Ramadan is a holy month in Islamic culture. It’s a month that sees Muslims fast from dawn-to-dusk, give back to those less fortunate and a special time for families to gather and celebrate.
We had a chance to sit down with Maha Gorton and her daughter Ayah to find out how they get into the spirit of Ramadan and celebrate with family and friends. Maha is an English/Egyptian mother of 3, creator of Little Farasha and executive assistant to her filmmaker husband Ali Mostafa.
Q: Describe Ramadan in 3 words?
Maha: Family, Faith, Self-Reflection
Q: Ayah, what does Ramadan mean to you?
Ayah: Spending more time with family… and fasting!
Q: How do you get the family into the spirit of Ramadan?
Maha: Decorating the house really helps. This year I made a little Ramadan corner that looks like a mosque. In the afternoons we sit in there together and read or practice one of the verses they’re trying to learn. I’m always on the lookout for nice Islamic books for kids so the kids have a nice selection which they enjoy reading. We all look forward to coming together for iftar too at the kid's grandparents house.
Q: Are there any family traditions, centered around this time of year, that you enjoyed as a child, that you now have passed on to your children?
Maha: Coming together as a whole family has always been important growing up and that’s definitely been passed down to the children. We have created our own traditions too with our decorations and daily Ramadan routine. Some of our decorations the kids made themselves – our Ramadan moon was made by Ayah during Ramadan when she was 18 months old and that goes up every year. The Ramadan calendar sets out activities and goals throughout the month, whether it's learning a new prayer, going to fill Ramadan Fridges or making something, like Eid cards for friends.
Q: What’s your favorite(s) Ramadan tradition Ayah?
Ayah: Our Ramadan calendar because it encourages us to do more things that we wouldn’t usually do.
Q: I hear that you also host an iftar for your girlfriends each year. Sounds super fun! Tell me about it.
Ayah: We break our fast together with our favourite food like tomato soup, sambousas and kebabs. Then we play games like Ramadan bingo and charades… and eat ice cream cake!
Q: Ayah is there a special food that you enjoy during Ramadan?
Ayah: Lugaimaat! (deep fried dumplings in sugar syrup)
Q: As a busy mother of 3, what part is the most challenging?
Maha: The lack of sleep! And cooking - making sure I make a variety of tasty, healthy food. I’m not a great cook at all! Also since Ayahs fasting this year and also needs to get sleep, I’ve been very focused on making sure she’s getting enough of the right food and drinking enough water before going to sleep. With the shorter school hours, I have been trying to make sure the kids afternoons are spent constructively, especially since they have school tests. With the extra cooking and my lack of energy that has definitely been a challenge.
Q: What part do you enjoy the most during Ramadan?
Maha: Family time! We break fast together every day as a family with the kid's grandparents and uncles, and that’s so special to me. As the kids are getting older they’re starting to set their own goals and it’s amazing to be able to support them in achieving it. Ayahs trying to fast the whole month and I’m really looking forward to taking her to the mosque for taraweeh prayers (special evening prayers held during Ramadan). I also love that it’s the perfect time to hit the reset button. I use the month as a time for self-reflection – to work on parts of myself I want to improve like personal and religious goals.
Do you have any tradition or special ways you like to celebrate the month of Ramadan? Would love to hear all about it in the comments below. Ramadan Kareem!