Syrians in Europe mark Ramadan with home rituals

Ramadan decorations in a Syrian family's home in the Netherlands - March 25, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

Ramadan decorations in a Syrian family's home in the Netherlands - March 25, 2023 (Enab Baladi)


Enab Baladi – Reem Hamoud

The month of Ramadan has its own special character among Muslim nations, as it is associated with spiritual, social rituals, and cultural practices that vary from one country to another.

With around 13 years since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, millions of Syrian refugees and residents abroad, especially in European countries, have been deprived of experiencing these atmospheres.

Syrian refugees have been dispersed across Europe for years, and many of them miss family gatherings, hearing the call to prayer, and the Ramadan atmosphere, which reflects on their feelings during this month.

The feeling of the loss of intimate and private details among refugees has generated the desire to create new rituals that compensate them and bring joy to their souls, as well as reconnect their children with the traditions and values of the holy month, through simple tools, according to what families of refugees who spoke with Enab Baladi said.

Longing for the Ramadan atmosphere

In countries not characterized by religious culture or special rituals for occasions like Ramadan, where social relationships are different than those in Arab societies, Ramadan does not seem very different. However, it carries with its arrival feelings that intensify within the refugees, especially those who lived and spent long periods of their lives in Syria or within Islamic countries, where Ramadan atmospheres in alleys, markets, and homes were never absent.

Sarah (aged 25), a young Syrian woman living with her family in the city of Roden in the Netherlands for more than three years, told Enab Baladi that the first Ramadan she spent in the Netherlands was the most difficult for her, especially since it came shortly after her refuge, as she was not accustomed to the different environments and daily habits in the city and the distance from the social life that she was used to during her previous residence in Turkey.

Sarah, who hails from Maarat al-Numan in the countryside of Idlib, and her family of six people, moved to the Netherlands after residing in the southern Turkish city of Hatay for about 7 years, which is considered one of the top ten cities hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees, and its majority speaks Arabic and has Syrian origins, according to reports, making the Ramadan atmosphere in the city similar to the rituals in Syria, as Sarah describes.

She spoke to Enab Baladi about the difference in atmosphere after attending several gatherings involving her family and friends from the Syrians residing in the Netherlands, where they recalled the changes in employee working hours according to the call to prayer, and the crowded streets in the hours leading up to iftar during the years they spent in Syria.

Sarah also recalled the Ramadan atmosphere in Maarat al-Numan and the city of Antakya where she lived before moving to the Netherlands. She remembered the markets filled with the scent of “maarouk” stuffed with dates, and the vendors of licorice and tamarind drinks who displayed their bags on stalls in front of shops, tempting fasters to buy for the beauty of their presentation, pointing out that the refugees or immigrants living in countries without large Arab and Syrian communities are deprived of these atmospheres.

Encouraging children

Weaker social relations and fewer friends and family in Europe generally reflect on Syrians and Arabs, especially during the month of Ramadan, as their memories abound, and they resort to special rituals that connect them with their heritage and past customs, yet these are still insufficient and “cold,” according to family members who spoke with Enab Baladi.

Refugee families search every year before the arrival of Ramadan for Ramadan atmospheres to help them bridge the gap of estrangement and try to revive their own rituals in front of young children to link them with their culture and to keep them close to their original societies.

The rituals that Syrian refugees try to follow in Europe are mostly limited to what happens inside homes, including decorating them with Ramadan crescents, stars, and lanterns, which are prepared with the participation of small children.

Rama al-Ashqar, a Syrian refugee residing in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany for five years, told Enab Baladi that the decoration in her home is not limited to setting up the crescent. They also build a small tent called “the Ramadan tent,” decorate it with lights with her children, and keep it throughout the month of Ramadan in a room at home, to encourage her children to fast through home activities and intimate atmospheres.

The Syrian refugee, 30 years old and hailing from the Qanawat district in the Syrian capital, Damascus, explained that the state she lives in has houses designated as mosques where Muslims perform Taraweeh prayers and other obligatory prayers during Ramadan and include rooms for women.

Al-Ashqar pointed out that communal prayers in these houses ease the deprivation she has been suffering from for five years, which is not new to her, but the spread of such initiatives and awareness among Germans in her state for Ramadan and their start to display Ramadan decorations are good signs resulting from the ability of the Syrian, Arab, and also Turkish community in Germany to convey the specificity of the month to each other.

Among other rituals that al-Ashqar and her husband adopted is purchasing a clock shaped like the holy Ka’aba that emits the call to prayer at all times and displays Gregorian and Hijri dates, in addition to prayer times and temperature, to evoke some of the Ramadan atmosphere they lived in the Qanawat area with their families and children.

Ramadan dishes accompany refugees

Iftar tables during Ramadan differ from one country to another, but dates remain the main presence at every table among Arab and Muslim communities, which indicates that it unites traditions and Islamic culture.

Sarah told Enab Baladi that Ramadan preparations for her family started a week before the month, from preparing the iftar list and essential groceries, buying dates and juices, and readying tamarind water and licorice.

Licorice and tamarind drinks are not available in Roden, where Sarah and her family live, making them prepare these drinks at home, as they learned the correct way to prepare them.

According to the Syrian families who spoke to Enab Baladi, the most prominent dishes they are still committed to preparing on the Ramadan table are “fattoush,” “sambousek,” and various types of soups.


النسخة العربية من المقال

Propaganda distorts the truth and prolongs the war..

Syria needs free media.. We need your support to stay independent..

Support Enab Baladi..

$1 a month makes a difference..

Click here to support