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Thursday, September 11, 2008

9 Reasons to Love Ramadan: part 2

Five more reasons why I think Ramadan is a fabulous time to visit the Middle East, continued from part 1:
5. Lively Nights
– by contrast to the somnolent days, Ramadan nights are spirited. After Iftar (when everyone breaks their fast at sunset) the streets come alive. Whole cities are on the move as people pile into their cars to visit family and friends. Hotels hold Iftar buffets and set up special Ramadan tents and the nights are long.

6. Ramadan is a good excuse to watch TV – remember the good old days before the Internet, Google, Facebook, e-Bay and Twitter, when families and friends used to sit around and bond as they watched TV together? Ramadan is all about a return to such good old-fashioned fun. A high-ratings period in the Middle East, all the best Arabic-language programs (game shows, talk shows, melodramatic serials) premiere, some made especially for Ramadam.
7. Iftar
– the main meal of the day after the break of the fast is shared by families at home or worshippers at mosques who tuck into a communal meal together, spread picnic-like on the ground. Muslim and non-Muslims alike also head out for lavish Iftar buffets. Every hotel holds them and they’re great value, a must for travellers! At hotels in the UAE, there’s also a Ramadan tent with cushions and carpets where you can enjoy sheesha while you play traditional games and listen to oud music.

8. Succulent Dates and Sweets
– many Muslims break their fast with dates and milk, a tradition dating back to the Prophet Mohammad who broke his fast with this humble meal before prayer. Platters of dates are always present at Iftar buffets and on coffee tables during Ramadan, along with traditional Arabic sweets such as the tasty katayef, a deep-fried pastry of ricotta, crushed walnuts, and sweet lemon and rosewater syrup - a great way to get that much-needed energy boost.

9. It ends with a holiday Eid Al Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. For Muslims, the three-day long celebration begins with prayers and visits to family to exchange gifts. Then everyone’s off to the malls to the movies. Eid is the busiest time of year for cinemas, much like the post-Christmas period in the West. Once the Moonsighting Committee does its job, we’re usually on a plane somewhere. Especially if that three-day Eid joins up with a weekend, we get a nice long break.

The photo? The dome and minaret of a typical mosque in the United Arab Emirates, this one at Abu Dhabi.


Anonymous said...

Great list - I agree that Ramadan is a *good* time to visit the Islamic world. The experience itself it unique and an Iftar meal is like none else.

Lara Dunston said...

Thanks! Glad you like it! Iftars are great fun, aren't they? Thanks for commenting!