Fasting the month of Ramadan was made obligatory during the month of Sha’aban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina. Fatwas have been issued declaring that Muslims who live in regions with natural phenomenon such as the midnight sun or polar night should follow the timetable of Mecca.
While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations with one’s spouse. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting. Food and drink is served daily, before dawn and after sunset.
Each day, before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called the suhur. After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day. At sunset, families hasten for the fast-breaking meal known as Iftar.
In the Middle East, the iftar meal consists of water, juices, dates, salads and appetizers, one or more main dishes, and various kinds of desserts. Usually, the dessert is the most important part during iftar. Typical main dishes are lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, or roast chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf. A rich dessert, such as luqaimat, baklava or kunafeh (a buttery, syrup-sweetened kadaifi noodle pastry filled with cheese), concludes the meal.
Over time, Iftar has grown into banquet festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at banquet halls for 100 or more diners.
I was recently invited as a guest to a Ramadan Iftar at the Richardson restaurant, Jasmine Cafe. Here we waited for sundown to begin our feast, which is open to the public daily through Ramadan and ends this Friday the 17th.
Waiting guests was a large whole stuffed lamb, and many other lamb dishes, a variety of salads, dates, the smoothest baba ganouj and hummus you will find in the city, kabobs and a few chicken dishes. The menu for the extremely fresh buffet changes nightly.
Guests for the Iftar are heartily welcomed, and it is a fantastic look into a culture that is long and proud. You will want to bring your family and friends as the Iftar is to be shared.