Ramadan began this week in Dubai, and the first thing that I see is how everything suddenly becomes about food. I drive along SZR and there are adverts for KFC, Hardees, and Pizza Hut, offering spectacular 'Ramadan Meals'. Not to be offensive, but I really don't think anyone in their right mind would want to break their fast with 3 pieces of chicken and a Pepsi. Magazines scream "Dubai's most stylish Iftar buffets
" and "Best Iftar deals around!
", truly forgetting that Iftar isn't for shoveling food into your mouth. Then of course, there is the relentless advertising by hotels for their 'Iftar buffets'. As someone who regularly plans office events, I'm pretty much on every hotel's mailing list, so this week my Inbox has been flooded with deals from various hotel chains in town. It's sad to see that something as meaningful as Iftar has been hijacked by many hotels as a frantic bid to stay in business during these coming weeks.
I decided to head over to a hotel's Iftar buffet yesterday just to see what all the commotion was about. At AED 150 per person, it was a scene reminiscent of Dubai's fabled Friday brunches. People piling food on to plates, chefs running around replenishing dwindling trays of food, children running around tables, and people with nauseating looks on their faces as they polished off their third plate of food. As someone who was invited to a family Iftar last year, this hotel scene is very different from what I experienced at my friend's place. We sat down to trays of rice, roast chicken, bread, vegetables, salad, and a seemingly endless supply of watermelon and fresh fruit. There was conversation, laughter, sharing, more laughter, and a real feeling of community. As a non-Muslim, it was a tremendous privilege to be a part of this family Iftar, and it certainly bested any bland hotel buffet.
Wiki defines Iftar as "the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together.
" This is exactly my point - Iftars are a personal affair, and focus more on the bringing together of people than the food itself. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of, and as such I highly recommend the Iftar at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding,
which offers a more traditional and enjoyable Iftar. I'm not saying that you should boycott hotel buffets or anything, but instead of shelling out money to go for an all-you-can-eat fiasco, just have a meal at home with friends and donate the cash you've saved to charity.
Ramadan Kareem to you all!
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