At Ramadan, Migrants In Europe Dream Of Family And Comfort Food

At Ramadan, Migrants In Europe Dream Of Family And Comfort Food

As Ramadan began in Germany this week, many of the Syrian asylum seekers among the more than 1.1 million migrants who came last year began celebrating the Muslim holy month.

The Muslim tradition revolves around daily fasts from sunrise to sunset, and then favorite meals with family and friends during the night hours.

But for many of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who came to Europe last year - mainly Muslims escaping war, conflict and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond - Ramadan this time around will be a much more subdued affair.

"The difference here is that in Syria we were spending time with our families," said Hiba Fakhouri as she was sitting at a disused Berlin hotel turned refugee shelter.

"We used to gather with the family and siblings even though we are married. We used to spend the first day of Ramadan at my mother-in-law's place and for iftar (fast-breaking), we used to gather the whole family together," she said.

In Germany, most refugees are still living in shelters where they have long complained that the food served by caterers contracted by local authorities is "inedible". Their protest has grown raucous with the approach of the religious festival.

"The administration here is trying their best to create a Ramadan atmosphere for us," said Ahmad Hammad.

"For example, we normally have three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner and I thought that we would have to hide our meals for iftar. But it's not like that and we are being able to prepare the iftar meal. Also, we have a place to do the prayers," Hammad said.

Many shelters in Berlin are hosting Ramadan for the first time and some are trying to ensure a pleasant dining experience.

Frank Zielske of the German Red Cross which runs the shelter talked of the concerns he and the residents had ahead of Ramadan.

"Of course it's noticeable through the mood of some residents, not being allowed to drink all day with these temperatures outside," Zielske said.

"But we have to accept and respect that and learn how to deal with it."