Ramadan is celebrated differently in all culture, whether it’s mixing up the type of food you have or choosing to decorate your home – but this one London family makes sure Ramadan is different to all the other months. Sophia Mohammed, 42, is a mum-of-four living in East London.
Her kids, who are 15, 13, 9 and 7, have grown up with Sophia’s teachings of how to make the most of the Holy Month. The half-Yemeni and half-Eritrean mum says she has always tried to make sure her children create positive memories associated with the month of fasting, and has done everything she can to make sure the month is not only a time of reflection, but also as enjoyable as possible.
Speaking to MyLondon she said: “I’m mixed Yemeni and Eritrean so in my house our food is a combination between the two cultures. But I was born in Saudi Arabia which has means our Ramadan food is varied – we have Ottoman food, Syrian food, Egyptian – all mixed from different regions because when you live in Saudi you try everything. During Ramadan we don’t cook the usual meat, rice and heavy meals – our main thing is Shorba, or we call it soup. “
READ MORE: Ramadan 2022: ‘I work as a head chef in an Indian restaurant while fasting for 15 hours a day’
We make it with meat and when we open our fast we do it with dates and water, then we go and pray and have the soup, then start eating, “she added.” We have this soup every day and rarely have it when it’s not Ramadan, we try different things when it’s not Ramadan. “
Sophia also makes sure to put up decorations around her house to keep the kids excited about Ramadan and Eid. She said: “After the soup then we have samosas and for dessert we will have fried dough called loquimat, or basbousa and kunefe.
“We also make a Yemeni dish called Shafoot – it’s savory with coriander, pepper, yoghurt and dough – it’s a must on the Iftar table. Our Ramadan table is always full, and you get full by just looking at the table.
“For drinks traditionally we have dried apricot which we soak and blend, it’s called Qamar al-deem – when I was little I didn’t like it, but now I do as it reminds me of childhood. Any Middle Eastern family will also have Vimto – the original concentrated one not the one you see in Asda. “
With a limited family in London, Sophia has tried to create her own traditions. Usually during Ramadan she will make samosas in batches to freeze and marinate the chicken ahead of time so that she does not have to rush around Iftar.
After opening their fast, the family usually gets ready together to go to Taraweeh prayers, Sophia said: “We try and go Taraweeh if kids are not tired, I would prefer to pray at home but I want to encourage them and mix with others as well as feel the environment.
“When we went to East London mosque, after Taraweeh the kids went to market and they have stalls. It’s amazing, so fun and afterwards they were awake for ages talking about it. So I’m trying to create memories rather than staying at home. . When they are older they can say we used to go and buy treats after Taraweeh in Ramadan. “
For Suhoor, Sophia’s family keep it simple with milk, bananas or cereal. Sophia’s routine is to sleep after Isha prayer around 9 or 10pm and then wake up at around 12am to read the Quran and stay up until Suhoor to eat with the kids.
The mum-of-four also spoke about her Eid traditions, she said: “We pray Eid prayers and we try to pray as early as possible, then we meet my in-laws, spend the day with them, have lunch somewhere, then at night time we see my cousins.
“Eid is about family, we wake up and give gifts to the kids and they care more about that I think! We need to make them happy because we don’t celebrate Christmas but we have Eid. I buy gifts for everyone, I make sure every child has a gift if they come to my house, if we’re not meeting my house on the first day I do an Eid party with face painting, so it’s a nice memory. “
Now that you’re here – let me introduce myself.
I am the Race and Diversity Correspondent for MyLondon, and I enjoy writing about stories to do with ethnic minorities.
The stories I’m most proud of are ones where I can get an insight into the experiences of individuals, such as this powerful independent woman who fled Eritrea and ended up opening her own salon in Brixton.
I also love supporting ethnic minority owned businesses and finding out about owners’ own experiences and inspirations behind their menus, for example the story of this Chinese bakery.
My own interests and experiences also weave into my stories so that readers can get an insight into my South Asian heritage, as you can see from this story about Karak Chai which I’m ever so passionate about!
Although I was born and raised in London, I would say I’m very connected to my own culture as a British Pakistani who is fluent in Urdu.
This year I became a finalist for the British Muslim Awards in the Media Achiever of the Year category – and I hope to make a difference every single year with my work.
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