We recently blogged about what Ramadan is all about at Atlantis, The Palm. With the holy month expected to begin tomorrow, our resident guest blogger and local food scene expert, FooDiva, has shared her thoughts on Ramadan dining experiences on this month’s edition of her series.
There’s more to Ramadan than Iftar
With Ramadan around the corner, lavish and often overwhelming buffet feasts are rolled out for Iftar, but we don’t often hear about Suhoor (you will see it spelt in many different ways!), an integral element of this holy month. So what does this experience entail?
Our Muslim friends fast from dawn to dusk breaking their abstinence with Iftar when the sun has set for the day at Maghrib prayer time. On the other hand, Suhoor is the meal eaten before dawn when the fast starts again, to avoid any impending crankiness or weakness. Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, sacrifice and empathy – more on the meaning of Ramadan here from the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding’s website (http://www.cultures.ae/images/TipsRamadan2013.pdf) At the same time it’s about celebrating camaraderie with families which can be particularly challenging as we’re living in a primarily expat society with many Muslims away from home. So some prefer to enjoy the Suhoor meal from as early as the evening before, almost like a light late night supper with friends.
Many hotels deck out stunning Arabian tents with beautiful majlis-style seating, board games and even free wireless, whilst offering an à la carte Suhoor menu of Middle Eastern delicacies from around 9 to 10pm onwards until the early hours. Shisha of course is part and parcel of these evenings. It’s a much more subdued and relaxed experience which also limits the food wastage sometimes associated with buffets. Just order as much or as little as you want.
Here’s a peek into some of the more unusual savoury and sweet dishes you can expect to find on a Suhoor menu like at Atlantis:
- Kunafa – the slither thin vermicelli-like pastry, but instead of a sweet concoction it’s wrapped around baked halloumi and roasted tomatoes.
- Kibbeh bi Laban – meatballs immersed in a laban yoghurt sauce.
- Shish Barak – you could call it a Middle Eastern version of ravioli. Thin wheat dough dumplings stuffed with ground beef and spices and cooked in a yoghurt sauce.
- Assafiri – a crepe filled with kashta, a soft, creamy cow’s milk cheese, drizzled with sugar syrup and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts.
- Exotic ice cream – an Arabic cardamom spiced coffee flavour and even an Emirati date infusion.
The experience of Suhoor is something I look forward to every year and I make a conscious, happy effort to dine in one of the many magical Arabian tents scattered around town. What’s your experience of Ramadan, and Suhoor in particular? Where will you be heading this year? Or are you jetting off for the summer?
Either way, Ramadan Kareem to you, and your families and friends.