Category

Ramadan

Category

What is Ramadan – A dummies guide for non-Muslims

Ramadan is the Islamic Holy Month during which Muslims commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. During this period, from sunrise to sunset Muslims practice fasting. They abstain from eating and drinking (yes even water) from dawn to dusk. And many give up things like smoking and sex 24/7 for the entire holy month. It’s a time for pure thoughts. So no saying or even thinking bad things about others. A time for extra prayer. And a great deal of charity work/donations.

Ironically although Ramadan is a month for fasting, there is a great amount of eating getting done in the evenings when it’s ok to do so again.

When is Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. Because the lunar calendar shifts around 10 or 11 days to the left of the Gregorian calendar (the calendar you are probably familiar with) each year, thus Ramadan arrives around 10 or 11 days earlier each year. In 2018 it is expected that Ramadan will start on May 15th. But this is only confirmed upon the sighting of the new (crescent) moon.

How long does Ramadan last

29 to 30 days. Ramadan ends on the sighting of the next crescent (new) moon. And then there is a massive celebration and public holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

Is Ramadan a Good Time to Visit Qatar

There is never a bad time to visit Qatar. The very hot season, the cold season and what I call the Mediterranean season all have their benefits. And Ramadan also has many great benefits. Especially if you like eating. One major benefit of staying in Qatar over Ramadan is the amazing hotel rates. You can enjoy massive discounts for accommodation during the Holy Month.

It is especially worth being around for Eid al-Fitr. This festive end to the month of Ramadan lasts 3 days (much longer if you work for the Government). And is kind of like Christmas holidays in the west. A time for family, vacations and a lot of fun. Including even more eating.

What to expect during Ramadan in Qatar.

Qatar is one of the countries that embrace the Holy Month in full. During daylight hours all food and drink outlets are closed for business. You can still go shopping and buy food and drink, you just can’t consume it until daylight ends (in public).

During Ramadan the streets appear much quieter during the day. Working hours are reduced so that people can get home and rest while fasting. Being hungry and thirsty can be quite challenging, so the best place to be is at home where you can conserve water by not talking and stay cool in the comfort of your home air-conditioning.

Another reason the streets seem empty is because everyone is in the supermarkets shopping for ingredients to use in the evening’s festivities (Iftar). During Ramadan every day resembles Christmas Eve in Tesco back home in UK to me. With frantic shopping taking place to ensure your loved ones will enjoy the very finest fare to break fast with at sunset. And once the shopping is done there is all the cooking and food preparation to be done.

Malls and shopping centres look and feel different when all their food outlets are closed during the day. They are quiet. Not only because there is no one chatting over coffee in Starbucks, but because music is not played during Ramadan either. Some public places instead of playing music, play readings from the Holy Quran.

Most hotels cater for those not fasting by setting aside somewhere for daytime meals to be eaten out of sight of those fasting. Of course, you can eat and drink all you like in your room, but nowhere in public.

Your dress code should be much more conservative during Ramadan. Ladies should try and avoid showing too much skin. Qatar has become quite tolerant of Western dress, but during Ramadan it would be most disrespectful to have too much on show. Even men need to be more covered up. Avoid shorts as much as possible outside the hotel. Three quarter lengths are not too bad, but just try and avoid dressing in a manner that will cause offence. And for goodness sake try and avoid using expletives when you are conversing in public. You should avoid that always here in Qatar anyway. But during Ramadan be extra careful with your language.

All bars and restaurants throughout Qatar stop serving alcohol during the Holy Month.

Driving in Qatar During Ramadan

Driving gets a little quicker and impatient during the day. Thirsty and hungry drivers on their way home to rest tend to be in a little bit of a hurry. Then in the evening just before sun down, everyone is rushing to get to their break fast location. It’s tradition to do a lot of visiting during Ramadan, so you spend the whole month breaking fast with different relatives and friends. And you will be in a hurry to get to where you are going to break your fast the moment you are allowed to. Then it goes quiet. Everyone is inside eating. The roads are deserted. Until everyone has eaten. And then everyone needs to get somewhere else. Another relative to visit, or business that you were too tired to undertake during fasting now needs to be attended to. And of course… more shopping.

Iftar

Everyone is listening for the call to prayer at sunset because it’s the signal to break your fast. Anyone not in hearing distance of a mosque, will almost certainly be tuned into the radio listening out for the moment you can start eating and drinking. And the name for this moment is ‘Iftar’.

Iftar is best shared with friends and family. Some people have their Iftar at home. Some like to take picnics to parks or the Corniche. You can see them setting up their spreads before sunset and then sitting patiently waiting for the signal to begin.

Nearly all restaurants have a special Iftar menu, and a great many have Iftar buffets. If you are staying in a hotel, then an Iftar buffet is almost certainly going to be on offer. Iftar buffets range in price from around QR 50 (GBP 9.85 USD 13.75 EUR 11.25) to around QR 350 (GBP 68.90 USD 96.20 EUR 78.60). As with everything you get what you pay for. The more you pay, the better the fare on offer. But how much can you actually eat?

So driving to work this morning, I’m enjoying the nice empty roads (because a lot of companies have already broken up for Eid). And I notice the car in front of me keeps slowing down. Then I realise why. The lady driving the car is stopping and giving money to people. Random people. The guy sweeping the road, the kids standing on the corner. She just pulls up, and hands them money.

Now this isn’t an expensive car she is driving, this is an old Nissan Sunny. This is an ordinary lady. And I think she is amazing. She has inspired me, and when I go back out later I’m going to have some money ready to hand out myself. Eid Mubarak every one!

 

Which Ramadan Iftar Buffets am I going to this year? With so many to choose from, how can someone make up their mind. For most, I am assuming they will stick to what they know. They will plan their Iftar Buffets based upon venues they normally hang out at, or have good previous experiences. And of course they will attend those they are invited to.

I normally treat myself to a couple of Iftar Buffets during Ramadan, and for me it’s all about a good experience along with good value. There is a limit to how much food you can sensibly eat in one sitting. If all you want to be is full, then you don’t need to spend very much money at all. But if you want to enjoy a meal with good company and have some wonderful food that is a real treat, then you have to pay a little extra.

In past years I have tried low cost Iftar Buffets, and I have also tried the extremely luxurious options. With a couple of exceptions, I have always been full and happy regardless of cost. There were however those exceptions that were either so low budget that the quality was not worth the money and those that were so expensive they could never represent good value. Thus I normally try and go somewhere in the middle.

And for me that safe middle ground has a budget of between QR 100 – QR 150. Lower than that and I can go somewhere like Ponderosa which I always consider good value, and more expensive than that and I can take a good Friday Brunch in any of the hotels I frequent all year round.

The Village Restaurant (Midmac) ticks all of my boxes. The setting is luxurious, the customer service is high end, the food is exemplary and the price represents excellent value.

What sets an Iftar Buffet apart from buffets available any other time of the year is that feeling of togetherness. You arrive a little early, take your seat and stare at the dates, fruits and juices on your table. As the time to break fast approaches some will start to load their plates from the buffet and place them on their table ready to enjoy. And then as one, everyone tucks in as soon as it is proper to do so.

DSC00201

Upon arriving at the Village Restaurant, we were greeted professionally and courteously. We were shown to our table and seated. Already for me I am in a very happy place. I simply love the decor in the Village, and they always allow plenty of room between tables. I feel relaxed and the table is set beautifully. And the room slowly fills with happy groups of people.

DSC00192

The service in the Village is second to none. Our servers wore welcoming smiles, and offered to bring our drink requirements and our choice of one of the two soups on offer ready for breaking fast. And then we wait for the moment to begin.

As soon as it was safe to do so, I got stuck into my Iranian soup. It was soooo good. Next was the dates on my table. And then off to the buffet to fill my plate. I’m not going to describe everything I ate. But I have to give very special mention to the Indian Grill. Some of the very best I have ever had. Soft, moist and full of flavour. I will let my photos tell the rest of the food story.

Service throughout was faultless. Our plates were cleared from the table the moment they became surplus to requirements. And we had servers at hand to look after our every need.

Sure enough after less than one hour, we were bloated and reluctant to move. So we sat there enjoying the atmosphere and discussing if we could possibly fit in one more desert. Which we could not by the way, until we decided to take our full bellies home to relax.

The Village is at the high end of my Iftar budget coming in at QR 149 for adults and QR 75 for children. But with the quality on offer that represents really good value. The restaurant captures the spirt of Ramadan, and the essence of the Iftar Buffet.

I was a guest of the Village Restaurant for this visit, but as always my opinions and comments remain my own. And although I did not pay for my meal, I would have done so very gladly.