Muslims Who Fast: A Londoner has iftar in Australia after many Ramadans abroad

Lifestyle

Welcome back to the third year of Muslims Who Fast – the mini series documenting how followers of the Islamic faith spend Ramadan.

For the past two years, we’ve pried into the lives of brilliant people who shared their iftar (food that one breaks their fast with) meals with us.

What is happening during Ramadan this year is unprecedented. The holy month is usually a communal affair, but during lockdown, families and friends will be separated at a time that is usually made easier with companionship.

One person spending Ramadan alone is 26-year-old Rezma Rahman, a Londoner who’s been living in Australia for the past two years.

Travel connoisseur Rezma left her BBC job at the age of 21 to travel through Asia (and then the rest of the world) and even ended up opening her own hostel in Hanoi, Vietnam.

During her travels for the past seven years, she has spent Ramadan in several countries.

This year is hard for her, living without any other Muslims and unable to share iftar with Melbourne’s small Islamic community.

But she’s quite the chef and whipping up delicious meals for one.

Let’s see what she had for iftar:

Tell us about yourself, Rezma
I’m originally from London and I moved to Melbourne two years ago. I have dabbled in quite a few things from working in telly, to running a hostel in Vietnam to currently working in food as a private chef in Melbourne.

So what are you having for iftar?
It’s the end of the week so I’m putting together what’s left in my fridge really! Roast chicken, roast potatoes with lemons, and garlic. Steamed broccoli, pickled onions, and kimchi.

I break my fast with almond stuffed dates and a big glass water then eat the rest of the food and finish off with a Thai ice tea.

What’s Ramadan in Australia like?
Ramadan in Melbourne is usually great! Very community orientated. There is a Muslim community who I connected with last year through Facebook groups and there’s about 3.5k Muslims on it.

So many people reached out last year saying we should break our fast together and invited me to their houses for iftar. It was so lovely. I’ve also had my non-Muslim friends in the past come over for iftar too.

However this year it’s pretty lonely because I can’t physically connect with anyone or have people over due to the current situation.

It is literally meals for one in my flat this year. I have got a few Zoom/FaceTime iftars lined up but it’s really not the same.

What’s a must-have Ramadan staple?
A staple for me, like most Muslims, is dates. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world I always break my fast with dates. I also have a mega sweet tooth and always eat traditional sweets I grew up with like baklava and mishti (South Asian sweet desserts) so this year I’ll try and make my own.

Do you have any particular rituals/traditions during the month?
Ramadan is such a beautiful time of the year, it really gives me a chance to slow down and tap into my religion more.

I try and read the Qur’an. This year, I’ve started reading it in English and listening to it on an audiobook so I have a better understanding. I often cook for others so I’ll be cooking for my neighbours this year and delivering them food which I’m really looking forward to.

What’s it been like to fast under lockdown?
Fasting under lockdown just makes it harder because Ramadan for me is about the community, spending time with family and friends and new people. It’s about getting together, eating and reflecting so that makes me a bit sad. I couldn’t even invite anyone over to help take my pictures!

Any particularly fond memories of Ramadan?
Yes, so many! I’ve spent Ramadan in London, Dubai, Marrakech, Sweden, Seoul, so many places.

I have always found little Muslim communities everywhere I go and have had such a good time getting to know new people, eating, and having a laugh with them.

People have been so welcoming and have always made me feel like I’m a part of their families.

I also loved spending it with my mum especially the evening because we often had different work schedules so it was so nice to chill out, have a mint tea, and some shisha.