihood while sipping on dark Arabic coffee and munching on dates stuffed with walnuts and coconuts.
Dubai's approach to Ramadan was to include everyone, whether you were practicing Muslim or non-Muslim and that comes from its unique diverse population - it is a metropolitan city with an impressive 200 nationalities from across the globe. Thus, Ramadan for me is a month of reflection, tolerance, forgiveness and most importantly it is the month of love.
Najm: To me, Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr are the most important occasions of the year. Ramadan is the time to boost the spiritual level by being involved in more prayers/supplications than normal routine. There is more 'barakah' (blessing) in time and almost everything. It is a very good/easy time for a person to start a good habit and abstain from a bad habit.
Meeting family, relatives and friends is the most exciting part of Eid-al-Fitr. Also, various types of food and feasts are essential to the Eid. This is the first time I am spending Ramadan/Eid-al-Fitr here in the US, it's a good experience so far and I hope for the best.
Ziad: Growing up in Dubai, I had the opportunity to experience the various celebrations and traditions that took place during Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr. Ramadan is a month of sacrifice and giving, and a time for people to renew their focus on the spiritual aspect of life and its practical application on our daily life. Fasting during Ramadan reminds people to appreciate their blessings. It offers a lot of health benefits and encourages people to seek a healthier relationship with food. Besides fasting, Ramadan is marked with other traditions, such as giving charity, distributing meals to the needy, social gatherings, and making and sharing traditional desserts.
Shahzeb: Ramadan is a month of fasting in order to get closer to God and increase your spiritual faith. During this month we abstain from food and drink from dawn till sunset. Every day we wake up early (4am) for Suhr which is a breakfast to start fast that must be taken prior to dawn. Ramadan is a month to spend time with family and friends, we typically break our fast together at sunset.
What are some things you do to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr?
Asma: In Dubai, the Eid Al Fitr celebration was huge, extremely festive and beautifully loud. Eid represented the act of giving, families, neighbors and loved ones shared an Eid feast together which included an abundance of middle eastern food and desserts.
In the bay area, Eid is a bit muted but can be noticeable. For me personally, I enjoy Eid by visiting a lovely Palestinian restaurant in Oakland called Dyafa in JLSquare. They have a great Maklouba dish, totally worth the visit!
- Meet family, relatives and friends
- Give 'Eidi' to children
- Get 'Eidi' from elders :)
- Eat delicious food
Shahzeb: Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and on this day we are not allowed to fast. As growing up, on the night prior to Eid we try to spot the moon sighting to see if Eid will be the following day. People celebrate Eid by wearing new clothes, eat a small meal on the day of Eid, go to the Eid Prayers and celebrate time with family and friends. During this day we give gifts or money to children and family.
Ziad: Eid-al-Fitr, which means the “festival of the breaking of the fast”, marks the end of a month of fasting and is regarded as a time to celebrate. People celebrate by wearing new clothes, dressing up children festively, giving charity and donating clothes to the needy, giving gifts and money to children, and gatherings with families and friends.
Ramadan and Eif-al-Fitr are periods of reflection and spiritual growth. They are beautiful times filled with joyous celebrations that unite people and bring families closer together. Ramadan Mubarak and Happy Eid to everybody!
Are there specific tastes, smells, sounds that come to mind?
Any recipes to share?
Photo credit: Asma Aldaghar
Asma: In Dubai, we used to burn incense also called Bukhor in Arabic. Bukhor is a wood chip soaked in perfumed oil. It usually smells like sandalwood with plenty of essential oils. My family shipped me different types of Bukhor so on Eid, I just burn some in the morning while brewing my Arabic coffee.
I also make a special kind of bread called Manakish, which you can make at home using the following ingredients:
Pizza dough; Zaatar; Olive Oil; Mint, olives and cucumber for garnish
You can make your own dough, but it is really easy to just buy pizza dough. On a hot pan fry the Zaatar in the olive oil until fragrant. Spread the Zaatar on the pizza dough and then bake 10 mins in a preheated oven 400F. And Voilà! You have a lovely Mankosha (singular of Manakish).
Photo credit: Asma Aldaghar
Najm: Definitely, the first thing that comes to mind with the name of Eid-al-Fitr is a sweet dish. This Eid is also known as "Sweet Eid" or "Meethi Eid (in Urdu language)" due to the number of sweet dishes prepared on this occasion.
Shahzeb: We typically eat Fruit Chaat which is a mixture of fresh fruits with chaat masala that can be bought in any local Indian store. During Eid we make a few desserts such Kheer or Gajar Halwa which are typically common in Pakistan. Kheer is a sweet dish made from rice and milk there are several variations of Kheer and one of the recipes can be found here. Gajar Halwa is made from carrots and milk which is slow cooked until all milk has evaporated - here is a link to the recipe.
Ziad: A traditional dessert that is commonly served during Ramadan is Qatayef. This delicious dessert is a pancake-like dough that is prepared with different fillings such as walnuts, cheese or cream. Qatayef recipe can be found in this link.
And of course, no Eid celebration is complete without dessert. Maamoul, which are cookies filled with dates or pistachios, is one of the most prominent desserts associated with Eid-al-Fitr celebrations. During the last few days of Ramadan, stores get very busy as people start preparing for Eid celebrations, and the smell of dessert, especially maamoul, fills homes as people prepare loads of dessert to share during Eid celebrations. A detailed recipe of maamoul is in this link.
Do you have any recommendations, such as local events, local shops, restaurants, or other locations?
Asma: As I mentioned, the celebration in the Bay Area can be a bit muted. But if you’d like to visit some Middle Eastern Restaurants, below are my favorites in the Bay Area:
Najm: Local Events: There are various Islamic Mosques/ Islamic Centers that organize daily or weekly Iftars and dinners in Ramadan. Berkeley Masjid (Mosque) that is 1 mile from the Lab organizes daily free Iftar and dinner for more than hundred people. Also, Al-Rahman Masjid in Richmond organizes free Iftar and dinner on Friday to Sunday every week. There are several others too around the area.
Restaurants: In Berkeley, 'Kabana', 'Indus Village' and 'House of Curries' are the good Pakistani restaurants that I've tried. Lots more restaurants to try, being new to the area. One attractive thing is that you can try food of various countries and traditions here in the US.
Thank you to our Contributors!
Asma Aldaghar earned her Bachelors in Computer Science from Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai, where she majored in Network Sciences and Engineering. In Dubai, she was a member of IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE), one of the first organizations to recognize women’s presence in Engineering in the UAE, and participated in many WIE summits. Asma left Dubai, immigrating to California where she has worked as a Network Engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area for multinational corporations such as Google and Amazon, in Los Angeles for AT&T, and in the Central Valley as a Technical Infrastructure Lead for the Turlock Irrigation District. Beyond network engineering, Asma is also keenly interested in scripting, virtualization, automation, building databases, and working with open-source operating systems. In her personal time, Asma enjoys reading, traveling, hiking and baking vegan goods.
Najm us Saqib is a Control Systems Engineer in the Controls Group of ALS-U upgrade project. He is originally from Pakistan and relocated to the U.S. in late 2021 to join the Lab. He is excited for the amazing work that he'll be doing for the ALS upgrade project and is pretty much enjoying the work and environment here at the Lab.
Shahzeb Siddiqui is a HPC Consultant at NERSC that helps support end-users by providing user documentation, training, software, and troubleshooting user tickets. Shahzeb is part of the Exascale Computing Project, a collaboration with several DOE facilities to help build the next exascale computer.
Ziad Bousaleh is a senior design review/construction safety specialist within the EHS division. He acts as the EHS team lead on several projects providing the required EHS support and participating in design and DOE critical decision reviews, as well as ensuring all EHS requirements are fully integrated into the design and construction phases. He became a member of the gLoBaL ERG to promote diversity and equality among the lab community, celebrate diverse cultures and support the Lab's IDEA mission. Ziad recently started running regularly, and plans to run a marathon in the near future.