Eid Mubarak from Jamaica! Yup, that’s the sunset for the end of Ramadan, out of my hotel window in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Gorgeous isn’t it? And yes, I’ll be spending Eid here…at least the first day (don’t you know it’s a 3 day celebration?)
Part of my job involves travel. This is not news to my regular readers, who will occasionally see a post on a country or town when I haven’t cooked in a while (or snuck a recipe from my mother). Travel during Ramadan is so frequently the case, that I had a post on fasting in hotels – The Ramadan Business Traveler. But for Eid, I generally try to be home* with the family, or in Guyana with my sister and her posse. Celebration is best among loved ones after all.
There should have been 4 Eids celebrated in Barbados, for my two years of study there, but I suspect I managed to fly home to Trinidad for half of them. (Cue the Jamaicans’ and other northerners’ complaints about Trinis in Cave Hill being able to hop home during the semester since we right next door). My friends and housemates didn’t mind my flying home since my return would be accompanied with barfi and gulab jamoon. And if I didn’t make it home, homesickness would lead me to trying to make sawine myself. There was a goodly portion of the Bajan Muslim population around the Cave Hill area, and one of them would invite all and sundry including his tenants to have some biryiani for Eid. I love that biriyani – they were Gujarati and it had peas (a little too lazy to google to see if those are connected). They’d fry up tonnes of onions to layer into this humungous pot and I would snag any leftovers from friends who weren’t into spiced rice. After all, living mostly pescatarian in Bim made one really appreciated these moments of (free) meat I also recall being invited to a post Eid get-together with some other Bajan Muslims with a sort of potluck array of Indian sweets of which I only really remember the gulab jamoon type ball rolled in coconut flakes. Now THERE’s an idea.
I was also a student in Edinburgh, but a little older and surrounded by Muslim shops – the Edinburgh Central Mosque was practically across the street from my residence after all. Eid celebrating during that year was less about trying to find free food and more about finding a way to celebrate on my own. Not that there’s no free food. The Mosque Kitchen, which serves food out of a small kitchen run by volunteers and you eat on makeshift tables in the courtyard, was actually shortlisted for a national restaurant award. Cheap, hot, good Indian food. And they served up food free for everyone breaking fast during Ramadan. Yum. I love curry like that.And the mosque got lots of free dates from Saudi and shared massive packages out – I didn’t even have to collect my own; one Friday a fellow student from my floor dropped off mine I really liked going to that mosque – it was practically in the middle of campus, but was not part of the University – it was diverse and active, participated in the Festival and even if I was there for a short time among thousands of people I never met, it was easy to go and participate in anything.
But back to Eid. My first Eid in Edinburgh was so soon after my arrival I didn’t plan anything. Ramadan that year was a great way to get to know my kitchen mates, as they all watched me fast and asked questions about Ramadan and of course, experienced the Chennette-is-fasting-and-homesick-therefore-cooks phenomenon. This blog is largely founded on the emailed recipes sent by my mother during that period. By the time Eid ul Adha rolled around in February, I was more prepared. I have fond memories of going to Eid salaah with a Palestinian student from the building, and being turned around in the building as they moved the sisters’ down to the exhibition hall as everywhere was needed for extra people. People were praying outside the doors, on the steps, in the car park. Everywhere. It was such a madhouse that when I went to look for my friend’s shoes afterwards (she’s visually impaired) I was convinced they were gone and we thought we had our ‘Eid to remember’ story. Fortunately, her shoes were there after all! But I planned a dinner that week for a few friends just to celebrate and even though my wallet was stolen after I withdrew my “Eid money”, I scorched the milk for the sawine, and I didn’t have the nisab level for the Kurbani…it was great and felt like Eid…funny enough, I think I am in regular contact with about 5 of those 7 people I invited. After almost 7 years.
So, although I miss the family traditions and celebrations, and I am here in Mo Bay for work, I have to admit that I am looking forward to Eid in Jamaica. When I called to get the salaah time and place I felt a little thrill that there was a jamaah in Montego Bay and I could get all dressed up for Eid prayer and go see how they do it here. As someone pointed out on Twitter, there could be curry goat! And it would be halaal So check back for my report on Eid in Montego Bay, Jamaica – I hope I don’t stand out with my camera like a tourist…although not in slippers and beachwear.
So I am looking forward to tomorrow. Although I do admit that breaking fast by yourself on the end of Ramadan in a hotel when everywhere else people are calling and wishing each other Eid Mubarak and asking if you see the moon… well, it’s just a little sad.
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