Friday, July 10, 2015

My First Iftar!

     Ramadan Kareem!

That is the official greeting of Ramadan! We have reached the holy month here in the UAE and I was excited to experience my first Iftar.

A little background: Ramadan is the 6th month of the year from new moon to new moon. It is a holy time of fasting and prayer for those of the Muslim faith. Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset, letting no food or beverage pass their lips during that time. Once the sun has set, they can have a meal that is to be shared with family called Iftar. They can also eat before sunrise, usually at 4:30am, and that meal is called Suhuor.

So, I definitely wanted to experience Iftar and, of course, there is no shortage of places to eat here so I just had to decide which Iftar to go to. Every hotel restaurant here has an Iftar and most of the regular restaurants as well. There are budget iftars, expensive iftars, and really expensive iftars. You can go to iftar at the food court in the malls or nice mall restaurants or really nice mall restaurants. So I had a major decision on my hands! My coworker, who has been here for 5 years, said if I was going to do iftar, I should do iftar! Which means go big or go home of course so I decided to go big! I went to my first iftar at Emirates Palace here in Abu Dhabi! Can I just say it was amazing!

Emirates Palace is itself amazing. It is huge and gorgeous. Every time I am there I cannot believe the immense size of the palace. Can you imagine a place with 7000 doors?!  Inside the palace houses a number of restaurants, art galleries and shops, a night club, and a theater where I have seen many stunning live shows. The kid said that you would not have to see another person for a year if you lived there, and it is totally true! Every thing is all gold and marble and shiny in the palace. And inside is one of the places where there is the gold atm machine! Yes, you can get gold out of an atm!

Iftar traditional tent at the Emirates Palace

Gold, gold everywhere!

At this point, I do have to admit that the photos of the Emirates Palace above are not ones I took myself (as if you can't tell!). Sigh, it’s very hard to get a good shot with people in the way! And my photos were too dark. Also, you have to be careful here as you cannot photograph Emirati women. But I swear, the palace looked exactly like this in real life! 

So, back to iftar. The Emirates Palace is a traditional iftar with all the traditional Emirati iftar foods. I’ve seen them around and tried a few, and I’ll explain them here.

Malfoof – which the locals here will say is a traditional food, but it is exactly like the Greek food of dolma! Rice and spices wrapped in a marinated grape leaf. Me and the kid used to always pick this great finger food up at Whole Foods in San Francisco.
Harees- A traditional Emirati dish of boiled wheat and tender, slow-cooked lamb. I have to admit I haven’t tasted this because it looks like really soupy oatmeal (which I hate!).
Arseeyah – which is a simple and hearty rice and chicken dish. Which also is blended into the consistency of oatmeal. Not my bag of tea, but most people love it!
Samboosa – which is very similar to the Indian samosa’s but without the chutney! Still, very yummy!
Thareedwhich is a crispy flat bread layered with a meat soup.
Lamb ouzi – a whole lamb that is roasted and then laid out on a platter surrounded by rice, raisins, and nuts. It is totally tender and succulent and yummy!
Chicken Briyani – which is a marinated chicken and saffron rice dish. Now, I know you are thinking, hey, isn’t that an Indian dish?! And you would be right, it is an Indian dish! Which the Emirati’s love and have fully incorporated into their authentic cuisine. Briyani is always my go to dish at events at our school, I love it!

Dessert baklava & Umm Ali – yummy! Baklava, the Russian sticky sweet treat, can be found in abundance here, in many different shapes and sizes. And Umm Ali is a sort of bread pudding.

Greeted at the door with traditional Arabic music

Our beautiful reserved table.

The spread!
The food table was massive! And there was a whole separate table for the lamb ouzi!

Traditional Emirati tea

Yummy! Desserts!

Gold dust on top of the cakes! 

A little before 10pm, a waiter came over to our table and told us that Iftar would be over soon. We said thank you and he left. In the next few minutes, he came to our table twice more to tell us they were closing. Looking around, we could see that the place was packed with Emiratis. We noticed that the waiter did not approach other tables with his closing message so we were wondering what was up. When he approached our table yet again, my friend asked him “is there a reason, you are telling us this?” And he said yes, that at 10:30 Suhuor would start and we were welcome to stay, but he would have to charge us an additional 195dirhams! We said, ohhh, thank you for the warning, we will definitely be out! I asked him what were the hours of suhuor and he said 10:30 to 4:30am. I said, but no one   will stay til 4:30am?!  And he said that they would! That all the people there would stay and they would bring more food out at least 4 more times before 4:30am! I guess it’s nice to be in the Emirates during Ramadan!

Happy with full tummy's!

Eating Gold!
Of course we had to taste the gold dusted dessert cakes! Really, I couldn't taste it at all! But the kid said it tasted, ummm, not good. But who is complaining when you're eating gold?!

All in all, not a bad meal! I would recommend Emirate's Palace for a visit for everyone of course, and  having ramadan there was just an extra bonus! 

Ciao for now!