Thanksgiving in cultural translation

I had to use the Google converter to understand for how long my friend was going to have to leave a 4.55kg turkey in the oven. North Americans like to brag about the size of the birds that grace their tables in pounds. Having partly grown up in Canada, so do I, but it was going to be my third Thanksgiving dinner in the UAE, where every year I marvel at how easy it is to recreate one of North America's most cherished, food-driven holidays.

Apart from a few weight conversions, the rest of it is a proper celebration that makes it as traditional as they come. A quick trip to any supermarket and every ingredient on your list is easily ticked off. It may be because there are so many expatriates living here, but it reflects greatly on a country that is able to cater to everyone's cultural holidays.

In Canada, I rarely spent time calculating these things. It was left to my Indian aunt who had created a tradition of sorts in her family to celebrate Thanksgiving every year. She wanted her children to grow up to understand the festivals around them. So every year, we would huddle in her kitchen to be ordered around to do a variety of disconnected things - chopping the carrots and setting the table to making innumerable trips downstairs to the basement to fish things out of the freezer. I never actually learned how to make a single dish from her. But now when I make my own, I do know how to dice carrots finely!

Thanksgiving was in part like celebrating Eid in India. I turned up at my friend's mom's place, got bossed around for a bit, fetching rosewater and other items and was rewarded at the end of the evening with the most fabulous meal I ever ate. From delicious biryanis in the Indian kitchens to wonderful leftover turkey sandwiches and soups in Canada, I had no idea how full my food memory bank had grown till I decided to pack my bags and move here.

Three years ago - and the moment has stayed with me since - it dawned on me that for the first time in my life, in Abu Dhabi I would be without the kind of familiar support where I simply transferred between bus and metro lines to reach my aunt's house and gorge myself on food. Here, it felt like I was suddenly charged with creating my own memories - from celebrating Diwali (and having to call home a dozen times to figure out what exactly the elders do) to putting together a Thanksgiving meal because come autumn, nothing reminds me more of my time in Canada than the smell of a turkey and the impending Christmas holidays.


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone


Company: Sideup
Started: 2019
Founder: Waleed Rashed
Based: Cairo, Egypt
Industry: technology, e-commerce
Funds raised so far: $1.2 million
Investors: Launch Africa VC, 500 Global, Riyadh Angels, Alex Angels, Al Tuwaijri Fund and Saudi angel investor Faisal Al Abdulsalam

A Prayer Before Dawn

Director: Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

Starring: Joe Cole, Somluck Kamsing, Panya Yimmumphai

Three stars