Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ramadan Iftar

The desert/sweet/cake section at a 5 start hotel Iftaar buffet

Food in Ramadan takes on a special significance and Iftar [if-tarr] is the meal in which those who have fasted from sunrise to sunset eat again - the breaking of the fast at sunset.

Because of the reasons behind not fasting {see wgaw blog post: 5 Pillars of Islam} and the length of time without consuming either liquid or food families always break fast together.  

Homemade vegetable samoosas [sam-moo-sas]  and kebabs or Bajee [baa-jee]

Consequently family houses are full of guests throughout the month of Ramadan and often 20 or more people will eat together each night. So, the food section is large because after a day of non-consumption it's a great relief to be sitting down to a meal with loved ones and counting your blessings.

L-R:  Homemade dhal/lentil soup,  threed [tH-reed] (bread, lamb, potatoes + one other veggie) and at the bottom:  saloona [sa-loo-na] a thin gravy with lamb or beef, similar to an Indian curry, but with a lighter sauce and less spices.

With that number of people it’s difficult to fit around a table, so the table itself becomes a plastic sheet on the floor and the family sits around it. 

The main dish of the evening is usually put on three plates; one large one in the middle and two smaller ones at each end. All the other food will be put on to at least two separate dishes, one on each half of the plastic sheet. This system ensures dishes don’t have to be passed along a chain of people.

Food Eaten
Traditionally the fast was broken with dates and a yogurt-like substance called laban (see below for more details), although these days families will often sit down to a full meal. The first thing most people want is a drink, this is then followed by some food.

As an outsider iftarin Bahrain  seems to consist mainly of carbohydrates and fat although in Saudi it will often only consist of dates and yogurt. Once these have been eaten the worshiper will pray, either in the house (if she’s a woman) or at the mosque (if he’s a man) and only after this prayer will more food be consumed.

The Sun Sets
Over the years, as I was racing against the sun to reach the family house to be on time for the start of iftar, I've become quite accurat at telling the time by the location of the sun in the sky. A reasonably easy thing to do, you just check how far away it is from the horizon and from there you have an idea of how many minutes are left until its disappear and dusk arrives.

In the Gulf, because of the nearness to the equator, the sun sinks fast and there is very little time between sunset and darkness.

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