Al Jazeera World

Ramadan in Kenya

An intimate look at the holy month of Ramadan through the eyes of Muslims living in a predominantly Christian country.

Filmmaker: Yasser Ashour

Muslims have lived in Kenya for centuries and today make up about 11 percent of the country’s population. These communities live on the coast in cities like Mombasa – where nearly half of the city’s inhabitants are Muslim – and in the country’s northeast.

The attitude of the people of Mombasa is that they are very friendly people. You can just go in, go join anyone, anyone you see ... If I don't know you, you don't know me, you are very welcome to come sit with me. Let's have iftar together, let's have prayers.

by Aseef Akram, a 25-year-old halal butcher from Mombasa

Ramadan in Kenya meets Muslims living in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi and captures their lives and culture in their homes, at work and in their places of worship.

They talk about what aspects of Ramadan mean the most to them.

Aseef Akram is a 25-year-old halal butcher living in Mombasa. He talks about the “spirit of Ramadan” in the city, the culture of openness towards those who are fasting, and about breaking that fast with the coconut dishes of the region.

“For me [during Ramadan], I tend to be most spiritually connected to my God, my creator,” says Akram.

In the western city of Kisumu, Fauza Asya Kombo picks and sells bananas for a living and is raising five children on her own after her husband died.

Although earning a livelihood can be a struggle, she says, “When we’ve finished [iftar], we give any leftover bread to our neighbours. Food doesn’t go to waste … Wasting leads to non-belief.”

Arafat bin Talebis, a sixth grader at a shelter for orphans, talks about the peace he gains from his Quranic studies and the importance of his faith in his life.

“To me, the month of Ramadan acts like a guide. If I’ve made mistakes before Ramadan, I’ll avoid making them once Ramadan starts,” he says.

From the Quran memorisation competitions which attract children studying in madrassas in Tanzania and Uganda – to Akram’s family using the opportunity to eat together to break their fast, Ramadan in Kenya experiences the spirituality, traditions and significance of the holy month through the eyes of individuals who observe it.

Arafat bin Taleb, a sixth grader at a shelter for orphans, says the month of Ramadan acts like a guide [Al Jazeera]
Arafat bin Taleb, a sixth grader at a shelter for orphans, says the month of Ramadan acts like a guide [Al Jazeera]