Rainy day Ramadan: Scenes from Bay Ridge on the eve of the holy month

On the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, shoppers were out in full force on Saturday in Bay Ridge’s Arab American enclave, snapping up last-minute essentials: boxes of fragrant dates, small lanterns called Fanoos, strings of colorful star and moon lights, traditional red-patterned Al-Khayamiyya fabric. At Nablus Sweets on Fifth Avenue, trays and trays of special Arab sweet treats covered every inch of counter space.

Sweets line the shelves at Nablus (Photo by Stephanie Keith)

The Arab American Association, despite the downpour, had set up along Fifth Avenue to distribute bags of gifts for the children. What should have been a parade instead became a giveaway as people huddled underneath umbrellas and the marquee of Alpine Cinema to avoid the rain.

The Arab American Association hands out gift bags to children (Photo by Stephanie Keith)

“We are here to give children some gifts before Ramadan to express our happiness for this month, that this month is means a lot to us,” said volunteer Omar Albadani, 22, whose family is originally from Yemen. “It’s the month of the Quran, or when it was revealed to the prophet Mohammed, and we would like to teach our kids about this month starting by giving them some gifts so they can be happy to enter this month.”

Inside the bags were candy and a mini Fanoos, an Egyptian folk lantern used to decorate streets and homes in the month of Ramadan.

Local kids hold up their Fanoos (Photo by Stephanie Keith)

“I have lived here 30 years and I feel for the people from what’s going over there in Gaza. Ramadan, when we don’t eat for 12 hours, helps us to understand how the poor people feel when they have no food to eat,” said Salah Ajaj, 75, retired, leader of American Palestinian congress and from Jerusalem. “Now it’s how the people in Gaza not only don’t eat for 12 hours, its been three months since they don’t have food and water and hospital to take care of themselves.”

A mosque decorated for Ramadan (Photo by Stephanie Keith)

That empathetic stance was echoed by several people throughout the day. “We are not eating and not drinking for 12 hours and we are worshiping Allah,” said Khadija Mohammed, 42, a tourist from Egypt. “This means we feel the hunger of needy people when they don’t have food, how they are feeling and how they are suffering.”

Ramadan is a family time for observant Muslims, when people wake before dawn to take their first meal, called “Suhoor,” together. Once the day is over, families will reconvene for their after sunset meal called “Iftar” — the breaking of the fast. Many people will break the fast with dates and then have a big feast with their family after.

Stocking up at Arabiya Market ahead of the holy month (Photo by Stephanie Keith)

So, in spite of the rain, this stretch of Bay Ridge was alive with the music of traditional Palestinian drums called the Tabil, booming alongside a soundtrack of Arabic music.

Drummers from Freedom Dabka (Photo by Stephanie Keith)

“We do this to spread the Palestine culture and receive recognition on it,” said Abdel Kareem, 18, a drummer for Freedom Dabka, which takes its name from a traditional dance for which the Tabil is played.

The post Rainy day Ramadan: Scenes from Bay Ridge on the eve of the holy month appeared first on Brooklyn Magazine.

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