Around the world during Ramadan

Muslims across the globe are stocking up on sweets and other food to feast upon after breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast

By Punam Mohandas (Contributor)

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Published: Thu 13 Sep 2007, 10:40 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:49 AM

RAMADAN OR Ramzan is the Muslim holy month of fasting, a time of self discipline and religious observation. The name Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word 'ramida' or 'ar-ramad', meaning intense scorching heat; from the same word there is 'ramdaa', meaning 'sunbaked sand'. Both references are toward the earth; one interpretation is that Ramadan scorches sins by good deeds, just as the sun burns the ground.

In India and Pakistan, after the evening iftar there is a spirit of gaiety and cheer as people throng the crowded bazaars and malls that stay open till late. Traditional delicacies such as haleem, kormas, kababs, biryanis and the like, are on offer at specially set up stalls.

In Egypt, the iftar is known as 'fettar' and the pre-dawn sehri, known as 'sehour' is often conducted in outside pavilions. These are complete family affairs, and the women are continously stocking their kitchens with veritable mountains of food supply. Fish forms the centerpiece of the celebration meal.

In the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan too, the iftar is more of a family affair, after which the streets start to fill slowly with joggers, walkers, and window shoppers. Water pipes (sheeshas), known as 'narguilas' here, are common in the cafes, accompanied by tea and 'qatayif' —small pancakes stuffed with raisins and nuts. Palestine serves a special sweetmeat called 'k'ak al-tamar' to be accompanied by coffee. In Somalia, the 'halvah' is more of a cummin based custard, and is served along with fried biscuits and 'anjira' (a thin bread).

In the golden days of the Ottoman Empire, Ramadan saw the high points of Turkish cuisine being brought out. Preparing the traditional sweet 'baklava' in those days was an achievement in itself; one hundred tissue thin sheets of pastry had to be layered in a tray, and a gold sovereign when dropped from atop, had to pierce right through the pastry! Another dish was egg cooked with onions —not as simple as it sounds either, for the onions were stirred in butter over low heat for three and a half hours!

Qatar's coffee shops are bustling during the evenings. Dubai streets come alive from sunset to sunrise, and the urge for shopping is still intact once people have fortified themselves! Azerbaijanis break the fast with dates, rice pudding, broth, and 'Aash' among others.

Lebanon serves lentil soup, 'fettoush' salad, and a meat stew accompanied by rice, during iftar, rounded off by tea and the Arabic sweet 'hadaf'. In Sudan, the iftars are more of a social gathering, where men and women eat separately. Later, the men of the neighbourhood congregate together, while the womenfolk head for the 'souq' (market).

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