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abdal ahmed

Never Not East London

Tonight I decided to make chai and watch the sun go down. From the balcony of my 9th floor tower block in East London, I can see the Shard gleaming in the distance. The streets are empty below me, glowing with melancholy in the dusk. It’s beautiful, but my tea would have tasted better in the Masjid in Saudi Arabia.   

The London lockdown meant we had to cancel our travels. We go to Saudi Arabia most years. It’s like a retreat. Some time out to reconnect with myself and family. 

We go to the great mosque to pray. Over two million people from all over the world sit together in prayer. You may not speak the same languages but there is a connection. A spiritual bond. When the call for prayer, the azan, comes from the clocktower, it creates the most magical atmosphere. The sound travels for miles, reverberating off the hot marble inside the mosque, bouncing off the minarets and surrounding you. It is a special experience.

I normally sit in the courtyard and in the evenings, local people (some that have been coming for 90 years) bring Khaua, a very strong coffee best served with dates. Bitter and sweet at the same time. I always sit next to an uncle that has a flask, so I can grab a cup. 

Although, personally I prefer the chai. Two years ago, I brought some loose tea back and I remembered I had some in the house. Tonight I tried to recreate the experience. I poured hot water over the dried mint and added fresh leaves and honey.

Abdal Ahmed is a University of East London alumni and a big part of the East London community.