Yesterday marked the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – a time for spiritual reflection and worship.
For the next month, Muslims around the world will refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn to dusk. My friends’ Facebook status updates have been filled with “Ramadan Kareem” and “Ramadan Mubarak.”
Both in essence means, “Have a happy Ramadan,” but I have wondered about the cultural difference between the two phrases and a quick google search indicates that “Ramadan Kareem” is mostly used in Arab nations whereas “Ramadan Mubarak” is widely used in other countries such as India and Pakistan. As a non-Muslim, I have used both interchangeably.
Most restaurants in Dubai will be closed during Ramadan (until sunset) but many will offer take-away service.
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Even though I knew Ramadan was starting this weekend, I still absentmindedly made lunch plans with my friend LL for yesterday. Luckily she reminded me to call at the last minute to check the opening hours or we would have been cursing ourselves in the scorching heat, hungry and staring at a closed restaurant.
I had been craving dim sum so suggested that we go to Da Shi Dai in the Marina for some Chinese food. Since the restaurant was closed for lunch due to Ramadan, the dim sum buffet (for 88 dhs), that is normally served from 12 to 4pm, was available for dinner.
Both of us decided on the dim sum buffet and were quite excited for the food to arrive but the way it was served made us feel like we were starved Ramadan fasters dying to get as much food into our bellies in a short a time as possible. Even if we had been fasting all day, food shouldn’t be served this way.
Why on earth they would serve all seven steamed dishes – stacked – and all at once (this was a mere 1 minute after they placed all the fried dishes on our table) was beyond me. The preparation stickers with expiration dates were still stuck on some of the steamer baskets. Tacky.
This was Chinese over-efficiency that I would expect and not blink an eye at from let’s say a Chinese restaurants in New York’s Chinatown. But at a restaurant that I normally frequent for a relaxing meal? This meal was anything but relaxing. If I wanted to be served like a fast food patron, I would have gone to a food court.
Anyway, an interesting thing happened while we were eating. A police car pulled up to the restaurant, sirens blaring and strobe lights flaring. I didn’t pay much attention until I noticed a policeman walking into the restaurant. By the way, what is it with seeing a police officer walking towards you and paranoia setting it that he’s out to get you? Or is that just me?
So the policeman walks past me to the take-out counter, pays, grabs his Iftar meal, and literally, runs out of the restaurant and back into his police vehicle to enjoy his meal. I would be running too if I hadn’t eaten all day. It made me wonder if the first day of fasting is the hardest as the body gets used to the routine.
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Note: photos edited via Instagram (follow me @gingerandscotch).