We are in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. Last Ramadan I was in Australia for the entire month so didn't get to experience any of the culture and customs that actually go along with living in a Muslim country. There are day to day experiences that remind us that we are far from home, but having now experienced Ramadan, I find myself having so much more appreciation and understanding for the culture in which we live. For the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims are to fast from sun up to sun down. It is therefore illegal for anyone to eat, drink, smoke or listen to music during daylight hours and so most cafes/restaurants close during this period. Iftar is the feast that happens each day at sunset to break the fast. We wanted to experience an Iftar and so thought, where better to have our first Iftar than at Emirates Palace.
I had had been equal parts excited and nervous about doing an Iftar at Emirates Palace simply because I didn't know what to expect and didn't want to offend anyone without realising it. I wasn't sure how strict the dress code was going to be (shoulders and knees covered, respectful attire), whether it would be considered rude if I wasn't there right on time before the sun set, or if I would do something inappropriate like sip on the water on the table before it was officially sunset. I needn't have worried though. It was for sure an "occasion" but also very welcoming and relaxed. Well as relaxed as a giant banquet at an opulent palace is going to be anyway.
I met Pete just before sunset (a crazy amount of prep and planning enabled me to leave the house with both kids asleep at 6:15!!!) and so we went through the Palace into the Ramadan Pavillion, which is a purpose-built "tent" (a tent like no other I might add!) and was seated at our table. There were projectors displayed in the pavillion which was broadcasting live from the Qasr Al Hosn fort. A very neat tradition was reestsblished a few years ago in which each day the "Ramadan Cannon" is fired at the precise moment of sunset, indicating to worshippers that it is now Iftar. Pete can hear this each day at his office which I think is pretty nifty (and I also employ as a non-gentle reminder that it's time to come home for dinner also!!). After a long and hot day of fasting, it is traditional to first break your fast with dates and water.
We then waited for our fellow diners to begin eating out of respect, and began our feast. The pavillion had four buffets of everything from an entire slow cooked lamb, king prawns, crab salads and the most amazing dessert selection I have ever seen! it was incredible.
I loved the date-syrup-Arabic-coffe-pot-man, (I'm sure has a more official name), who wandered around with this magnificent contraption, daintily serving a spiced date drink to all who met! The giant Arabic coffee pot had all the bells and whistles, no really, was covered in bells, so he was quite the vision as he came jingling around the pavillion. We had to try some, to embrace the experience and to get a better look at the date-syrup-Arabic-coffee-pot-man. The date syrup was refreshing and spicy.
Being an Iftar, breaking a long day of fasting, it is a fairly time-efficient event. We paced ourselves with our various courses but found ourselves one of the last few diners in the Pavillion at not yet even 9pm.
And so we went for a leisurely wander around the Palace and I just enjoyed being out of the house at night time and found myself staring intently at all the sparkling lights. And maybe thinking how much Maddie would love the sparkling lights too and then wondering if they were both still tucked up in bed....it was time to go home, I missed my babies!!
A really great experience and I am so glad we enjoyed our first Iftar at such a spectacular venue.