In photos: Tajiks follow time-honoured traditions during Ramadan

By Nadin Bahrom

The Mannonovs are among few families in the district to have mastered the art of preparing a dessert called nishallo. Traditionally nishallo is prepared solely during the holy month of Ramadan. Tajiks consume it during iftar, the evening meal, with the flatbread naan and wash it down with hot tea. The Mannonovs' front yard is shown May 28. [Nadin Bahrom]

Sherali Mannonov, 63, prepares nishallo, the traditional dessert, for Ramadan. Nishallo contains sugar syrup, beaten egg whites and water and takes three hours to prepare. Mannonov's daughter-in-law, Ozoda, helps him prepare nishallo May 28. [Nadin Bahrom]

Each generation passes the secret of nishallo to the next like a craft. Mannonov learned it in childhood from his father. For 50 years, during Ramadan, he has prepared a large batch of nishallo daily for his family and for sale. He sells it in nearby villages and cities, including Dushanbe. [Nadin Bahrom]

Nishallo is served in a bowl or a piyala. "Nishallo speeds up metabolism, which is very important after the 17-hour-long fast each day of Ramadan," said Mannonov. A neighbour buys nishallo in Mannonov's front yard May 28. [Nadin Bahrom]

Sherali's wife, Rukiya Mannonova, 60, prepares various dishes during the day for breaking the fast, including naan, the flatbread. Sino, 5, the Mannonovs' grandson, tries to help his elders. The Mannonovs have taught their children and grandchildren traditions from an early age, said Mannonova. [Nadin Bahrom]

Mannonova bakes naan in a tandoor oven. [Nadin Bahrom]

Mannonova usually bakes naan 30 minutes before iftar to preserve peak warmth. "It's our tradition," she said. "I bake naan every day."[Nadin Bahrom]

''Plov [pilaf] is one of the main dishes during iftar," said Mannonova. "I always make plov in a special qazan [wok-like cauldron] over an open flame. Everybody in my family loves it." [Nadin Bahrom]

The Mannonovs gather at 8pm for the evening meal, iftar. Traditionally, they lay out a generous spread after sundown to regain their strength. They face another 17 hours without food or drink the next day. [Nadin Bahrom]

KARATOG, Tursunzoda District -- Ramadan's daily fasting begins with prayer and ends with prayer.

Tajik men traditionally perform the fast-ending tarawih prayer in mosques, while women pray at home.

Caravanserai spent a day in Karatog to learn about the villagers' Ramadan traditions, including the treats they use to break their daytime fasting every night.

Below is their story in photos:


Residents of Karatoga adhere to tradition during Ramadan fasting. Karatoga is shown May 28. [Nadin Bahrom]

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