After two years of health restrictions on gatherings, Calgary's Muslim community can finally enjoy a more normal Ramadan.
Ramadan is celebrated in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and begins on the first sighting of the new crescent moon. It involves fasting during the day, and a meal shared with relatives in the evening.
"Ramadan is … teaching us how people feel when they don't have food, and they eat once a day, and patience," Umar Mughal says.
Around 7:30 p.m., the Mughal Houzi family is preparing the evening meal at their home in northeast Calgary. At sunset, about 8:15 p.m., they will break the fast — and with more company than they had last year.
"Last year, due to health restrictions, families were separated. This year, it's like before, a bit," says Naima Houzi, Mughal's sister-in-law.
During the pandemic, many of the family's meals have been done by video conference, she says. Last Ramadan, they went door-to-door to leave food including spring rolls, salad, soup and bread.
But with the return of gatherings, she says families are able to cautiously rediscover the spirit of Ramadan.
"The last two years, it was not Ramadan at all," Houzi said.
"We still try to keep the spirit, but … Ramadan, it's [a] get-together. You bring your soup, I bring my salad. Somebody else will bring the bread. And then, we share it together."
During Ramadan, some Muslims also meet for supper at Mosques or restaurants.
And Fauzi Azouz, owner and chef of Bistro - Pizzeria & Cafe, says that 80 per cent of its customers in the evening are Muslims who have come to break their fast.
"It's like back to almost normal, even with the risk still there," Azouz said. "But people … really need that social life. You know, they missed that."
In Calgary, the month of Ramadan began April 2 and ends with the sighting of the next crescent moon in early May.