“If you’re single and don’t have family here, it can be a lonely journey.”

Ramadan is all about reconnecting with loved ones – and there’s no better opportunity for doing so than by coming together for iftar.

But when you’re living alone in Dubai, the Holy Month can be a particularly isolating time.

Els Huybrechts, who moved to the UAE almost 10 years ago, knows the feeling well – and has seen plenty of others in the same boat.

“So many people felt depressed, they were saying they were lonely and had nowhere to go,” the Belgian expat said.

“They would be sitting at home alone having iftar by themselves, when Ramadan is meant to be about friends and family gathering together.”

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This year, Huybrechts, who converted to Islam in 2010, came up with a plan.

She decided to create a Facebook group – Ramadan Unites – to allow like-minded strangers to meet up, and spend iftar and suhoor in each other’s company.

The group already has 20 members and counting, and Huybrechts says she has even had interest from people based in Saudi Arabia.

“Everybody is welcome, the more the merrier,” she said.

The group would aim to meet for iftar at least three times a week during Ramadan, with some members even volunteering to host the gathering at their homes.

“If you’re single and you don’t have family here, it can be a lonely journey,” Huybrechts said.

“You can’t really enjoy that warm feeling of people cooking together, and sitting around the table. I want to recreate that feeling – and also make some new friends.

“I hope this can grow beyond Ramadan, and create new groups, new friendships and maybe even new relationships.”


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