It takes a Muslim to know what Friday is all about and it takes a meat lover to know what minced meat is all about. And it takes an expatriate kid raised in Dubai to know what the combination of the two is all about. Living in Dubai, it was never just about Jumma (Friday) or it was never just about the typical Jumma lunch consisting of steam roasted minced mutton (Keema) sprinkled with a garnish of coriander, green chilies, and mint. It was about everything associated with it.
The Middle East follows the Islamic weekend due to which Friday is the official day for congregational prayer, known as Mass to our Christian friends. The Muslims adorn themselves in enchanting perfumes, wear formal attire, and gather at the mosque for the ritualistic Friday sermon.
Also, being a school holiday it meant that I could wake up at will, indolently partake in a trivial game of friendly street cricket, procrastinate on schoolwork, immerse in exorbitant channel surfing on the tube, accompany my elders for the Friday supplication of course, and gorge on the magnanimous Friday Lunch upon return from the mosque. The desi (subcontinental) Keema dish being in the center of the tabula standing out like Marilyn Monroe in a satin sheet on a rainy day. The appetizing fumes rising up from the pot appealing to a starving child’s culinary senses salaciously beckoning all and sundry towards itself as a mermaid does from ashore to enervated men at sea.
Pakistani Version of Mexican Tortilla & Keema
The alluring murmur of a mystifying voice reassuring one that there was the order in the world, and all was well. The crisp, lightly tanned Pakistani version of the Mexican tortilla bread called Roti with the sporadic darker spots inside that round flour delicacy of the subcontinent baked to perfection in a clay oven, a perfect complement to that mesmerizing Keema dish. The familiar banter of the family elders, the occasional extended family soiree, the meaningless chatter with cousins, the post-lunch and prayer siesta, a cricket match on TV, or a popular family show; all perfect condiments to the Friday holiday, the first day of the weekend.
As the evening broke in, it was either a rendezvous with friends at a mall for some enthralling bird watching or a movie at the Strand Duplex. It was as if all the appealing activities huddled themselves together in no particular order waiting to be experienced one after the other on this glorifying start to the weekend. A never-ending day of fun, frolic, binge eating, and prayer. On occasion, my father would take us all the way to the Sharjah Gold Souk. We had isolated a shawarma vendor in one of the malls who literally served the best shawarma in the world. A thick cut slice of a fried potato chip appropriately placed in the center of the shawarma meat mound and laced with his signature chili sauce; a seven dirham sandwich that was worth every fils (Arabic for a penny).
The Sharjah Creek
Standing at the ledge of the pier overlooking the Sharjah creek, I would watch the sunset into the lake. As I recall everything that Friday meant, tears of nostalgia run down my visage, and a tickle in my lower abdomen suggests that there was something unique about Friday back then. Not only has it never been the same, but I know for sure that the crown worn by that delectable Keema sitting assertively atop the heap of the Friday serving has been abdicated to the treacherous wazir called adulthood. Everything else is pale in comparison. So was the Friday, such was the Keema.