Ramadan… the holy month of fasting in Islam.
Days of depriving oneself during the day… Followed by nights of family time and friendship… and food and drink that is much more appreciated than usual.
Being non-Muslim, I didn’t participate in fasting. But I was somewhat deprived of food and water during the day as I couldn’t openly eat or drink at work.
Iftar is the meal that breaks the fast… the first meal Muslims eat after fasting all day long. It starts immediately after Maghrib prayer, the sunset prayer. (Almost sunset below… over the fountains at the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh).
Riyadh has many beautiful hotels which hold large Iftar buffets. The Ritz-Carlton is supposed to have one of the best. This was the first Iftar buffet I experienced with friends.
So much food. It was unbelievable! Salads, seafood, hummus etc. Huge platters of kabsa and a full roasted lamb… a pasta station… traditional arabic foods… and a massive dessert buffet with traditional Arabic sweets, heaps of baklava, fresh fruit and a massive chocolate fountain… it was SO good!!
I ate dinner with a few of my Western and Arabic friends… it was a beautiful evening of laughter and food and just enjoying the opportunity that Saudi has given us to celebrate together… this religious and cultural holiday!
The next Iftar buffet I went to blew the Ritz out of the water! The Narcissus hotel… probably one of the most gorgeous hotels in Riyadh… smaller than the Ritz… but it smells amazing inside… florally… I couldn’t place the scent initially… but then I clued in… the Narcissus is a flower… obviously they’d make the hotel smell like the flower it is named after!
I went with a group of girlfriends… one last supper together before I move back to Canada… one last Iftar buffet as Ramadan was due to end the next day. The East meets West buffet. Initially we were seated outside, but when we requested to be moved inside as it was too noisy outside with all the air conditioning… they seated us at a long table in a beautiful private dinning room.
The food was absolutely heavenly. Tempura prawns… the best item on the menu. Beautiful scallop salad. Sushi. Traditional Arabic food. Indian food. Italian. Salads. Beautiful meats. Fresh fish. Fried goodness. And then… beautiful deserts… more chocolate fondue… And then… Saudi Champagne, arabic coffee and dates… peppermint tea after dinner…
The food was INCREDIBLE!! Definitely the best buffet I’ve ever had in Riyadh… but it was really the company that made the night so special! We arrived around 630 for dinner and definitely didn’t leave until almost 9. I’ve never spent so much time over dinner as I do here in Riyadh! But generally, you get into conversation and enjoy the time with friends and before you know it you’ve spent a few hours over dinner.
And then… probably one of the highlights of the evening… a beautiful baby grand piano in the lobby of the hotel… I couldn’t resist sitting behind it and stroking the keys… couldn’t play it though because I’m pretty sure that would have offended more than a few people! Music is almost never played in public in Riyadh… and especially not during Ramadan. So I’ll have to wait to play a real piano for another week or so until I’m back home…
So Ramadan for me hasn’t been about fasting… but it has been about family… my Saudi family. It’s been about culture. About educating myself on Islam and the traditions and beliefs and values. It has been really wonderful.