Ramadan cheers up the common Yemeni - GulfToday

Ramadan cheers up the common Yemeni

David Oh

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been working hard to bring peace to the war-torn country.

If only man could shun deep differences, leading to deep crises, our world would have been like a child’s playground. We would have woken up to birds chirping and the breeze blowing like a gypsy’s thoughts, bringing home messages of gaiety and ceaseless bliss.

But man, it seems and history proves, is emotionally structured and irreversibly conditioned to court wealth, land and power. They are humanity’s perennial symbols of dominance and, of course, the root cause of all our differences, which end up in bloody conflicts leaving tens of thousands homeless and without food.

Therefore, what is happening in Yemen is unfortunate, but not surprising. The situation is extremely depressing despite great efforts being made by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia towards a peaceful resolution of crises, sparked by man’s insatiable lust for power.

But the Holy Month of Ramadan has come as a gift from the Maker for the ordinary Yemeni. He can relish some calm in the form of smiles, colour and food.

Issa Al Shabi’s face lights up with joy at the thought of breaking his fast with a snack of sambusa, a deep-fried savoury pastry triangle popular in Yemen. This was revealed in a recent report.

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.” Ramadan brings out a zeal among Muslims everywhere for particular memory-laden foods. Sambusa, stuffed with vegetables or meat, is found across the Middle East and is 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.

Yemen has endured six years of war that has left millions hungry and some parts of the country facing famine-like conditions. The country does have food supplies, but a deep economic crisis has sent prices skyrocketing out of the reach of many.

For Yemenis able to spend, the joy of a crispy sambusa, spongy rawani or syrupy baklava is at the heart of the Ramadan experience.

“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. 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.

One hopes the joyful mood continues because for how long can people suffer for the fallibility of others? It is tragically unique to politics, especially realpolitik and everywhere, that the benefactor invariably transforms into a fountainhead of worry.

Let’s pray that a colourful Eid Al Fitr follows Ramadan and permanent peace follows years of conflict.

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