Yemeni singer, Fouad Al Kebsi and his brother Akram, sit with guests for the Iftar meal at their family house in Sanaa on Tuesday. Reuters
At the thought of breaking his Ramadan fast with a snack of sambusa, a deep-fried savoury pastry triangle popular in Yemen, Issa Al Shabi's face lights up with joy.
On a street in the capital Sanaa, bustling with shoppers stocking up on tasty treats for Iftar, the meal observant Muslims have after sunset during the Islamic month of fasting, Shabi grins and his eyes shine in anticipation.
"The sambusa is a beautiful food, and tastes delicious," he says, jabbing the air with his hand for emphasis. "Especially so during this blessed month."
A baker takes dishes of rawani dessert out of a wood-fired oven. Reuters
Ramadan brings out a zeal among Muslims everywhere for particular memory-laden foods.
Sambusa stuffed with vegetables or meat are found across the Middle East and are a cousin of the South Asian samosa.
In Yemen, they are a much-loved tradition and a business opportunity for those who know how to make the best ones.
"People compete to get the best sambusa," Shabi says, adding that shops known for their cleanliness, the skill of their staff and the quality of their ingredients fill with jostling customers.
A worker waves the dough as he prepares pastry sheets of sambusa snacks. Reuters
For Yemenis able to spend, the joy of a crispy sambusa, spongy rawani or syrupy baklava is at the heart of the Ramadan experience.
These traditional treats, enjoyed at Iftar, keep people going through the night until they resume their fast at dawn, refraining from eating or drinking throughout the day.
"You can consider them as one of the main meals. People crave them after fasting, after the fatigue, exhaustion and thirst," says Fuad Al Kebsi, a popular singer, sitting down with family and friends to share sweets for Iftar.
Dishes of rawani dessert are baked in a wood-fired oven. Reuters
For those with a sweet tooth, Ali Abd whisks a bowl of eggs into a cloud before adding flour and vanilla. Tins of his yellow rawani cake are baked in a wood-fired furnace before being cut and drenched in aromatic syrup.
The draw of sweets from one particular shop he rates highly brought Muhammad Al Bina from his house on the edge of town into central Sanaa. "The sweets are awesome. Trust me!" he says, beaming.
The Holy Month of Ramadan is only a week away and a clinical dietician/consultant nutritionist from Dubai has noted some factors to consider, relative to the ensuing Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, even as fasting has been proved to improve general health, the reason for it having become a lifestyle such as the interval or intermittent fasting.
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The aid package was administered in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and the following up of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC).
An expert has emphasised the importance of following a healthy Ramadan lifestyle with regular exercise and proper eating habits that helps get adequate calories divided between the Iftar and Suhoor meals with balanced proportions.
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