New Brunswick

Syrian refugee family says first Ramadan in Saint John is bittersweet

A Syrian refugee couple, who marked the beginning of their first Ramadan in Saint John on Monday, say they have mixed feelings.

Reham Abazid and Mohammad Al-Najjar grateful to be safe, but miss their families

Syrian refugees Reham Abazid and Mohammad Al-Najjar are expecting their third child. They hope their parents can eventually join them in Saint John. (CBC)

A Syrian refugee couple, who marked the beginning of their first Ramadan in Saint John on Monday, say they have mixed feelings.

Reham Abazid, 28, and Mohammad Al-Najjar, 32, are excited because they get to celebrate the holy month for Muslims in Canada, where it's safe. But they are also sad because it's not the same without their entire family.

"It's a big difference between Ramadan in Canada and Ramadan in Syria," said Abazid, who moved to Saint John four months ago with her husband and their two children.

Reham Abazid prepared a feast for the first day of Ramadan on Monday. (CBC)
During Ramadan, Muslims don't eat or drink anything, not even water, from sunrise to sundown. They only eat before sunrise, called Suhoor, and then break the fast at sundown, called Iftar.

Sunsets in Canada are later, so one difference will be fasting for about 18½ hours each day, instead of 16 hours in Syria, said Abazid.

"The first day in Ramadan we usually sit together with my husband's family, or my family," said Abazid. "The good thing, I have my sister here in Saint John, so she will be with me at Iftar time."

For the first day of Ramadan, the feast is grander, which is why Abazid was preparing a type of salad called fatoush, a rice and chicken dish called maqlooba, and soups and tea.

Abazid said there are many special traditional cuisines they normally prepare for the holy month, except many of the ingredients cannot be found in Saint John.

Erk-sous, for example, is a traditional drink very popular in their household, but it is made from licorice root, which is impossible to find.

However the family is still grateful to be in Canada, said Al-Najjar.

"The happiness and safety of our kids, makes our life and Ramadan so amazing here in Saint John," he said.

now