Dubai residents stay true to tradition this Ramadan

Dubai residents stay true to tradition this Ramadan
Iftar presents itself as a precious opportunity to uphold one's cultural cuisine

We speak to multicultural residents of Dubai to get a taste of homemade goodies that grace their Iftar table



By Melissa Randhawa

Published: Thu 31 May 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 31 May 2018, 2:00 AM

Traditional wholesome food made with care, love and a deep sense of gratitude seems to be the unifying ingredient when loved ones gather to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. From Egypt to France, Palestine to Pakistan, India to Syria and beyond, Iftar presents itself as a precious opportunity to uphold one's cultural cuisine while savouring the taste of one's childhood, and of course, one's beloved homeland. Whether it's soups, salads or bite-sized savouries and sweets, Iftar is one of the blessed times when observers realise the essential value of meals that they share with one another. 
While certain pronunciations and ingredients may vary across cultures, the variety of food and drink consumed during Iftar tends to be filling, refreshing, nourishing, colourful and well-seasoned. 
 
Monya El Bakkouri - France
An Iftar at home is a welcome to Morocco. We usually break our fast with a date, followed by a healthy smoothie or a fresh orange juice prepared just before the Maghrib prayer.
After praying, the table is full of different delicacies - sweet and salty - but we never overeat as we all remember the purpose of fasting during Ramadan. At home, we like diversity so we don't prepare a proper meal for Iftar, but different small dishes on the table to satisfy each and every appetite around the table. 
My highlight during Iftar is the traditional Moroccan soup called harira. We usually eat it with some chebakia, an exquisite sweet very specific to Ramadan. While eating the soup, I also add some boiled eggs with salt and cumin, briouats with different stuffing (vegetarian and seafood) and salad. We also eat Msemen, which is very similar to the parathas that I've come to discover while living in the UAE. We spread sweet things on them like honey or jam. An Iftar never ends without a proper Moroccan tea but water is essential, too.
When having guests, I love to make dishes from their country. As I am keen on cooking, I love to encourage them to discover French and Moroccan dishes the way my mother taught me because sharing is caring.
After eight years in Dubai, I prefer to have Iftar at home now with homemade food to avoid waste or overeating. I usually hang out later at night to catch up with friends.
 
Ahmet Alptekin - Turkey
For Iftar, we eat olives or dates to break our fast. Not all families were able to have dates during Iftar, as these fruits were not abundantly available back in the days. Olives, however, have always been readily available and affordable by all households.
After dates come soup. The most traditional soup is lentil soup, or tarhana soup. In my family, tea is served after soup. We usually have cheese, salad and tea on the dining table. At times, we eat meat and vegetables. As dessert, we have a dairy dessert called Güllac or if lucky, have kerebiç. Güllac is made from milk, nuts, corn starch, sugar and pomegranate, while kerebiç is a dessert made from semolina, flour, sugar and pistachio.
My favourite Iftar food is bread, butter, honey and kerebiç as it reminds me of the Ramadans I've spent as a child. I enjoy talking with my family while waiting for Iftar time. I often share stories from my childhood and talk about old habits that are not practiced anymore. It makes me happy when my close relatives invite us for Iftar. My favourite place for Iftar is definitely home. With this chance, I would like to express my best wishes to everyone. God bless us all.
 
Farooq Ahmed Hasan - Pakistan
Iftar is a time of celebration, a time of self-reflection. One of the best ways I enjoy Iftar is having it together with my family. My favourite is to have onion pakoras and eggplant pakoras, and drink cool Rooh Afza, which have been a part of my
Iftar growing up in Dubai. Without these items, my Iftar
feels incomplete. 
Iftar has always been a family get-together so we uphold this tradition every year. Even before breaking our fast, one person will always dedicate a personalised dua for the family, relatives and people in need, as it is the most special time when prayers are accepted. We also remember others during that time. Together we say Bismillah and break our fast. Nayaab Handi and BBQ Delights are two restaurants that we enjoy for dining out during Iftar.

Muna Moemen - Palestine
During the Holy month of Ramadan, my family and I gather around our table to enjoy delicious traditional Palestinian and Lebanese dishes that include Molokhia, stuffed vine leaves, raw meat (kibbeh nayyeh), and Msakhan (marinated chicken with rice, onions and pine seeds served in bread). My favourite dish is Molokhia as it is flavourful and zesty. My favourite dining venue is Al Hallab Restaurant, as they serve the best authentic Lebanese dishes.

Chef Hanane Ouaddahou - Morocco
When I was small, the period leading up to Ramadan was exciting. We'd get together at my grandmother's place with all my aunts and prepare the food in advance. We'd make big batches of pastries that we'd freeze for Ramadan and send to the whole family! During Ramadan, women prepare Iftar and the tradition was that we waited for an alarm to ring to break our fast. The whole city would hear it, and that's what helped us know it was time to eat, aside from the call to prayer.
In Morocco, we break our fast with a date and glass of milk, followed by harira soup and a chebakia, which are a must. For me, the smell of harira is synonymous with Ramadan and reminds me of memories of my childhood, of the smells of the deserted streets of Morocco right before Iftar, which I bring to Le Gourmet at City Walk. 

Bissa Moataz - Egypt
My favourite Iftar food is Molokhia, which are green leaves most frequently turned into a kind of soup. In Egypt, Molokhia is cooked with chicken or chicken stock for flavour and served with white rice, accompanied with lemon or lime. Qatayef is a famous dessert served during the month of Ramadan. It is sort of sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts, while some people like it filled with unsalted cheese. Qasab is my favourite Egyptian drink. It is served cold and it is an awesome way to keep cool in the hot summer days of Egypt. It is a brilliant drink, and in a hot day it is the perfect natural pick-me-up to get your energy back.

Mai Touma - Syria
For Iftar, first we have dates, water and soups. Vegetarian salads like fattoush, kibbeh nayyeh and hummus are essential mezzes. The best anti-dehydrating beverages include licorice Erk Sous, Jallab and Tamer Hindi drinks. Syrian sweets are must-haves after breaking the fast like Ghazl al Banat, Baklawa and Kunafa. My favourite Iftar food is fattoush, kibbeh nayyeh and more sweets, because they boost my energy faster and make me feel lighter. We enjoy preparing Iftar dishes at home, as it brings family together to experience joyful and blessed moments. Sometimes we go for an outdoor Iftar to nice restaurants here. My favourites are Al Hamidieh and Hash Tag. 

Afia Shahid Shaikh - India 
When we come home from school during Ramadan, we read the Holy Quran, and my younger sister Asma and I help our mother prepare Iftar meals for the family. When breaking our fast, we start with dates, as the practice was followed by Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). We are from Mumbai, and it has always been a tradition to drink Rooh Afza. This is then followed by delicious watermelon, bhajiyas and chole bhature, which is a dish with chickpeas cooked in spiced gravy served with fried bread made from soft wheat. We team this up with fresh salad, and a mix of kebabs and custard. 


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