Dana and Daria stepped off the plane in the Kinshasa Ndjili Airport, the bustling capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They had dreamt of experiencing Ramadan in a new place, and now they were here, ready to embark on a journey of discovery.
Stepping outside, the tropical heat hit them like a wall, but the siblings couldn’t help but feel a sense of adventure and excitement for all that was to come in this bustling city.
Outside the airport lobby, there were taxi-buses parked under the shade of trees. Dana purchased pineapple slices, and a few water bottles from a roadside pushcart vendor, together with a bus ticket to their guest-house.
As their taxibus made their way through the winding streets, they saw children playing soccer and groups of men gathered around small cafes, sipping coffee and chatting. The sounds of music and prayer calls filled the air, creating a lively atmosphere that made the sibling’s hearts race with excitement.
“I feel like we’re in a maze!” exclaimed Dana, taking in the sights and sounds of the city.
“Me too,” replied Daria, her eyes wide with wonder. “But what an adventure!”
They soon reached their guest-house which was on the border of a very picturesque rural landscape. Instead of visiting tourist attractions in Kinshasa, Dana and Daria planned to take it easy on this trip, relax and immerse themselves in the local culture.
On reaching their guest-house, Daria wanted to rest, so Dana set out to visit the local mosque for evening prayer and iftar.
He saw groups of people gathering inside for iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan. Curious, he decided to join in and experience the tradition for himself.
As Dana sat down to the delicious meal of dates, lentils, and traditional Congolese dishes, he was struck by the sense of community and togetherness that filled the room. People of all ages and backgrounds had come together to break their fast and share in the joy of the holy month.
He was immediately made to feel very welcome and soon forgot that he was a visitor. There was a special kind of peace in the small-town mosque with its simple carpets and plain architecture.
After the iftar refreshments, the group prayed maghrib salah and then everyone sat down for the main evening meal. The households in the neighborhood of the mosques had contributed to the community meal and it included local delicacies such as “sambusa,” a savory pastry filled with a mixture of meat, onions, and spices, and then deep-fried until crispy. The buffet included lentil soup, chicken and lambstew with vegetables, and traditional dishes like “fufu” and “cassava leaves”.
Dana especially fell in love with fufu, a bread like dish made with a mix of cassava, plantains and yam. One of the locals showed Dana how to eat it by taking a small piece of fufu, rolling it into a ball, and then dipping it into the lamb stew.
When the locals realized that Dana’s sister was at the hotel, they insisted on packing a few of the dishes for her dinner. Soon Dana took his leave and hurried back to the hotel with food for Daria.
As Dana handed Daria the delicious food, she couldn’t believe what she was tasting. “This is incredible!” she exclaimed, savoring every bite. “I never expected Ramadan in Congo to be this amazing.”
Dana grinned, feeling proud to have experienced such a wonderful moment of community and kindness. “I know,” he replied. “It’s like we stumbled upon a hidden treasure.”
The siblings sat together, enjoying the warmth and flavors of the meal, feeling grateful for the unexpected surprise that their journey had brought them.
Fufu is a popular West African staple food that is made from starchy vegetables like cassava, plantains, or yam. Here’s a simple recipe for cassava fufu:
2 pounds of cassava
Salt to taste
Peel the cassava and cut it into small pieces.
Rinse the cassava pieces in water to remove any dirt or debris.
Place the cassava in a large pot and add enough water to cover it.
Bring the water to a boil and let it cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until the cassava is tender.
Drain the water from the pot and mash the cassava with a potato masher or a wooden spoon until it is smooth and free of lumps.
Add some salt to taste and mix well.
Use your hands to form small balls of the fufu mixture.
Serve the fufu balls alongside a soup or stew.
Note: Fufu can also be made with plantains or yam by following the same instructions but using the respective ingredient instead of cassava.
Dana and Daria’s visit to DRC turned out to be very beautiful thanks to their grandpa’s friend who was a local businessman in Kinshasa.
When Dana and Daria were children, they spent most of their time on their grandfather’s farm, learning the importance of hard work and developing a love for nature. Their most enduring memories were the mesmerizing stories their grandfather told them from Islamic culture and the lives of Sufi saints.
Dada’s captivating tales had a profound impact on the siblings, instilling in them a deep respect for moral values such as truthfulness and honesty. Throughout their lives they kept those memories close to their hearts and cherished the wisdom imparted by their beloved grandpa. Growing up in nature’s embrace and being exposed to these Islamic values and cultural traditions undoubtedly shaped Dana and Daria’s lives in profound ways.
Grandpa’s cherished stories are curated in the book series “Grandpa’s Farm Stories,” which offers an insightful glimpse into the Islamic culture and Sufi wisdom.