Sunday, September 5, 2010

Iftar Fever

A little background: Iftar is the fast-breaking meal at sundown for Muslims during Ramadan. From sun up to sun down, they are not supposed to eat, drink (even a sip of water), have sex, smoke cigarettes, etc. Some even argue that sex and smoking shouldn't happen at all the whole month long....why those two are on the same par I don't know...


Iftar is, of course, a religiously and socially very important meal. Muslims across the world break fast by eating dates, as was the tradition in the Prophet's day. After that, a lavish meal is served, the cuisine depending on the cultural background of the family.

Some iftars are more sumptuous than others, but everywhere, it is an event. Non-Muslims are often invited by Muslim friends to share the iftar meal with their families. It's a great experience for non-Muslims, and they needn't feel shy about being the "odd-one-out". Every Muslim family that I have known is fully aware that you, as a non-Mulsim are not fasting and probably don't know their traditions. So if you're invited, definitely go.

However...a word of warning...

Iftar is not for non-fasters.

After indulging in an endless feast that lasts for hours, your body will feel the bulge, even if you have in fact fasted all day. But if you have gone about your normal day, eating breakfast, and apple here or there, lunch, a latte and croissant from Starbucks..before going to an iftar probably experience what I call "Iftar Fever".

I think the body rebels, screaming that it simply lacks the ability to process that much food all at once, on top of a full day's eating. Unless your digestive track is made of steel, the food will sit there, motionless in your stomach for upwards of 24 hours. You will wake up in the morning and feel like you just ate 10 minutes ago. The back of your neck and forehead will sweat, and your appetite will be nowhere to found for disturbingly long.

So just go easy. Resist grandmother's demands that you eat more and more of the first course when you have 7 more to come. And don't forget about the juice. And post-course palate cleansers, the sweets, and ritual nibbles that you just can't turn down.

Go, feast, enjoy, but beware the fever that follows. In fact, next time I get invited to an iftar meal, I'm going to give 100% and particpate in the fast too.


fishing for sweets said...

Hi Clare,
Hi, I stumbled on your blog by accident while looking for "what to do" articles about Muscat... I work in Italy and am actually in Dubai quite often. Was planning to finally see Muscat as I've heard it's quite beautiful. Do you mind if I ask for a few recommendations about hotels and stuff? I'm sure you get this a lot, and I don't want to be too much trouble. Thanks!

Clare said...

Hi sure, no problem. I'd love to help. Send me an email at

Anonymous said...

I believe it's also been called "meat sweats". They do tend to eat a LOT of meat in this meal, camel, goat, sheep and cow.