Dictionary needed for this post:
Ramadan: A holy month for Muslims in which fasting happens between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
Iftar: literal translation is break-fast. The meal that takes place at sunset for everyone to break their fast on
Fanoos: A lantern used to wake people up before sunrise
Can I say that I LOVE Ramadan. Don’t get me wrong, I panic leading up to it and think about all the breakfast meals I love (I’m actually not a huge breakfast person but I still crave eggs and pancakes all month hah). I freak out at the long days and how dehydrated I’ll be because I drink water all day everyday. But the feeling of love and family and friends and food which are all my favorite things are so heightened during the month that I actually enjoy it and it manages to go by so fast! Helping those less fortunate is also stressed during the month of Ramadan so the feeling of giving back always makes me feel good. All in all, it’s such a spiritually calming month filled with all my favorite things; primarily food lol.
With life being so hectic for everyone, I don’t see some friends all year but we always see each other during Ramadan. People start securing Ramadan iftars at their homes weeks before Ramadan even begins. It seems that the third Saturday of Ramadan is always the most booked lol. It honestly feels like a Thanksgiving dinner (my favorite holiday of ever), every. single. night. So, now you see why I love it :)
I was fortunate enough to spend two Ramadans in Damascus and I fell in love. In Damascus, the streets were always so calm and serene during the day because the entire country was basically not eating. Hotels have huge iftar parties that are bustling and happening well into the morning hours. Everyone sleeps in and starts the day a little later. Moments before the call to pray sunset which also means it’s time to eat, the streets are so quiet you can hear a pin drop. No one is out in the street because everyone is at home around the dinner table, laughing and having a great time around the iftar table counting the minutes to eat. Some people eat a quick bite then go to the mosque to pray before coming back and continuing their meal. Others eat until they can’t move and end up passing out on the couch. Either way, everyone is always huddled around the TV after iftar time watching these television specials that only air during the month of Ramadan. It’s like airing a Game of Thrones episode every night for a month, then airing the second season the FOLLOWING Ramadan. They’re like telenovelas but in Arabic and all across the Middle East and amongst the Arab speaking community, everyone tunes in and talks about them all month. My favorite was a historical Syrian drama television series called “Bab il 7ara” which translates to “The Neighborhood's Gate” which took place in Damascus circa 1930s when Syria was under French occupation. I have non Arab and non Muslim friends that love Ramadan solely for the television shows lol. Comment below if you watched Bab il 7ara!
The lantern is significant during the month of Ramadan because traditionally/religiously people are supposed to wake up BEFORE sunrise to eat, drink tons of water and pray in order to hold them over throughout the day. So way back when, men would carry these lanterns called fanoos and walk through the streets before sunrise and wake everyone up to eat and pray. Now people just set their iPhone alarms haha.
There are a few things that are "musts" on every iftar table and of course that varies from family to family and region to region. Of course, everyone across the board breaks fast with a date and milk or water. Besides it being customary it has a lot of health benefits. I asked around, "what is a must on your iftar table" and for the most part, almost everyone said some sort of soup, lentil soup being the most popular. A ton of appetizers are also a must, cheese borek, Kibbeh (fried bulgar meat pies shaped like little mini footballs), samosas, and other hors d'oeuvres are standard. Salads and greens must also be included to keep the meals all balanced.
My creative other halves are my sister Samar, sister Laila and practically sister Deana. If you follow me on Instagram or snapchat you've seen everywhere haha. We tried to have some fun with this photoshoot, and fun we had! Deana happens to be a little baking genius that constantly amazes me with her creations. She decided to make sugar cookie shot glass with toasted sesame seeds and chocolate chips. We also made mini fig pies with Arabesque cutouts which were so easy to make because we used ready made pie sheets.
I hope this post served as inspiration for everyone this Ramadan! If you know someone fasting or celebrating, wish them a happy Ramadan. Sometimes it's hard because the lack of food and water is draining but get passed it, focus on making the best of it, invite family and friends over and have a great time. Happy Ramadan!