Ramadan, Iftar and Cultural Understanding

September 7, 2010

Posted by Kanga

Thursday evening we joined 9 of our Twitter friends and others at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for a dinner and cultural exchange. The purpose of the centre is to help visitors (both tourists and residents) better understand Emirati culture.

First a little explanation for those who might not be aware – Ramadan is a month long fasting experience that occurs once a year. During daylight hours, muslims refrain from eating and drinking. At sunset, the call to prayer sounds and the fast is broken with a meal called iftar. The fast is usually broken with water and a date (the fruit – either dried or fresh), then prayers are said and a full meal is eaten.

Here are some of our friends, Mita, Lin, Dru, Maddy, Mohammed, and Khalid.
six people sitting on pillows
Here is the food. Biryani, Fareed (aka Thaleed), Harees, Vegetable Magooga, and salad. It smelled delicious! Tasted delicious, too.
nine large containers of food
After dinner, we ladies covered in abayas and sheylas. Men were offered the option of wearing kanduras, but I don’t think any took the opportunity. Then we were off to the mosque.
people walking through traditional Arab buildings toward a mosque
Once inside the mosque, Nasif, a volunteer at the centre, explained what goes on inside and the basic tenets of Islam in a very pleasant and humorous way.
people sitting on the floor inside a mosque
The whole point of this is one of cross cultural communication, to dispel myths and misunderstandings.
woman wearing a veil called a niqab
Along with dessert, we got a little fashion information. This is a type of veil called a niqab. (This is what all the fuss is about in France and a few other countries that assume if a woman is veiled she is oppressed. Wearing a veil is not required by Islam and is discouraged by the UAE government, as in, if a woman wants a government job, she cannot wear a veil. In the UAE, women wear them for their own individual reasons.)
woman modeling a face guard called a burka
And this is what is called a burqa (burka) in the UAE. It is a leather face guard designed to shade the eyes and face from the desert sun. It is usually worn by the older generation.

The volunteer staff were very open and answered any question frankly. It was a very pleasant evening. If anyone ever comes to visit us (hint) we will make a point of taking them to the centre.
camel shaped chocolates
Then we all had camel shaped chocolates (yum) and went home.



  1. I think the camel shaped chocolates were made with camel milk too!

  2. 2 lols in this post – the first: fast is broken with water and a date (the fruit). Cracked me up as I very briefly visualised the alternative.
    The second: me looking at the food as if I’d actually been fasting.

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