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Ahlam Bolooki on Books to Read Circa Now

Your summer reading list is here.

Summer is the season of reading, but between classic, cult favourites, and new releases, shortlisting a selection can be a little overwhelming. Enter: Ahlam Bolooki. Not only has Ahlam evolved into a bona fide bibliophile over the years, but she’s also the Festival Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which wrapped up its 13th edition earlier this year. Here, she recommends five books that you should read this summer – and why.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

“Because I am endlessly fascinated with the concept of time travel – especially to the past in order to meet a loved one who is no longer with us.”

Unlike other time-travelling novels, Before the Coffee Gets Cold contains no gadgets nor gizmos – just an unassuming café located in a basement. Time travel only happens in one particular seat of said café and the rules are simple: customers cannot leave, they cannot change the past and present, and they must get back before the coffee gets cold. Over a million copies of this international bestseller have been sold already, its popularity translating into a Japanese TV series entitled Kohi ga Samenai Uchi Ni.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold, RRP AED 83, available at Amazon

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

“Because although it was published in 1995, it’s an instant classic, close to the heart and effortlessly hilarious. I read this book over 25 years too late, but it was the first book in ages to make me laugh out loud.”

High Fidelity proves just how important your partner’s music collection is – at least as far as Rob Fleming is concerned. The protagonist of this hilarious novel about heartbreak owns a failing record store and is practically synonymous with John Cusack, who starred in the movie adaptation alongside Lisa Bonet, Jack Black, and Catherine Zeta Jones. Incidentally, Zoë Kravitz – daughter of Lisa Bonet – plays the lead role in the Hulu series of the same name, a gender-bender retelling of the novel.
High Fidelity, RRP AED 48, available at Amazon

Motherhood by Sheila Heti

“Because it delves into all the factors that influence women to choose a life of motherhood and offers clarity to those who read it – be it women who are up against their biological clocks or men who have those women in their lives.”

Motherhood is a moving autobiographical novel about a daunting decision faced by most women during adulthood: to have or not have children. Not only has it been translated in over a dozen languages, but it was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize. The book is sure to prompt some uncomfortable yet honest conversations – debates, even – about the highs and lows of parenthood, but therein lies its appeal.
Motherhood, RRP AED 75, available at Amazon

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

“Because I’ve just interviewed the author, and it was one of my favourite conversations with an author, ever. This story was her most personal work and it felt personal to me as a reader, too.”

Considering its opening line reads “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist”, Silver Sparrow takes a deep dive into complicated family dynamics. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, it follows two sisters who lead different lives, have different last names, and discover that they share a father. Author Tayari Jones states these situations are so common that churches have smelling salts ready for grieving widows who discover their husbands had another family.
Silver Sparrow, RRP AED 35, available at Amazon

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Because who wouldn’t love to read about an ordinary life going through an existential crisis, told in lyrical prose?”

While author Jhumpa Lahiri is renowned for her stories about Southeast Asian immigrants, Whereabouts takes an entirely different approach. The story follows the journey of an unnamed narrator – a widowed professor navigating life in solitude – in an unknown Italian city. Through various location-based chapters (‘In the Office’, ‘On the Street’, ‘In the Pool’), the reader gets a deeper understanding of her loneliness and how she experiences it. Interestingly, Lahiri initially wrote the novel in Italian and then translated it into English herself.
Whereabouts, RRP AED 39, available at Amazon

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Around the World with Eid Al-Fitr

Celebrate the fast, differently

Eid al Fitr and Eid ul Fitr are different spellings of the same Arabic phrase which means “festival of breaking the fast”. “Eid” is the Arabic word for “festival” or “holiday”, and it is used to refer to both Eid ul Fitr and Eid al Adha, another important Islamic holiday that commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to (PBUH) Allah’s command.

This is a time when Muslims come together to offer prayers, exchange gifts, and share meals with their loved ones. It is also a time to reflect on the values of Islam, such as compassion, generosity, and forgiveness, and to strengthen ties with family, friends, and the community.

Eid’s Global Significance

Eid is one of the most significant and widely celebrated festivals in the world. It is an occasion that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, and is a time of joy, celebration, and giving thanks. The significance of Eid is not just limited to Muslims; it is also recognised and celebrated by people from different cultures and religions around the world.

The significance of Eid varies across cultures and countries. In some countries, such as Egypt, Eid is celebrated for three days, while in others, such as Turkey, it is celebrated for four days. In some countries, such as Indonesia, Eid is known as “Lebaran” and is celebrated with traditional foods, such as Ketupat and Rendang. In other countries, such as Pakistan, Eid is a time for new clothes, henna designs, and special desserts, such as sheer khurma.

One of the most important aspects of Eid is the act of giving. Muslims are encouraged to donate to charity and to give gifts to friends and family members, especially to children. This act of giving is a way of expressing gratitude for the blessings that one has received throughout the year and is an opportunity to share those blessings with others.

Another important aspect of Eid is the gathering of family and friends. Muslims are encouraged to visit their relatives and loved ones during Eid and to strengthen ties with them. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, it is customary to visit the graves of loved ones during Eid and to pray for their souls.

Eid is also a time to forgive and seek forgiveness. Muslims are encouraged to forgive those who have wronged them and to seek forgiveness from those whom they have wronged. This act of forgiveness is a way of purifying one’s soul and starting anew.

UAE Eid Al-Fitr Celebrations

Eid al-Fitr is one of the most significant celebrations in the UAE, marking the end of Ramadan and a month-long fast from sunrise to sunset for Muslims. The festival is celebrated with much joy and enthusiasm, with families and friends coming together to share food, exchange gifts, and greetings, and participate in a range of traditions.

The day typically starts with a special Eid prayer, which is held at mosques and prayer grounds across the country. After the prayer, families often visit each other’s homes or gather in public spaces to enjoy traditional foods such as dates, sweets, and other delicacies. Children are often given money or gifts by their elders, and many families dress up in their finest clothes for the occasion.

In the UAE, there are also many events and activities that take place throughout the Eid al-Fitr period. These include traditional markets, food festivals, and cultural performances, as well as fireworks displays and other outdoor activities. Many shopping malls and other venues also hold special events and promotions during this time.

Overall, Eid al-Fitr is a time of joy and celebration in the UAE, with people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to share in the festivities and express their gratitude for the blessings of the past month.

Eid Celebrations Around the World

Eid al-Fitr is celebrated in various ways around the world, often reflecting the local cultural traditions and customs. Here are some examples:

Indonesia: In Indonesia, Eid al-Fitr is known as Lebaran. The celebrations typically last for one week, during which people visit their relatives and friends, and seek forgiveness from one another. Special food is prepared, including ketupat (a type of rice cake), rendang (spicy meat dish), and opor ayam (chicken in coconut milk).

Egypt: In Egypt, Eid al-Fitr is known as Eid el-Fitr. The celebrations last for three days, during which people wear new clothes and visit family and friends. Special dishes are prepared, including fata (a bread and rice dish), kahk (a type of biscuit), and maamoul (a sweet pastry).

Turkey: In Turkey, Eid al-Fitr is known as Şeker Bayramı (Sugar Festival). The celebrations last for three days, during which people visit their relatives and friends, and give candy or small gifts to children. Special dishes are prepared, including baklava (a sweet pastry) and güllaç (a dessert made from thin layers of pastry soaked in milk).

Malaysia: In Malaysia, Eid al-Fitr is known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Celebration Day). The celebrations last for one month, during which people visit their relatives and friends, and seek forgiveness from one another. Special dishes are prepared, including lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo), rendang (spicy meat dish), and ketupat (a type of rice cake).

United States: In the United States, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by Muslim communities across the country. Many communities hold special prayer services, followed by communal meals and other festivities. In some cities, there are even public celebrations, such as parades and street fairs.

Iceland: In Iceland, Eid al-Fitr celebrations are unique, in part, because the Ramadan fast is performed in a way that is not to be seen anywhere else in the world. Iceland’s midnight sun phenomenon means that during Ramadan many Muslims fast for up to 22 hours a day! Muslims in Iceland do have the choice to break their fast based on the timings of sunrise and sunset from the nearest country, or of Saudi Arabia, however many have iftar when the sun breaks above the Icelandic horizon. So when Eid al-Fitr comes around, the celebrations are magical. The capital city of Reykjavik has a few mosques where the joyous merrymaking takes place and guests come laden with food inspired by Indonesian, Egyptian, and Eritrean cuisines to celebrate this holy day.

Morocco: In Morocco, Eid al-Fitr festivities give center stage to the country’s colourful culinary dishes. Where other countries focus on gift-giving and more commercialised displays of celebrations, Moroccans, after their morning prayers, hold low-key foodie affairs with family and friends. Lamb, couscous, and prunes feature prominently in meals throughout the day, followed by traditional cookies and pastries.

These are just a few examples of how Eid al-Fitr is celebrated around the world. Regardless of the specific customs and traditions, the holiday is a time for joy, forgiveness, and a renewed commitment to one’s faith and community.

Eid is a significant festival that is celebrated around the world by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is a time of joy, celebration, and gratitude and is an opportunity to reflect on the values of Islam, such as compassion, generosity, and forgiveness. It is a time to strengthen ties with family, friends, and the community and to express thanks for the blessings that one has received throughout the year.

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