Well this month, it’s all about Ramadan in Dubai. During this time, as a non-muslim in a muslim country, I’m always a little conflicted as a food blogger. Is it respectful to post images of food on instagram? Is it a good time to be discussing new restaurant openings, chef movements and foodie buzz? To be honest, it’s probably fine – most of the muslims I know have absolutely no problem with me eating, talking about food all day and attending their lavish iftars even though I have only been fasting since lunchtime. In fact, there’s so much feasting going on in the darker hours, that it becomes a time where food is impossible to avoid as a subject (see this post written during one of my first Ramadans in Dubai).

The breaking of fast is so important to many, but iftars are a novelty to me. The grand Dubai buffet is not. Rather than my usual monthly breakdown, I’d like to show you a range of iftars that will nourish body and soul (in varying ratios)

Inked (venue’s own image)

Focus on food at Ramadan 2967

It’s only on this weekend, so get your skates on! My absolute pick of the bunch is a pop-up by the team at Inked. They’re an incredibly creative lot, perfectly suited to this gallery setting at Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz. The food produced under the lead of chef Hadrien Villedieu, and alongside the artistic direction of Inked founders Kenza and Patrick Jarjour, has a bombastic reputation. I expect no difference this time around, where three days will bring a Berber menu to the space, with communal North-African spirit. Expensive at 300 dirhams, but I think this will be worth it. If you miss out, there are plenty more goings-on at Al Serkal, check out their facebook page.

The full shebang at Manarat Al Saadiyat

It’s a bit of a drive to Abu Dhabi, but this looks like something quite special. Designed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, and set up in the Saadiyat Cultural District, it’s bound to have quite a bit of depth. The menu looks decent, but it would be the oud lessons, puppet show and kunafe tricycles that would pull me in. There are cultural sessions involving crafts, history, art and architecture discussions and the Quran. From 4th to 17th June 2017, entry is free. There is no information on the price of the iftar meal, which takes place from 7pm-8:30pm. Other activities continue until 11:30 nightly.

A bedouin experience at Platinum Heritage

A traditional option closer to Dubai starts with a meander around the Dubai Conservation Reserve at sunset in a 1950s open-top Land Rover. You will be deposited at the camp, where the fast is broken as it was 50 years ago, and is followed by a regional spread. The focus is on storytelling and stargazing (the resident astronomer is on deck), but the usual inclusions for Platinum Heritage events are also there (camel rides, falcons, henna and shisha). Note, this is an outside event, but the desert is usually cooler at night due to the lower humidity. 350 dirhams. (Those wanting a more traditional experience at a lower price might want to try the SMCCU, who offer a rooftop iftar with local guide for 155 dirhams)

Mint Leaf of London Iftar (restaurant’s own image)

A well priced feast at Mint Leaf of London

This looks to be the bargain of the fine-dining bunch at 145 dirhams. The menu looks excellent – I’m salivating at the thought of a whole leg of lamb with fragrant spices and za’atar josh. Considering most diners seem to love the view and the flavours at Mint Leaf, but think they often skimp on quantity, this may be a good time to revisit as Dubai iftars are renowned for their generosity. This is definitely the most commercial iftar in my chosen bunch, and due to the venue’s loungy/clubby atmosphere, I’d definitely recommend those who like a traditional or soulful iftar to steer clear.

Anti-buffet gourmet at Le Cirque

After seeing this on facebook today, I’m even more convinced we need to avoid buffet meals in this city. Le Cirque, a new restaurant at the Ritz Carlton DIFC has designed an “Iftar avec le chef”. Upon entering, you have a little tete-a-tete with the main man (or one of his team), whereby your tastes and preferences are discovered. After a traditional start (soup with dates), you are presented with a tailored 3-course iftar meal. Le Cirque has a predominantly French and Italian menu, so I don’t think you can expect ouzi and umm ali, but it would be interesting to see if they put a regional slant on their contemporary European dishes. 245 dirhams, sunset to 8pm, after that, a la carte.

The real deal iftar in a Frying Pan

Frying Pan Tours have got their true iftars back on the menu this year. Sally at My Custard Pie has the experience penned in detail, along with some spectacular photos. You too will come away with the same, because this year Frying Pan Tours have teamed up with Gulf Photo and will advise on how to take good street photos – very handy for those who are too shy to bring out the lens whithin the constraints of such a traditional religious experience. 595 dirhams provides a cultural education, one-on-one photography advice, a basic breaking of fast with the masses, and then the standard Frying Pan hopping around for the best tea, bread and the like, before a suhoor-like wind down indoors.

Work your way through an iftar in the Dubai heat

Dubai labourers fast while working through a Dubai summer, and because they are in a public space, it does not matter if they are muslim or not – the rules apply to all. These men have built our city with their perspiration, all for a very low salary that probably gets sent home almost in its entirety. You’ve missed your chance to assist Moti Roti with their annual project “Filling the Blues“, which provides iftar boxes to scores of men in blue worksuits every evening. It’s been so successful, they don’t need any more volunteers, but I’m sure you could email them to see if there are other ways you could help.

If you would like to extend the net, Du are continuing in 2017 with their Mawaed Al Rahman initiative (with Tarahum Foundation) to distribute iftar meals to Dubai families in need. You can assist by packing or distributing – more information here.

Fast yourself and donate an iftar

So I usually go through the entire month without fasting once. I’m not muslim, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but is it then fair to enjoy the ritual of breaking fast with those who have? This year, I’ve decided to donate at least one iftar for every one I join, and go without dinner on those evenings. Groupon (and many other coupon sites) have an easy way to help labourers linked with the Red Crescent, whereby you can purchase an iftar meal for one or even larger groups.

If you would like to keep it more personal, you can join the Ramadan Sharing Fridge Facebook group, and buy items to contribute to fridges that are placed throughout the city. The page will tell you where to find one, and the best kinds of items to include in your care packages.

Ramadan Kareem everyone, wishing you the best for this lunar month.

 

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