Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar. Muslims observe it all over the world as a period of fasting (sawm), one of the ﬁve pillars of Islam, from sun-up to sundown. It is a sacred period of reﬂection, worship and self-improvement, as well as a time for families and friends to come together.
As Ramadan is called by the moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arabia at the appearance of the new moon, exact dates cannot be given until the night before. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on Tuesday May 15 and run untol Thursday June 14, when three days of Eid Al-Fitr will be celebrated.
From dawn, followers will abstain from eating and drinking until sunset, or iftar, when they can break their fast. In the UAE, it means practising more discretion than usual while out in public, and some minor changes to day-to-day life. Ultimately, though, this is a special time of year that everyone can benefit from, and a great time to immerse yourself in the country’s culture and heritage.
Ramadan dos and don’ts
Know how to behave with respect around those fasting during Ramadan.
Do… dress appropriately. The UAE already has guidelines in place for dress, especially in public areas such as malls and parks. Be especially considerate of these during Ramadan. Men and women should wear clothes that cover their shoulders and knees.
Do… respect those around you. If you’re not fasting, be considerate and mindful of others who are.
Do… try to avoid the roads at sunset, as they will be busier, since people who are fasting are likely to be travelling at this time to attend iftar. Travel earlier or later if you can.
Do… accept invitations to iftar. Aside from being a wonderful way to experience the UAE’s culture, it’s polite to accept. Do take a small gift for your host, such as a box of dates.
Do… use Ramadan greetings such as Ramadan Kareem.
Do… be charitable. A big part of Ramadan is kindness and helping others. There are lots of official charities in the UAE and causes around the city for you to get involved with.
Don’t… eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public during daylight hours. This includes on the street, in your car and at the ofﬁce (check you own office’s rules). Breaking this rule is legally punishable.
Don’t… play loud music in public. If you’re in your car, keep the volume of the radio down. Ramadan is a contemplative time, and you should be mindful of disturbing others.
Don’t… use offensive language or gestures. This isn’t something you should make a habit of anyway, but it’s particularly important to refrain from this during Ramadan.
Debbie Jaunich from The Arab Culturalist, a cultural consultancy company giving expert advice on local culture, offers some extra advice for this special time of year.
• Clean out your closets and give away the clothes and useful items that are in good condition.
• Donate food stuffs at designated places around Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
• Empathise with your co-workers who might be extra-tired while they are fasting.
• Break your fast slowly and don’t over-indulge.
• Try not to have too many leftovers that are wasted. Share the extras with your neighbours or workers nearby.
• Share in the atmosphere and respect everything that comes with this beautiful opportunity to be spiritual and kind.
• Get to know your neighbours or co-workers and share a traditional dessert with them from your own culture.
Visit www.thearabculturalist.com for further guidance.
IFTARS ACROSS THE UAE
25 venues to break the fast with the whole family
261 at The Els Club
The glorious green surroundings of The Els Club in Dubai Sports City are perfect for an iftar with a delicious buffet menu offering an array of dishes including moutabel, hummus, Moroccan tagine and lamb ouzi, as well as baklava, hot and cold mezze, salads and meats. Seating is available out on the stunning terrace area, too. There’s even a complimentary kids’ zone to keep the little ones happy.
Dhs125 (per person), Dhs75 (kids aged five to 11). Daily 7.30pm-10pm. Dubai Sports City (04 425 1000).
Al Hadheerah at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
For an iftar with a twist, head to Al Hadheerah. The outdoor desert restaurant will be transformed to a luxurious, fully air-conditioned tent. Try the “1001 Arabian Nights” authentic experience featuring a buffet and special live programme. It’s a majestic Arabian journey with more than ten live cooking stations including a Middle Eastern barbecue and dessert buffet.
Dhs295 (per person Thu-Sat), Dhs265 (per person Sun-Wed), half price (kids aged five to 12), free (kids aged four and under). Daily sunset-11.30pm. Al Qudra Road (04 809 6194).
A.O.C. All Day Dining at Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach
If an iftar featuring Arabian, Moroccan and Turkish cuisines, plus favourites from all over the globe doesn’t win you over, the buffet is free for kids up to the age of six and half price for kids aged seven to 12. Mum and dad can enjoy their meal to the soothing music of a traditional Santoor player, too.
Dhs150 (per person including Ramadan juices and water), half price (kids aged seven to 12), free (kids aged six and under, two per paying couple). Daily sunset-10pm. The Walk, JBR (04 448 4848).
Asado at Palace Downtown
For something a bit different, explore Argentinian cuisine at Palace Downtown’s Asado, where the highlight of the menu is a selection of premium cuts made to order on a “parrilla” – open grill – in the centre of the restaurant. A special unlimited set menu for iftar will be served, along with front row seats to watch The Dubai Fountain and marvel at the Burj Khalifa.
Dhs255 (per person, 25 percent off during the first week of Ramadan), half price (kids aged six to 11), free (kids aged five and under). Daily sunset-9pm. Until June 15. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
Constellation Ballroom at Address Dubai Marina
If it’s the true essence of Ramadan you’re after, head to the Constellation Ballroom at the Address Dubai Marina with loved ones. Enjoy an iftar buffet filled with local, regional and family favourites in a contemporary setting with traditional motifs. The intricate décor and live entertainment add to the authenticity. A Ramadan Tent located on the terrace adjacent to Constellation Ballroom is also available.
Dhs220 (per person), Dhs110 (kids aged six to 12). Daily sunset-9pm. Address Dubai Marina (04 436 7777).
Crescendo at Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort
If it’s a delicious buffet and live kanoun entertainment you’re after, head to Anantara’s Crescendo restaurant. The stylish setting comes alive during Ramadan, with a special buffet of Middle Eastern and international dishes. Guests can sit indoors or on the terrace. Begin with a truly traditional breaking of the fast with jallab, tamer hindi, kamer el din, laban earan or karkadé juices, and plain and stuffed dates. Classic Arabian family dishes of sambousek jebnih and moutabel will be served alongside a traditional Oriental mixed grill. Garlic prawns will come next, after which you can end on a sweet note with date pudding, Arabian sweets, kunafa and Umm Ali.
Dhs199 (per adult), Dhs100 (kids aged six to 12). Daily sunset-11.30pm. Palm Jumeirah (04 567 8304).
Day and Night at Mercure Dubai Barsha Heights
The oud player and traditional surroundings are just some of the things that make iftar at Mercure Dubai Barsha Heights’ Day and Night restaurant. Expect live cooking stations with mixed grill, manakish, home-made falafel, and tasty chicken shawarmas. The buffet will also have slow-cooked lamb ouzi with rice, succulent lamb chops with vine leaves, and more Oriental and international dishes.
Dhs120 (per person including fresh juices), Dhs60 (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under). Daily sunset-10pm. Barsha Heights (04 381 8888).
Fairuz tent at Fairmont The Palm
If you’re looking for an iftar designed to surround you with the true spirit of Ramadan, Fairmont The Palm’s Fairuz tent is back this year. It will come alive during iftar with a buffet and traditional entertainment, the perfect setting for families and kiddies to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of Ramadan on the Palm Jumeirah.
Dhs195 (early-bird), Dhs215 (per person), half price (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under). Daily sunset-9pm. Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).
Flavours at Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham JBR
Gather your family and loved ones for an iftar full of different flavours. You’ll end the day’s fast with a healthy combination of traditional and contemporary dishes from across the globe. Flavours restaurant’s spread will include a selection of dates and nuts, hot and cold mezze, mixed grill, sweet treats, refreshing Ramadan juices and more.
Dhs99 (per person), half price (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under). Daily sunset-10.30pm. The Walk, JBR (04 399 9979).
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Head here to experience the spirit of hospitality and warmth. Choose from the offerings at Al Fanous Dubai Ballroom, Kitchen 6 and Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar.
Dhs215 (per person at Al Fanous Dubai Ballroom), Dhs225 (per person at Kitchen 6), Dhs225 (per person at Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar), half price (kids aged seven to 12), free (kids aged six and under, two per two full-paying adults). Daily sunset-8.30pm. Business Bay (04 414 3000).
Ramadan Tent at The Meydan Hotel
There will be an oud player, a dedicated kids’ area and an impeccable iftar buffet with a combination of authentic Middle Eastern and international cuisines. So, whether it’s Egyptian, Moroccan or Syrian dishes you’re after, it’ll all be here.
Dhs175 (per person, first ten days of Ramadan), Dhs199 (per person 11th day of Ramadan onwards), Dhs99 (kids aged five to 12), free (kids aged four and under). Daily sunset-9pm. Meydan Racecourse, Nad Al Sheba (04 381 3111).
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU)
If you’re looking to have iftar in a cultural and cultural setting among tourists and residents, you can book one at SMCCU’s courtyard or wind-tower house in the heart of the Al Fahidi District, Dubai’s historical neighbourhood. Emirati hosts will offer Arabic coffee and dates, before a delicious selection of traditional dishes are served for iftar. During the event, you can ask any questions you may have about Ramadan, culture or the traditions of the UAE. After iftar, you’re invited to visit the Diwan Mosque, before returning to SMCCU house for dessert and tea.
Dhs185 (per person), half price (kids aged seven to 12), free (kids aged six and under). May 19 to Jun 12, 7pm-9pm. House 26 and House 47, Al Fahidi District (04 353 6666).
Ramadan Majlis at The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC
There’s a culinary voyage for those who are on the DIFC side of town as The Ritz-Carlton marks the return of the official DIFC Ramadan Majlis. The hotel is offering a family-friendly feast. Highlights include 16 live cooking stations featuring a wide selection of hot and cold mezze, salads, soups, grills, a dedicated sushi station, seafood bar, dim sum station, an Indian station and a dedicated dessert buffet including dates and Arabian sweets.
Sun-Thu: Dhs199 (per person), half price (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under); Fri-Sat: Dhs169 (per person), half price (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under). Daily sunset-8.30pm. DIFC (04 372 2222).
Skye & Walker at Marriott Executive Apartments Dubai Creek
The iftar buffet features Arabian delicacies, special beverages, and sweets. There’s also traditional music creating an ambience you can enjoy with family and friends.
Dhs85 (per person), Dhs42.50 (kids aged five to 12), free (kids aged four and under). Daily sunset-9.30pm. Deira (04 213 1000).
The Marketplace at Marriott Hotel Al Jaddaf
The Marketplace restaurant will be serving a traditional iftar buffet featuring Middle Eastern delicacies, alongside local sweets and juices.
Dhs179 (per person), Dhs90 (kids aged six to 12). Daily sunset-10pm. Al Jaddaf (04 317 7777).
The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
An array of tasty Middle Eastern specialities and beverages will be served, along with the classic favourites of cold and hot mezze, Arabian sweets and a traditional Machboos. The Fabulous Friday Iftar is a buffet spread across three of the hotel’s restaurants – Blue Orange, Hunters and Spice Emporium.
Dhs155 (per person), Dhs55 (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under). Fri sunset-8pm. Dubai Marina (04 511 7373).
Fairways at The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa
Gather friends and family for iftar buffet overlooking views of Abu Dhabi’s national golf course. Enjoy a contemporary selection of world cuisines, including lamb ouzi, shawarma and more.
Dhs225 (per person). Daily sunset-8.30pm. Sas Al Nakhl (02 616 9999).
Flavours at Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort
For an iftar that’s full of variety and flavours, Sheraton’s Flavours restaurant will be serving up Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian delicacies including vegetarian options, Arabian desserts, fresh fruits and more, including garlic-coriander shrimps and everyone’s favourite Arabian dessert Umm Ali.
Dhs174 (per person), Dhs87 (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under). Daily sunset-9pm. Corniche Road (02 677 3333).
Giornotte at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
The iftar buffet at Giornotte features family favourites from the region including Lebanese, Egyptian and Emirati dishes and refreshing Ramadan beverages in Oriental-inspired décor with lanterns, dates displays and traditional fabrics. The menu changes daily, so you’ll discover new flavours throughout the month.
Dhs235 (per person), Dhs120 (kids aged six to 11), free (kids aged five and under). May 15 to Jun 14, sunset-9pm. Khor Al Maqtaa (02 818 8888).
Khayal at Marriott Hotel Al Forsan
The iftar buffet at Khayal is heartily prepared amid a traditional ambience where Arabian warmth and hospitality come to life. There will also be a suhoor tent offering à la carte meals.
Dhs170 (per person), Dhs70 (kids aged six to 12), free kids aged five and under). Daily 6.30pm-9pm. Al Forsan Village (02 201 4131).
La Petite Maison
The famous restaurant’s take on Ramadan iftar is quite different. Rather than a big buffet, it will be serving up organic Mediterranean delights. The home of Cuisine Niçoise is known for its simplicity and delicious, non-GMO ingredients. Rory Duncan, head chef of La Petite Maison, has created at a wholesome menu available throughout Ramadan to provide long-lasting energy. It features healthy carbohydrates, lean protein and fruit and it’s high in fibre. Dishes include quinoa tabbouleh, baby chicken and more.
Prices vary. Daily from 7pm. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 692 9600).
Latest Recipe at Le Méridien Abu Dhabi
Latest Recipe has an iftar for the family that’s filled with traditional Ramadan dishes. The restaurant will serve up Middle Eastern, Asian, and Indian delicacies including mixed grills, vegetarian options, a pasta selection, and more. Think Moroccan fish tagine, Thai red chicken curry and even dim sum. There will also be a carving station and traditional beverages, including tamar hindi, made with sweet tamarind syrup, and qamer el din, an apricot-flavoured drink.
Dhs159 (per person, buy two, get one free), Dhs75 (kids aged five to 12), free (kids aged four and under). Daily sunset-10pm. Al Zahiyah (02 644 6666).
Ramadan Pavilion at Emirates Palace
The Ramadan Pavilion at Emirates Palace is located by the sea, with panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf for you to have an unforgettable iftar meal while surrounded by loved ones.
Dhs320 (per person). Daily sunset-9.30pm. West Corniche Road (02 690 7999).
Sevilla at Al Raha Beach Hotel
The iftar buffet here features traditional Middle Eastern cuisine with touches of European, Mediterranean and Asian influences. The restaurant has an outdoor terrace for you to enjoy the meal with all the family, too.
Sun-Thu: Dhs196 (per person), half price (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under); Fri-Sat: Dhs245 (per person), half price (kids aged six to 12), free (kids aged five and under). Daily sunset-11pm. Channel Street, Al Raha (02 508 0555).
Sim Sim at Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas
The newly opened Sim Sim restaurant at Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas will welcome families for an Arabian souk-inspired iftar experience. Traditional Middle Eastern delicacies will be served daily, with highlights including fresh Arabic bread and the popular Luqaimat dessert, as well as other authentic Emirati sweets. An oud player will also be performing, and little ones will be entertained with a selection of engaging activities throughout the month.
Dhs209 (per person), Dhs104 (kids aged six to 12), free (kids five and under). Daily sunset-9.30pm. Saadiyat Island (02 697 0000).
Iftar or futoor – In Arabic this means “break fast”. It is the meal at sunset during Ramadan when Muslims can break their fast.
Suhoor – The pre-dawn meal to see those who are fasting through their day.
Ramadan Kareem – A nice greeting that means “generous Ramadan”. Say it to Muslims during this special time of year.
Ramadan Mubarak – Another greeting to wish people a happy Ramadan. It basically means “congratulations, it’s Ramadan”.
Sawm – This is the word used for fasting and is one of the ﬁve pillars of Islam.
Zakat – Another one of the ﬁve pillars of Islam is zakat or almsgiving. It requires adult Muslims to pay 2.5 percent of their wealth to the poor and needy. While this can be paid at any time of the year, zakat is more prominent during Ramadan.
Salah – Prayer, another of the ﬁve pillars of Islam. Five prayer times are observed throughout the day, the ﬁrst at dawn, then at noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night.
Tarawih – Special congregational prayers held each evening during Ramadan, in addition to the five daily prayers.
Eid Al-Fitr – This annual, three-day celebration marks the end of Ramadan and the start of “Shawwal” (the tenth month of the Islamic calendar) with prayers, festivities, food, gifts and family gatherings. It means “feast of breaking the fast”.
RECIPES TO FOLLOW FOR HOSTING AT HOME
Spiced trout with Middle Eastern rice
Trout, like salmon and mackerel, is a source of omega-3, which is good for a healthy heart.
1 x tsp each of ground coriander, paprika
4 x 150g trout fillets, skin on
200g long-grain rice
400ml vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
85g dried cranberries
50g flaked almonds, toasted
1 x tbsp olive oil
Fresh mint sprigs, to garnish
• Mix together the spices and coat the flesh of the trout. Cover and chill until required.
• Put the rice, stock, saffron and a little salt and pepper into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked and fluffy. Stir in the cranberries and almonds.
• In a non-stick pan, heat the oil and fry the trout for around three to four minutes on both sides. Serve with the rice and sprigs of fresh mint.
Chard kibbeh with pine nut and mozzarella stuffing
This kibbeh is slightly heftier than usual, but allows for more of the delectable filling.
For the kibbeh
600g floury potatoes, cut into chunks
200g bulgur wheat, soaked in cool water
for ten minutes
300g chard or cooking spinach
2 x tbsp plain flour
½ x tsp ground allspice
½ x tsp ground cumin
½ x tsp ground coriander
For the filling
½ x tsp ground allspice
2 x tbsp pine nuts
150g ball buffalo mozzarella, drained
and cut into 1cm cubes
Greek yoghurt, chopped dill and
• To make the kibbeh shell, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or so, until tender. Drain thoroughly and season generously then put in a large mixing bowl and mash until smooth. Drain the bulgur wheat and wring out in a clean tea towel to extract all the excess water.
• Tip into the bowl with the potatoes and stir together. Blanch the chard in boiling water for one minute then refresh under cold water, wring out in another tea towel and chop half finely and half roughly. Add the finely chopped half to the potato mixture with the flour and the spices, season and knead until blended.
• Chill for 30 minutes to firm. To make the filling, mix together the ground allspice, pine nuts and roughly chopped chard and season well. To form the kibbeh, divide the potato mixture into about 20 large walnut-sized pieces and roll each into a ball. Working with one ball at a time, stick a finger into the centre to form a large hollow, stuff a cube of mozzarella and a scant teaspoon of the chard mixture into the hollow, then mould the potato mixture around it to enclose completely, forming a torpedo shape at the same time.
• Repeat with the other balls to use all the filling ingredients. The shaped kibbeh may be chilled on trays for up to 48 hours. Either bake the kibbeh for 20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 190°C or shallow-fry in about 3cm groundnut oil, turning often, until golden brown all over. Drain thoroughly on kitchen towel after frying.
• Serve the hot kibbeh with spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt and a scattering of chopped dill and pomegranate seeds. Warm flatbreads and a green salad make ideal accompaniments.
Spicy Lebanese calzone
If you have leftover pizza dough it can be used to make mini-calzones with a Lebanese twist.
One portion of basic pizza dough
FOR THE FILLING
6 x tbsp pine nuts
2 x onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 x garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 x tbsp olive oil
400g lamb mince
2 x tsp each ground cumin and cinnamon
1 x tsp ground paprika
About 175g spinach leaves, washed
300g cooked potatoes, diced
• Set the oven to 200°C. Toast the pine nuts.
• Fry the onion and garlic for five minutes.
• Add the mince. Stir in the spices and fry for ten minutes.
• Add the spinach until just wilted. Stir in the pine nuts and potato. Add salt and pepper.
• Turn the oven up to 230°C. Divide the dough into four. Roll out each piece to a25cm round and put a quarter of the fillingto one side of each one. Fold over the dough and bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Use all walnuts or all pistachios if you prefer.
2 x 275g packs filo pastry
125g walnuts, finely chopped
125g shelled pistachios finely chopped
2 x tbsp granulated sugar
1 x tsp ground cinnamon
FOR THE SYRUP
250g golden caster sugar
1 x tbsp lemon juice
1 x tbsp orange blossom water
YOU WILL NEED
A 17cm x 28cm roasting tin, greased
• Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
• Cut the sheets of filo in half. Lay six sheets of filo pastry, one at a time, into the tray, brushing each sheet with butter before adding the next. Mix the nuts, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and spread half the mixture over the pastry in the tray.
• Add another layer of filo on top of the nut mixture, brushing each sheet with butter, as before. Then repeat with the remaining nuts finishing with layers of buttered pastry on top Cut squares through the top layer of pastry.
• Place baklava in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 150°C and cook for a further half hour or until the pastry is slightly puffed and lightly golden on top. Do not allow the top to burn. Remove and allow the baklava to cool slightly.
• For the syrup, heat the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the sugar has melted and a syrup is formed. Add the orange blossom water, then pour the syrup over the baklava and leave to cool. Cut into squares and serve.