UPDATE : Originally posted in June 2015 this is now updated for 2016 – when Ramadan is expected to start on 6th June and last for either 29 or 30 days.
The holy month of Ramadan is here – somehow it crept up on me as it usually does – at one stage it was months away, a vague date in my diary far off in the future. The arrival of a flurry of pre Ramadan Iftar invites from hotels brought Ramadan closer in my mind and even attending the events for the past few weeks still didn’t prepare me for the fact that today is actually the start of Ramadan!
I remember my first Ramadan in Dubai quite vividly, I excitedly sat watching TV the night before it was expected to be called waiting for the official announcement from the moon sighting committee that the moon had been spotted in the right place and that Ramadan would start the next day. This year, the date for the start of Ramadan was published in newspapers a week or so in advance so we had time to plan, albeit the moon sighting committee still met over the weekend with a slight chance that Ramadan could have started a day earlier than anticipated, however it didn’t and yesterday 29th June was the first day of Ramadan in Dubai.
For my Muslim friends, Ramadan means a month of spiritual cleansing of the soul (During Ramadan, Muslims all over the world restrain themselves from food, drink, intimate relations and smoking) between sunrise and sunset (approx 5.30 am – 7.15 pm here in Dubai). During the thirty-day period of fasting there are two significant meals which Muslims partake in : Suhoor is the light meal eaten before daylight. The fast begins after this meal and resumes until sundown. Iftar is when the fast ends for the day and a halal meal may be eaten. Any type of food may be eaten, however, the most popular traditional foods are honey, breads, figs, dates, fruits, and olives. It is popular is some cultures for families to host “iftar meals”, in which families and neighbors will come for the evening meal.
If you live or are visiting Dubai during Ramadan then you will notice that the majority of food outlets are closed between sunrise and sunset with the exception of hotels which will often have one restaurant open in a discrete screened off area. If you are visiting the malls then the food outlets will be closed as will coffee shops. Eating and drinking including water for adults in public during this time is not allowed. A few cafes and restaurants outside of the hotels have a special license allowing them to open during Ramadan but discretely, either behind blacked out windows or screened off areas.
You should also dress more modestly to respect the holy month.
As a non-Muslim foodie it’s a month where our dining options change dramatically and if you follow me on twitter or instagram you will notice that my postings will become more nocturnal since eating and drinking publicly is done between the hours of sunset and sunrise (7.15 pm – 5.30 am).
Many of the cafe’s and restaurants respond to Ramadan hours by putting on special Ramadan meal options or buffets. For hotels and restaurants Iftar, the meal at which Muslims break their fast, is usually a buffet type meal which opens at sunset and typically lasts for a few hours. It’s usual to see hotels host large Iftar events either in ballrooms or air-conditioned Iftar tents and majlis and these meals are often a mix of families, work colleagues and friends. Later in the evening the Suhoor buffet or dinner starts and a similar mix of people spend time together dining, drinking juices, playing board games or just socialising.
Many families celebrate Ramadan by holding Iftar events at home and by sharing meals and there are many traditional dishes which are specially prepared during this period. One of my favourite dishes which is often served during Ramandan, but is also served throughout the rest of the year too, is Kunafa which is an arabic sweet cheese pastry (also called kunafe, kanefeh, knafeh, kunafeh and kunafah) you can buy this at many supermarkets and sample at many restaurants and hotels.
So What’s this foodie going to do during Ramadan ??
I’m going to take the opportunity this Ramadan to have a bit of a cleanse for my body and aim to food fast during sunrise and sunset – this means I will refrain from eating food, but will allow myself drinks of tea, coffee, juices and water up until Iftar. I’m hoping to use Ramadan as an opportunity to get back into a routine of regular exercise and to sample a few new food selections too as well as to do some cooking for friends.
UPDATE : 2016 | This will be my second year fasting, you can read about my first experience back in 2015 HERE
I’m also supporting #FillingTheBlues which is a fantastic project, information is HERE – Last night was our first evening and here are a few pictures which capture the evening.
UPDATE : 2016 | Filling The Blues continues – if you want to support in any way then please click on the link above and get in touch, alternatively feel free to tweet or message me on Instagram or drop me an email HERE Contact Me