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)
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)
A well priced feast at Mint Leaf of London
Anti-buffet gourmet at Le Cirque
The real deal iftar in a Frying Pan
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.