Hajj Series: What does it really cost?

Now the cost of Hajj will always vary and every year there is generally a slight price increase but this post should give you an overall idea of what to expect. When we went in 2018, the cost per person for Hajj was approx. CAD $10,500 for a 19-day package.

Outside of this base cost, there are other costs you need to consider. These are:

  • The Hajj Draft (approx. CAD $150 each) A Hajj draft is a fee by the Ministry of Hajj on each person that goes for Hajj. A portion of this fee is used to maintain the sites where you will stay and perform the Hajj – Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa while the other portion is used to cover a portion of the Transportation in Saudi Arabia. This Draft is required in order to obtain a Hajj visa from Canada. Your group will pay this for you ahead of time when they process your passports to get a visa. Once the visa has been confirmed, you make that payment to your group. This may vary from group-to-group.
  • Sacrifice/Qurbani fee (Approx. $450 each)At the end of your Hajj, you must ensure you complete the rites with the sacrifice or Qurbani. Being from a Canadian group, you don’t have to do this yourself (yes, some pilgrims from other places may have to do this on our own). The group leader arranges to have this done and he will let you know once it has been done. Only then can you remove your ihram, cut your hair/shave your head and complete your Hajj. Keep this in mind – you need to ensure this is done in order to come out of Ihram.
  • Costs of purchasing items for the trip (approx. $150) Before you leave for Hajj, you will go through many articles, videos and hopefully this blog series that recommend that you take things with you for your trip. All of this adds up and though this cost can vary, I spoke to a few people who agreed that for them it also came in and around this price. Now I won’t give you details on what exactly these items are since I will have a post dedicated on what to pack for hajj next week! The gist of it is mainly medication, food, and other handy items to make your trip a little easier or comfortable!
  • Spending money while you are there. This can vary but it would include:
    Lunch many groups include both breakfast and dinner buffets at the hotels you stay at but tend not to include lunch. During the days of Hajj, you will get lunch and snacks too – you will have more food than you can eat during these days!
    • Snacks
    • Dates
    • Bottles to fill extra water to take homeYou can fill and take home as much Zam Zam water as you’d like from the Haram. Before you leave for home, you will also be able to purchase one 5L bottle per person from the airport. Some people were able to buy more but this might be risky if the attendant at the time does not allow for it. Many stores sell bottles that are made to transport water so you will generally buy a few of these. They don’t cost much but just to give you an idea on something you may end up spending money on!
    • Gifts – We did not buy much as we did not want to spend the few days we had in markets and malls but many others in our group that were there for longer bought a lot of things. Obviously, this includes prayer mats, clothing and smaller things to give to family back home and keep for yourself as well. This bucket can range but you can imagine that if you do choose to bring something back – your list may be quite long!
Abraj Al-Bait,

Abraj Al-Bait, Clock Tower. Home to the epicentre of shopping in the Haram, Grand Mosque of Makkah, Saudi Arabia

This brings the total close to approx. $22,500 per couple without spending money. We spent about $400 or so but this will vary for everyone and therefore I have not included it in the total listed above. Now, this is a big amount of money – you can’t deny that BUT the earlier you decide to go, the easier it becomes to start putting money aside. You also don’t pay it all in one chunk. Generally, there is a 50% deposit earlier in the year – around 7 to 8 months ahead. You then pay the remaining balance closer to the date – may be about 4-5 months ahead.

This is the one thing that will help you determine which group to go to Hajj with. Everyone has different budgets but the biggest thing to keep in mind is that you are doing a significant thing and in every difficulty there is a reward.

Other things to consider that will increase your costs:

  • Your length of stay. If you choose to go for a longer period of time, the cost will increase slightly – not only for the accommodations but also for the cost of food. We also noticed that those who were there longer ended up shopping more and buying more as they had more time to do so! Some groups offer packages as short as 14 days in order to accommodate those who cannot get more time off than that while others range from 19 days to a 24-day or 30-day package etc. Again, this is up to the group.
  • Another thing will also be the makeup of your room. If you choose to do a private room which means it is only you and your spouse,  this will increase the cost as most rooms tend to be quads separated by gender. This means that you may be in a room with 4 women you haven’t met before but you end up becoming really close and you certainly need friends there as there will be quite a few things you will have to do separately from your spouse.  

If you are going with a group that is not in a hotel for the entirety of the trip, it may be cheaper to have a private room during the days you are in the hotel. If you are going for a longer period as well, I would recommend the same. In all honesty, it gets really hard not being able to have some space from the group or alone time with your spouse and/or family members you are going with.

Without expanding too much on other content, this is the general overview of the cost of Hajj. There are certainly things here that I cannot account for as everyone’s habits are different. I don’t shop much when I travel anywhere so my shopping cost would be significantly lower than someone else who may want to purchase things for their family or kids.

Questions? Ask me below or on my Instagram page! As always, keep up with me on socials via Facebook and Instagram!

What does it cost to go for hajj?

Kaaba in Makkah Mataf

Hajj Series: How to choose a Hajj Group

The most common question that you usually get once you’ve shared that you will be going to Hajj is generally who you are going with. Going to Hajj requires you to travel with a group. You cannot go on your own and everything from your flights, accommodation, food, and transportation is a part of the package. This is a big decision – it determines where you will stay, what you will eat, your itinerary, the length of your stay and the language the lectures will be in and the ‘star-rating’ of your entire experience.

At the start, you will find lots of groups with lots of amenities and package offers. Generally, you can choose between an ‘express-type’ 2-weekish stay up-to a full one-month stay. This again varies from group to group. It’s best to sit down with whoever you are going with, create a chart to compare the different options. This will also easily help you determine right up front what your ‘must-haves’ are and what your budget is.

There are many Canadian Hajj groups that take pilgrims to perform and complete their Hajj. If you do a quick google search, you’ll be able to pull up the different companies and see what options they are offering in terms of the items listed above as well as the cost.

Kaaba in Masjid-al-haram_Grand mosque of Makkah

Kaaba in Masjid-al-haram_Grand mosque of Makkah

Our Experience
We chose to go with Toronto-based Al-Falah Hajj & Umrah Services. We determined this by looking at all of the points above as well as reviews from many of our friends. We had a great experience with Al-Falah and certainly recommend it to others if they are looking for an affordable 5-star (note that there are 7-star rated groups out there as well as well as 3-star groups) experience.

Traveling with Al-Falah meant being a part of a group that is invested in your Hajj experience with a dedicated leader who has been in the business for over 25 years. One note to take in for this group is that the leader of this group tends to communicate in Urdu and English – not just in english simply due to the general makeup of the group. The group leader does speaks English and does have a translator at the sessions he leads but it’s just something to take note of if you don’t speak/understand this language. Our group consisted of many people from all over the country of all ages and backgrounds and on the last day we were all extremely satisfied and happy with our experience. Alhamdulillah, our hajj was complete!

We chose to go with this group because it met all of our requirements in terms of budget, offering a 5-star package and the number of days we were able to travel for. If you take a look on their website, you will see that their package offers a split stay in Makkah between a very convenient 5-star hotel and a few days in the Hajj buildings. Not all groups do this but it is something that allows pilgrims to have a 5-star experience for the whole trip – Madina, Makkah and the days of Hajj for a reasonable cost.

Kaaba in Masjid-al-Haram in Makkah's Grand mosque

Kaaba in Masjid-al-Haram in Makkah’s Grand mosque

With this split accommodation, based on the 19-day package we were in a 5-star hotel (Al-Safwa), two mins to the Haram for 3 nights and then moved to the Hajj building (about a 10-15 min. away). Other group members who were there for longer were in the hotel for a few more days than we were and moved to the apartment buildings with us, once we arrived.

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Masjid Al Nabawi

5 things I wish I knew before going to Hajj

Brace yourselves – this is a going to be a big series but it certainly deserves to be. I hope it makes up for me not posting for ONE YEAR!
This is a series of posts that were basically done in my head – I’ve been telling anyone that has asked me – and discussing it with anyone that has been through it. It’s not exactly what I wish I knew because I eventually got all this info from friends who shared it with me BUT everyone may not have that option and that’s where I come in! And trust me if you don’t get this info you will wish you did!
Crowds in the haram in front of the gates during the hajj season in Makkah Saudi Arabia

Gates leading to the Masjid-al-Haram (Great Mosque of Mecca) during Hajj in Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Last year, Alhamdulillah we were given the opportunity to perform our Hajj. Now, we knew this was something we wanted to prioritize for ourselves and we’re lucky to be joined by our friends as well which made a huge difference!
There is so much I can talk about and I will certainly do a Q + A on my Instagram stories when this goes up but below are my top 5 things to consider when preparing for your upcoming Hajj 2019 trip.
Each week I will release one blog post per category listed below and update this post to hyperlink each article. The top 5 things I wish I knew before going to Hajj are:
Kaaba in Makkah after Maghreb Salah in the Masjid-al-Haram (Great Mosque of Mecca)

Kaaba in Makkah after Maghreb Salah in the Masjid-al-Haram (Great Mosque of Mecca), Makkah, Saudi Arabia

In all honesty, I can’t believe I actually finished this! I will be sharing when new posts go up on my Instagram as well as Facebook so be sure to follow along for updates. As of right now, I plan to release the first hajj blog post on tomorrow (Sunday!) and after this, every Friday until they are all posted. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below or on either social media platform. I will try to share direct messages and questions as a highlight on my page as well so that I can share as much info as possible.

I hope this will be helpful! You can follow on Instagram here and on Facebook here.

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One week in Panamá City

Although I have travelled recently, I didn’t get a chance to blog about them since the summer! Yes, we’re well into winter but it’s been a busy few months with a new job, a project I am working on with some friends as well as trying to rethink my blog strategy. Even my Instagram page has been suffering – and that means something!

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As I sit here, trying to warm my toes, I keep thinking back to the week we spent in Panamá City back in July. I close my eyes and think of a warm sun and a vibrant city. This was a bit of a different trip for us as we went with my siblings and spent some time with our family while exploring the city. The best part of that trip would hands-down have to be the day trip we took to explore small untouched islands of San Blas.

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We hit the ground running as soon as we landed! Our one week in Panamá City itinerary included spending some time at our aunt’s cottage in Cerro Azul (straight from the airport!), strolling along the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Costa del Este off the Pacific Ocean, visiting the Panamá Canal, Old Panamá exploring the vibrant new Casco Viejo, spending a day in the sun at the San Blas Islands, visiting El Valle and taking in a breathtaking view of the city from Ancon Hill. We also visited Panamá Viejo, the old city as well as Coronado, a black sand beach and the Frank Gehry-designed Bio Museum along the Amador Causeway.

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The fun thing about visiting a place where you know people is that you get an insight into everyday life and the local lifestyle. As an example, we got to visit a few of our aunt’s farms which is something you wouldn’t get a chance to do as otherwise. And while we dedicated some time to visit family members, I would say one week to ten days in the city is perfect.

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The San Blas Islands of Panamá

If you do a quick google search, you’ll find that The San Blas Islands are an archipelago in Panamá and comprise of about 365 islands. Of these, only 49 are inhabited. This was a big thing on my bucket list of things to do in Panamá. To get to these islands are anything but easy. You can drive there, sail in or take a short local plane ride. There are many tour buses that also do day trips to this place in case you don’t drive abroad. If you do drive, it is important to return before it gets dark as there are no lights or completely paved roads on this route. The drive is breathtaking as you are driving through almost untouched valleys and mountains. We stopped a few times to take in the view and get some photos.

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If you do plan on getting to San Blas, the most important thing to remember is that you need your passport in order to get through to this beautiful paradise. We drove through the Panamanian mountains and valleys before reaching the border of where the Kuna People’s governance begins. The Kuna People are a tight-knit tribal community that lives on the San Blas Islands, in the Atlantic. They live a lifestyle in the same manner as their ancestors – simple, and technology-free. We spent a full day, leaving at about 7:00 in the morning and heading back before it got dark. The waters are clear, there are starfish at the bottom of the sea floor and the coconuts tasted amazing. We also got a chance to check out the beautiful ‘natural swimming pool’ which was a shallow circumference of water away from the shores of the island, set in the midst of the deep Atlantic waters.

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On any given day, there won’t be more than 15 people on the island you visit and you can pretty much walk the perimeter of this island is less than 10 mins time. It truly is a piece of Paradise, something you see in the movies or read about in books. If you do plan on going to the San Blas islands, you should remember to pack lots of food – there are no shops for you to grab a snack and although you can order some fresh sea lobster, it’s not always a guarantee. Seafood is picked daily and you won’t want to just depend on that!

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Once you drive out to the coast, you show your passports and then pay to get on a boat that will take you out to one of the small islands. If the waters are too rough, there is a chance that the boats will not run and you will have to return back to the city. I would do a lot more research on this if you were to go on your own. I would also highly recommend going on a tour if you haven’t driven around a foreign country before or if it isn’t something you are comfortable with.

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El Valle de Antón

We did another day-trip and this time head up to El Valle de Antón, or more commonly known as El Valle. El Valle a high town in a mountainous region. El Valle (meaning, ‘The Valley’) sits on the floor of the largest crater in the world. This is a small town with lots of outdoor activities for visitors, a countryside getaway for city-dwellers and a popular destination for North American retirees. Those living in the city also have cottages in El Valle as well as farmland.

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We drove out to El Valle early on a weekday, making a street-side pitstop to get a taste of a local favourite and must-eat at Quesos Chela. These empanadas were amazing! While at El Valle, we made a quick stop at our aunt’s farm before visiting a local market, going zip lining and taking a mini hike to catch a glimpse of a lovely waterfall. After all the activities, we had a beautiful lunch at a hotel villa-style restaurant called Casa de Lourdes. It was truly like something out of the movies! Not only was the food amazing, but we were surrounded by views of the lush mountains. It was such a fun, relaxing day and had I the time, I would have aimed to stay a night and take in more of the activities and nature surrounding this beautiful place.

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Panamá City’s Casco Viejo

The last place I want to highlight is Casco Viejo (meaning old quarter) – a historical part of the city which a unique modern vibe. This neighbourhood is deeply entrenched in history – from the late 1600s to now,  it has seen a lot of change in its inhabitants. What was once a place that no local or tourist would want to step into is now a bustling hip area that is also UNESCO-protected.

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We went here a few times during our trip to take in the real vibe of the quarter. The place is perfect to grab a pour over coffee, eat delicious desserts, enjoy rooftop bars and have dinner in one of the endless restaurants that line the wide streets. With old colonial buildings, a large church and an even bigger piazza, this European-style quarter has a beautiful view of the modern city of Panamá ahead of it and the futuristic Cinta Costera highway that sits in the Pacific. You can’t help but want to return every night.

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Panamá City has a lot to offer including lush rainforests alongside beautiful city skylines as well as some of the best seafood you could have. It is so unique in that you could head to one side and be along the Pacific Ocean while and a few hours later head the to the coast opposite to be on the shores of the Atlantic. If you can spare more time, you can take a few days to go up to Bocas Del Torro as well as Volcán Barú. Both of these are on my list for the next time I head down south!

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Below of some photos from our trip and of the places we visited while we were away. Got questions? Just leave a comment below and I would be happy to share tips with you!

 

 

ONE WEEK IN PANAMA CITY

santorini, air bnb, sunrise, reading, greece, balcony, Mediterranean

Five Tips on Mastering Airbnb 

Fresh bread in Oia, Santorini

Breakfast with a view from the balcony of our Airbnb in Oia, Santorini.

When you want to travel a lot, Airbnb can be very handy. It is our go-to choice for accommodation as we can choose from such a wide range of options when it comes to style, pricing, and location. Generally, we will only choose hotels if we know we will be arriving at an odd hour or if we just need it for an overnight layover. We may switch to a hotel if an airport is far from the city.

I love the concept of  Airbnb and with the new addition of experiences, it’s getting even better. We have met so many interesting people, saved tons of money and stayed in some unique places.

I have had quite a few people ask me about my experience with Airbnb. A lot of people hesitate using the service because they may have heard myths or negative things about the service. I have gotten questions about cleanliness, safety and how to know if you will actually get what you’re seeing. Now that I have stayed in quite a few locations, I can vouch for the service and share my Airbnb experience. Below you can find my top 5 hacks on finding the best Airbnb options for you.

Barcelona Hotel

The hotel room window from the rare time we stayed at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain

Location
Location is everything. It’s what can make or break a trip. Having to commute into a city or back to where you’re staying can be a pain. Having to travel a distance back and forth not only cuts into your travel time but also deters your experience. Some of the best times we have really seen a city come to life with locals has been post-dinner, simply walking back to our apartment.

Consider the neighbourhood, do some research, and note down the distance via google maps on how far it is located from everything that you want to see. Can you walk instead of taking a cab, Uber or metro? Go with that option! When it comes to pricing out your accommodations, make sure you consider this. Yes, it might be $10 or $20 cheaper per night, but that may just be what a return metro ticket may cost! If you end up staying out past the time of the last train, that $20 will go straight to an Uber or a cab!

While staying in Paris, we were a 3 min walk away from Champs-Elysees and we only paid about $90 for our Air BnB apartment! Yes, it was a tiny attic apartment, the size of my bedroom in a building that had no elevators, but we were able to really stretch our time in the beautiful city of love because we didn’t have to worry about leaving early enough to make it back in a safe and affordable way.

So yes, location is key. Also weigh out your options and remember, if you’re only staying there to sleep, it doesn’t have to be the largest place on the block!

Attic room in Paris

This ridiculously tiny attic-room Airbnb apartment just steps away from Champs-Elysees in Paris

Reviews
The reviews are golden. They will help assure you that you have made the best choice. It’s obvious I know, but it’s easy to get caught up in beautiful photos of the apartment or the views and lose sight of checking all the details. I tend to choose to go with an Airbnb super host or a room that has racked up a decent amount of reviews. I look for how much the host communicated, for someone who went out of their way to ensure their guests have had a good stay and genuinely great reviews from others who have stayed there already.

There has been a time or two where I have seen bad reviews crop up within more than 20 good reviews and in this case, I generally ignore them. If the ratio of good to bad reviews is significant, it is likely that one person may have been upset about one thing and decided to just write anything out of anger or disappointment. These are to be taken with a grain of salt.

Every so often, I have also booked places where there are only a few really good reviews. Obviously, there are new people opening their homes to travelers on a daily basis and I like giving them a chance. The great thing about Airbnb is that they will back you if you have any issues. Their customer service is amazing and they are available on Twitter 24/7!

Tulum Aibnb

This beauty of the bedroom in our Airbnb apartment in Tulum, Mexico

Communication
Keep in contact with your host, ask questions and don’t be afraid to reach out. If I have the time, I usually reach out to the host with questions before I book their place. If I am in a crunch and the cancellation policy is flexible on Airbnb, I will book and then ask questions. My top things to usually ask are how accessible the place is by public transportation or if they can store my luggage before or after my official time there. I usually will take the last flight out of somewhere in order to maximize my day and I need to know in advance that I won’t have to worry about lugging my suitcase around while I am out and about!

Hosts are great to speak with. They can assist with organizing activities, accommodations or just providing local favourites for dinner. Let them know if you will be arriving early or late, exchange contact info in advance and let them know that you are excited to stay at their place and appreciate them opening up their home to you. You want to make them comfortable with who you are and why you are traveling. Remember, this is their home and just like you would want to know who is stepping into your place, they do too!

Greece Air bnb

I really did not want to return home after this breathtaking view from our Airbnb apartment in Oia, Santorini

The Fine Print
Look at the fine print. Everything you need to know is laid out on the page. Know exactly what you are in for so that you are not greeted with a surprise as soon as you enter. If you were expecting a full bed but are presented with a sofa bed, chances are it was already stated on the page. Hosts are generally very clear with what they offer as part of the price and what you will be charged for. As an example, when traveling in Europe, many cities have hotel taxes that are paid outside of the reservation. This is for large hotels as well as your Airbnb stay. Hosts will put this in the description so it is handy to have cash on hand to give them before you leave.

To the right of the page, you can see a breakdown of the full price. There are cleaning fees and service fees so use this as a guide to calculate your total cost before sharing the listing with all of your friends! The fine print is also where you’ll discover if your host provides a free breakfast – always a treat in my option!

Capadoccia Cave Hotel

Our free breakfast in our Cappadocia Airbnb. A room within a fairy chimney cave.

Be Flexible
Know your needs. Not your wants. If you are using Airbnb, it’s likely that you are into saving your money for experiences and eats vs. your accommodations. This doesn’t mean you can’t stay at a nice place, but think about what you really need. Yes, a room with a view would be fabulous but how long are you really staying there?

If you’re on a go-go-go sort of trip then you really don’t need to spend on the view. For example, in Santorini, we knew we would spend time in our apartment, enjoy the view and relax so we opted for something a bit more pricey and we made sure it was worth the spend. On the other hand, on our recent trip to Tulum, we knew the room was to sleep in and most of our time would be spent on the beach or sightseeing. Although the room didn’t have any fancy views, it was pretty trendy in decor and was actually quite nice.

I have loved each and every one of my Airbnb stays. I make sure to use their wish list feature to start building a list of potential places I want to stay. I then filter through this list based on all of the above points. So far this method has worked well for me and I am quite excited to step foot in our next Airbnb room!

Do you have any tips on using Airbnb? I would love to know! Please share in the comments below 🙂

As always, follow me on Instagram for more day-to-day updates.

Enjoy!

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charcuterie board, cheese board, diy, crackers, cheese, fogs, cold cuts, diy, eat

How to style the perfect Halal Charcuterie Board

The one thing I have always wanted to order at a restaurant is a totally Instagrammable charcuterie board.

It’s almost become a staple menu item at some of the best restaurants in the city and although I can’t order it there, I can certainly put it together at home. With all the cheeseboards I have obsessively collected since being engaged, it’s definitely a sign.

A good board is put together with the best combination of ingredients for a charcuterie which includes cold cuts (obviously!), cheese, spreads, nuts, fruits, veggies, crackers and bread. The actual definition of charcuterie is ‘a collection of cold cut meats‘, and with the fast-paced progress of the North American halal meat industry, this couldn’t be a better time to share how to make this perfect charcuterie board.

Ready to get started? Below a full breakdown on how to craft the perfect halal charcuterie board. Flip to page 36 of the Summer 2017 issue of Halal Foodie Magazine for the full breakdown. Pin this handy guide on How to Charcuterie for later so you can finally accomplish those #PinterestGoals!

Like this article? Keep up on my fun foodie and DIY adventures over on Instagram!

 

 

 

diy charcuterie, halal charcuterie, cheeseboard, fancy eating,

How to style the perfect Charcuterie Board

 

ribs, bbq, grill, beef, halal

This year’s Halal Food Fest must-eats!

With its 5th (!!) annual event starting up this weekend, Halal Food Fest in Toronto has a jam-packed event that you won’t want to miss! I was lucky to attend the media preview this past week and sample some of the delicious eats you can find within Sample City. Keep reading to get an inside scoop on what you’ll want to make sure you see and eat this weekend!

This year’s event has an expanded food section, Canada 150 celebrations and lots of new sponsors, including IKEA Canada! The entertainment line-up is jam-packed with well-known performers, chefs, and competitions. This year, Halal Food Fest has also expanded their food section to help you discover more halal dining options within the GTA!

Some of the entertainment I am most excited for include a Kitchen Basics segment from Chef Russel Auckbaraullee (who I got to see!), Macaron-Making lessons from Chef Kaif Khan and the Nasheed performance by Khāled Siddīq.  To see the full schedule, click here.

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for – the food! Listed below are some of my fave picks that I will be sure not to miss this year. Get your tickets in advance online to avoid the line-up and remember to grab your copy of the Halal Foodie Magazine.

P.S. Bookmark page 36 for my article!

Eat: 5 quick Iftar Go-Tos

With the last ten days of the holy month upon us (that’s right!), it’s crucial to spend your time catching up your prayers, reading the Quran, and still making time to prepare for Eid. All while continuing on with the regular day-to-day stuff. 

I don’t know about you guys, but my busiest time of the day is right before Iftar. It’s also the one time in the day we should be the most focused on reflecting and praying. With so much packed into the final days of Ramadan, it’s a good idea to try and prep ahead of time for the rest of your Iftar meals. But, as amazing as that sounds, sometimes it’s just not realistic. That’s exactly why I am sharing my favourite go-to quick fixes for a fast and delicious iftar meal. Hopefully, this can let you focus on all the other more important tasks at hand.

 

1. Order-in:

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This is the first and most obvious choice for me. When ordering is as simple as an app and endless all the possibility of choice, it’s really my first go-to. I’ve been using Foodora this Ramadan and have gotten a delicious Iftar exactly on time – no work required! This makes it so easy to focus on prayers without having to worry about going back into the kitchen to check on the food. Because participating restaurants also give you two bottles of Happy Water and Masa Dates, it’s a direct living room to dining room situation. Skip the kitchen!  The best thing I ordered this month was Jerk Chicken with rice, two beef patties, and a Jerk Chicken kebab. I tossed in two drinks and my iftar was good to go! All I had to do was place everything on the table (& really, you could forego the plates!). The app is so easy to use and you can filter by attribute so you’re only seeing halal options.  With so many choices – it’s a no-brainer. Why not give it a shot tonight? Click here so that you can get $10 off your first order! 

 

2. Use a pre-made sauce with pasta

Quick and easy pasta for iftar

Call me plain-Jane but sometimes I love the simplicity of some quick and easy pasta. Although for me pasta is a bit of a treat, something I save for eating out, it’s the easiest go-to when I have skipped grocery shopping to go to the movies instead 🙈 🙈 🙈. It’s super quick and is as simple as boiling your favourite pasta (white or brown), tossing in some pre-made pasta sauce and giving it a good mix. I usually add in some chilies or chili flakes and salami or even garlic for more flavour. This can be as easy or complicated as you want. 

 

3. Have a soup or a salad 

Soup for iftar

This is super easy, especially if you already have canned soup on hand. It’s also a good choice if you want to go with something lighter than a pasta. If you have some veggies on hand, toss together a quick salad with your soup so that you have something a bit more substantial. Add high-fat veggies to your salad such as avocado or even some nuts to keep you full until your post-Taraweeh snack (don’t kid yourself, we all do it!)

 

4. Pre-marinated fish

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I love this option since it’s a healthy one! I always keep some marinated salmon in the freezer for those nights I really don’t want to cook. It’s a good way to avoid tossing a handful samosas into the fryer instead of eating well! You can find some great options at your local grocery store and all you’ve got to do is pop it into the oven!

5. Make a leftovers sandwich

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During the month of giving, there will be days you’ve cooked up a storm when someone shows up at your door with full iftar. I usually freeze one of them since there is no way I can even eat that much after all that fasting. This would be the time to recall what you’ve got in your freezer and make use of it! Grab two slices of some really good bread, add some toppings, sauces, cheese and a protein in between and you’re good to go!

What are some of your go-to quick fixes during Ramadan? Let me know in the comments below!

See what I’m cooking up on my Instagram stories or follow me on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date with the blog!

Happy eating + praying!

5 QUICK IFTAR GO-TOS

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Summer Vibes: Backyard Essentials

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If you have been following along on my Instagram stories, you will have noticed that we have moved from our Toronto condo to a house (still in Toronto), and the timing for this couldn’t be better! With the summer creeping up, I am so excited to start gardening, having BBQs and of course, decorating the new space.

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Our backyard already had a large deck, firepit (find your fave one here), and a cute gazebo and I wanted to fill the space up with some furniture and seating space as quickly as possible so I could start enjoying it. Although it’s a process (houses are hard work!), and we’re in the middle of Ramadan, I have done as much as I can! I would still like to add some white sheer curtains around the gazebo to keep bugs away and some raised garden beds to bring some more greenery to the back! Read on to see what I did so far. 

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To start with, I picked up some really fun dishes. I really wanted to get the most colourful things I could since my interior home decor is mostly monochrome and minimalist. I spotted this super cute flamingo/tropical-themed melamine dinner set for outdoors and knew I had to have it! During the Victoria day long weekend we went down to the U.S. to shop and I fell in love as soon as I saw these at Target (I am still not over the fact that they left 😭😭😭).

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After grabbing the dishes, I rushed like nobody’s business to get the number one summer must-have  string lights! The best way to get anything you want asap is to just order online. My go-to for home decor, accessories and furniture is Wayfair. I absolutely love them since it’s a one stop shop for everything that I need. Another perk is that I never have to worry about delivery fees or cramming everything into our car! 

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I also got my hands on a backyard dining table and a small table-top BBQ. Both of these items are things we debated over in terms of purchasing. Mainly because we are not sure how long we will be in a house and don’t want to commit to a large BBQ or a massive table if we won’t be able to bring it along with us! One last thing I may want to add is an outdoor rug below the table and I am already eyeing some beautiful ones on Wayfair… 

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Since we don’t have a year-round summer, it’s a good idea to consider how often you’ll be using these types things. It is also a good idea to think about how many people will be using these items. For me, it’s just the two of us, and as much as I enjoy entertaining, realistically it doesn’t happen often enough for me to justify splurging. Again, another great place to score good deals is online or even on Kijiji. 

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One of my favourite things I put together for the backyard were the seats around my fire pit. They’re just cushions on top of some pallets but they are the perfect height and have the cutest al fresco dining vibe for a summer backyard! As I add more things, I will share more backyard DIYs so keep an eye out! 

Keep up with I’m currently working on by following along on my social channels. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

What DIYs do you want to see? Let me know in the comments below! 

Wayfair - Summer Outdoors

Eat: Experience Ramadan with Iftar Host

If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you may have seen a link circulating from Iftar Host (now referred to as Experience Ramadan). As soon as I saw it, I signed up right away with no hesitation. The concept seemed simple and intriguing – be a host or attend an Iftar. It’s your choice and people of all backgrounds are welcome.

This simple concept of breaking bread together is the best way to get to know new people, encourage friendships and share your cultures with one another. I couldn’t wait to open my door and let my new friends Experience Ramadan.

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The Table is set!

I was so excited when I got the email that I was matched! Iftar Host asks to fill in a form with a few things that can help them match you to the right people. We put in our ages, opted to host two people and that was it! I believe the form is a little more robust now as many more people are likely signing up and matching can be more accurate with more info. We were introduced via email and then took it from there to discuss timings, dates and share the location. Both parties were equally as excited to be a part of this.

Hosting a dinner is really fun for me. I loved being able to choose a meaningful menu, setting the table for the iftar dinner and meeting new people! Below I’ve shared a run-down of the evening and what you can expect if you decide to host!

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Our new friends Sam & Mike!

I signed up on Sunday night and was matched early on Monday. After exchanging a few emails, we agreed to an 8 p.m. arrival on a Friday. We clarified that iftar time was closer to 9 p.m. just to make sure they were not surprised by the late dinner.

We chose to go with 8 p.m. since this would give us enough time to get to know them before Iftar time without having too much time without any food to keep us going! On the day of the dinner, as the clock moved closer to 8 p.m., I started to get a little nervous on whether or not they would show up. I had just prepared all this food and only texted to confirm an hour before they were meant to arrive. Both V and I were nervous and excited – this was going to be a unique night.

When our guests arrived, they so kindly brought with them a beautiful bouquet of flowers which was such a pleasant gesture. We were off to a good start! We asked how they found out about the program and were given a story similar to our own. The conversation started to flow right away and before we knew it, we were headed to the dining table.

One thing I always make sure to do when hosting a dinner party is to have everything ready to go and laid out. I prepared all the food in advance and placed it in the oven at the perfect time. The table was set earlier and all the dishes I would be using throughout dinner were placed on my counter ready to go for the next dish.

We started by explaining to them how sacred the time before the Iftar is, a time we used to reflect and make Du’a. They asked how we knew what time to open our fast and we shared that date are based on the lunar calendar and prayer times surround dusk and sunset. Once it was time to eat we offered them dates, sharing that this was the way fasts were open, followed by water.

After this, we started eating and of course, talking – a lot. It was so great to be matched with another couple who we could speak so easily with. Conversation ranged from travel to politics, gardening to rock climbing and of course, food!

Our menu for this Iftar dinner included Dates, Haleem, Falooda, Savory Pastries, and a main dish of a Baked Pasta. For dessert, we had some flourless dark chocolate cake with ice cream. Each dish was chosen strategically and we shared why these items were generally on iftar menus in our culture – especially the Haleem and Falooda.

After dinner, we moved to the living room and found ourselves connecting on everything under the sun. When guests leave as late as 1 a.m., you know it’s been a great time!

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Dates, Falooda and some delicious pasta! for Iftar

This was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had. We will be joining our new friends soon for another dinner and likely a session or two of rock climbing! We would definitely do it again and hope more people can Experience Ramadan.

Is this something you would try out? Want to hear more about it? Read my husband’s review of Experience Ramadan? Head on over to his blog!

I hope this post was helpful! I am happy to answer any questions anyone might have either in the comments below or on my social channels. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Look out for my next Ramadan post later this week Inshallah! Hint – It’s food based!

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We recently hosted another couple via Experience Ramadan and Iftar Host for Ramadan 2017