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The spirit of Ramadan

News | Published  4 March 2024

Ramadan this year is from 10th March and is an important celebration in the Muslim calendar. We spoke to Lina Saad, chef and cookbook author, about the link between community and family, and fasting and feasting for Ramadan

Ramadan is the 9th month of the lunar calendar where Muslims enjoy a spiritual exercise of fasting from dawn to dusk. Abstaining from food and drink until dusk is done to act as a reminder of the blessings we have and exercise patience and compassion with others.

Whenever my family and friends speak of Ramadan, the first thing that comes to mind is food. Simply because food is a universal language of love and generosity, and part of giving is to feed others and loved ones during the holy month. It is one of the many things I love about Ramadan in the UK, which really motivated me to write my second book, Ramadan Express. 

Observing Ramadan in different parts of the world throughout my life such as Sierra Leone, Beirut and London, really grew my passion for seeing different local communities and how they create a high spirit during Ramadan through food. From big feasts and lots of families and friends gathering to outings to local restaurant spots and being exposed to international cuisines and people from different walks of life. It was exciting and taught me so much and memories that I hold closely to my heart till now.

What I can vouch, is that in London my experience of Ramadan was amplified. This vibrant city that we all call home, holds a vast community that has foods from every corner of the world and it all comes together throughout the month. Communities with different backgrounds gather around mosques for prayers, restaurants to break fast and homes to eat suhoor (before dawn to start another day of fasting all over again). It truly is what high spirits represent. 

The beauty of supermarket aisles with oriental products, spring rolls and a variety of spice and marinades, the inclusivity of being diverse and accepted as part of a large community is the essence of Ramadan in the UK. You can cook cuisines from every touch point of the world and discover new flavours every day. Oh my, the list is exciting!

I remember when I was a teenager living in Beirut, we all waited for the “Azan” (call for Sunset’s Prayers) and I just rushed to the table to devour the best of what my aunt would have prepared.

Fatoush and lentils soup are the main stars of the table and that refreshing “Jallab” (raisins and dates syrup with crushed ices and pine nuts) drink or even lemonade is refreshing. I sit with my grandfather, aunties and my cousins and we just eat and listen to our “jedo’s” (grandfather) stories and adventures. Imagine doing this for a whole month, the beauty of a family gathered around the table, eating, talking and having a good time. This is the beautiful spirit of Ramadan.

Pulses and vegetables play a key role in dishes eaten during Ramadan. From lentils and salads, to lemons and herbs, it is a time to sample the variety of plants eaten around the world and how they can be a delicious centre-piece of a celebratory table.

Contribution by:

Lina Saad
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Lina Saad is a TV Chef, international award winning author of Ramadan Express and The Land of White. She was also featured in “The Story of Ramadan”, available on Netflix.

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