A Taste of Home
East Bay Muslim women prepare for Eid by sharing recipes and cultures.
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Wafa’a El Desoky arrives and joins the conversation. “You know,” she says, “my son is now asking if Eid is only about cookies. I had to explain that no, of course not, but that it is important that he learn, that he smell the cookies and know that Eid is coming. That my children grow up with it.”
“Eid,” the women all exclaim at once, as if in a mother’s chorus, “is really about the children.”
This is clear the following Saturday at Tara Fikrat’s house just a couple of blocks from Bahnasy’s in Walnut Creek. Her 10-year-old son, Haleem, waves hello while running around in spotless white sneakers. Bayanne, her 14-year-old daughter, carefully folds her new clothes with excitement. “We spent the whole day in the mall!” Bayanne says gleefully. “We never do that. Except for Eid.” Her father, Waleed Alrawi, is proud, “Only on Eid,” he says, “is a bit of indulgence allowed.”
Fikrat comes out, face glowing, in a stunning pink sequin dress with a second layer of delicately embroidered flowers. “It’s Kurdish,” she says, thrilled. “I am half Kurdish, you know. I never would wear anything this bright, but I thought, why not, it’s Eid.”
Leaving behind the opened gifts and new clothes, everyone gathers and piles into cars to go to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton for the Eid prayer, sermon, and festivities to follow. Money for this year’s charity, calculated from each family’s income and called zakat, is collected and given to those in need. The interplay between fasting and feasting forces consciousness about the body’s relationship to sustenance, mental and physical, and therefore the well-being of others.
Looking at the mix of Muslims gathered at the fairgrounds—the glittering, bright long shirts and billowing pants of Indian and Pakistani women, the long, hooded, and richly embroidered garments of Palestine, Jordan, and North Africa, the Kurdish sequined dress worn by Tara Fikrat, the dress of the Chinese, Somalians, and Americans—I remember Bahnasy explaining the delight she takes in the diversity in the United States. That delight is not just in the wider Muslim community she found and helped foster here, but also in sharing and recognizing everyone’s traditions.
This was evident in the many delicacies spread on the table in Bahnasy’s kitchen before the women packaged them to take to their respective homes. The klaitcha from Iraq, ma’moul from Syria, qa’q from Egypt, tchrek m’ramed from Algeria—a veritable map in sweets ready to be shared.