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Ramadan and Iftar – what it means for the food traveller.

ramadan-lampThe world’s about to be turned upside-down. Breakfast will become dinner, night will become day, and fasting turns to feasting.

For non-Muslims tourists, Ramadan seems to be something to avoid like bad weather. In Muslim countries, everyone fasts, at least in public. Malls are wastelands, there’s nothing at all to do during the day in this unbearable heat. Everyone is hungry and grumpy. Working hours drop to 10 to 3, and sometimes nobody turns up to open the shop at all. Ramadan generates its own little off season, and all those who don’t want to fast stay safe and well-fed in their own countries until it is safely over. For the believers however, Ramadan is a string that draws them back to Islamic countries – it’s a time to be united with those of similar goals. Not only that, can you imagine fasting from dawn to dusk in Norway in Summer? No easy task.

But, I’m going to tell you that you should not avoid the Middle East at this time, even if you are a food traveller seeking fodder and cultural experience simultaneously. Ramadan becomes, in fact, one of the best times to experience regional cuisine. You just have to do it in the dark.

Like many Christian celebrations (Christmas, Easter, etc), Ramadan has become a period of celebration that has commercial appeal, and every single hotel or restaurant has jumped on the bandwagon. There are two words you will see in every brochure, hear in every lobby, and if you are muslim, possibly dream about under every sun-drenched minute, and they are Iftar and Suhoor.

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