My Ramadan with Tamtam: Experiencing the Holy Month in Los Angeles

Tamtam relocated to Los Angeles as a teenager, where — after finishing her education — she pursued her dream of a music career. (Arab News)
Updated 29 May 2018
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My Ramadan with Tamtam: Experiencing the Holy Month in Los Angeles

  • Singer-songwriter Tamtam recounts her experience of Ramadan in the city of angels
  • She moved to LA to pursue her dream of a music career

LOS ANGELES: Born and raised in Riyadh, singer-songwriter Tamtam relocated to Los Angeles as a teenager, where — after finishing her education — she pursued her dream of a music career. Her greatest musical inspiration was Michael Jackson, whom she describes as a storyteller with a voice she found emotive and moving. Her own music could be classified as pop, but lyrically Tamtam tries to ensure her songs carry a message of some kind, rather than following generic trends.

Read on to experience Ramadan in the city in her own words...


When I was growing up in Riyadh, Ramadan was my favorite time of year. I would look forward to family and friends getting together and, most importantly, I always felt that the city was so at peace during the Holy Month.

One of my favorite moments during Ramadan is breaking the fast. I love the combination of the taste of laban, dates and Arabic coffee. Perfect. But then my least favorite part, when I’m in Saudi anyway, is how I feel after iftar, because I always feel so tired and full after eating so much food. Every time I have iftar at home in Saudi, I tell myself that, this time, I will listen to my body; but it’s kind of hard to do that when your brain is telling you that you haven’t eaten all day and you see rice, chicken, lamb, perfectly baked or fried sambousak, mulukhiyah, bamia, jareesh... You get the point.

Ramadan in Los Angeles is very different, but I always make sure to have dates in the house for when I break my fast. I’ll head down to the Jordanian supermarket in Westwood to get laban and other foods that remind me of home, like zaatar, Turkish coffee, Arabic coffee… I may have a little coffee addiction.

What I miss most when I’m in LA is having a community of people who are fasting with me. Mostly, I miss my family and breaking the fast together. Of course, while I’m here, I’m also working, so that’s a really great way for me to not focus on the hunger, and concentrate on mind over matter.

When I record music during Ramdan, I always schedule my studio sessions after sunset so that I have time to break my fast. Although I miss my family and the feeling of community, I honestly love Ramadan in LA because I feel like I am doing Ramadan correctly. I work all day while I’m fasting, and the point of Ramadan is to be able to feel the discomfort that comes with hunger as you are going about your everyday life. When I’m in Saudi, I feel like I’ll sleep longer and I don’t feel the hunger as much as I do when I’m in LA. I always listen to my body when I am breaking my fast here, because I’m not going to have a feast on my own, so I end up doing the cleansing part of Ramadan correctly. Instead of overeating and feeling sleepy, I feel more energized as the days go by.

I don’t usually go to a masjid in LA. I pray at home instead. Although there are differences between fasting in Saudi and fasting in LA, the most important thing they have in common is learning to be more patient with yourself, your body, your life, and other human beings; being thankful for the lives that we are living because, at the end of the day, it’s the little things in life that make the biggest differences. I am grateful to be able to learn this lesson more and more every year.

Fact Box:
Age: 25
Profession: Singer-songwriter
Earliest fajr this year: 04:18
Latest maghrib this year: 20:06
Fasting tip: Reading the Qur’an really helps me whenever I’m super-hungry. It makes me forget about the hunger. If you’re having a particularly difficult day, go to the movies. The time will fly.
Favorite restaurant for iftar: Mantee Café in Studio City, which serves Lebanese and Armenian cuisine.
Best Ramadan dish: Jareesh and mulukhiyah


Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

Updated 21 January 2019
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Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

  • Al-Gailani was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage
  • After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Monday mourned the loss of Lamia Al-Gailani, a beloved archaeologist who helped rebuild the Baghdad museum after it was looted following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Al-Gailani, who died in Amman, Jordan, on Friday at the age of 80, was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage.
Relatives, colleagues, and cultural officials on Monday gathered at Baghdad’s National Museum, the country’s leading museum, to pay their respects before moving her remains to the Qadiriyyah mosque for prayers and later interment.
A devotee of her country’s heritage, Al-Gailani lent her expertise to restore relics stolen from the museum for its reopening in 2015. She also championed a new antiquities museum for the city of Basra, which opened in 2016.
“She was very keen to communicate on the popular level and make archaeology accessible to ordinary people,” said her daughter, Noorah Al-Gailani, who curates the Islamic civilizations collection at the Glasgow Museum in Scotland.
“It is a big loss, the passing of Dr. Lamia Al-Gailaini, who played a great role in the field of archaeology, even before 2003,” said the deputy minister of culture, Qais Hussein Rashid.
The restored collection at the National Museum included hundreds of cylinder seals, the subject of Al-Gailani’s 1977 dissertation at the University of London. These were engraved surfaces used to print cuneiform impressions and pictographic lore onto documents and surfaces in ancient Mesopotamia, now present-day Iraq.
Still, thousands of artefacts remain missing from the museum’s collection, and Al-Gailani bore the grief of watching her country’s rich heritage suffer unfathomable levels of looting and destruction in the years after Saddam’s ouster.
“I wish it was a nightmare and I could wake up,” she told the BBC in 2015, when Daesh militants bulldozed relics at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud near present-day Mosul.
Born in Baghdad in 1938, Al-Gailani studied at the University of Cambridge in Britain before finding work as a curator at the National Museum in 1960. It was her first job in archaeology, her daughter said.
She returned to Britain in 1970 to pursue advanced studies, and she made her home there. Still, she kept returning to her native country, connecting foreign academics with an Iraqi archaeological community that was struggling under the isolation of Saddam Hussein’s autocratic rule and the UN sanctions against him.
In 1999, she published “The First Arabs,” in Arabic, with the Iraqi archaeologist Salim Al-Alusi, on the earliest traces of Arab culture in Mesopotamia, in the 6th through 9th centuries.
She would bring copies of the book with her to Baghdad and sell them through a vendor on Mutanabbi Street, the literary heart of the capital, according to her daughter.
After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war.
At the time of her death, she was working with the Basra Museum to curate a new exhibit set to open in March, said Qahtan Al-Abeed, the museum director.
“She hand-picked the cylinder seals to display at the museum,” said Al-Abeed.