Thursday, August 12, 2010

Of Arabian Nights and Wedding Anniversaries

Qatayef: traditional Ramadan sweets;  basically deep-fried
mini pancakes filled with cream or walnuts.  Yum.

8 years ago in Rome, almost exactly one month from today, I met a goofy guy in a Boston Red Sox hat who claimed to know a little somethin' about Latin and how to make me happy.  4 years ago in Texas, to the day, I told him I'd go ahead and spend the rest of my life with him.  He said he'd be ok with that arrangement and since then we've lived in New York City, London, and now Abu Dhabi.  We've traveled and eaten and laughed and even had a kiddo named Roman along the way.  Life is good.  Life is fun.  Life is full.  

Life has to be, when you spend every day with your best friend.

And so it goes and so it will go, forever I hope. :)  Happy 4 years!

Back in the proverbial day.
May 2004

* * *

Arabian Nights and Arabian Days
Daytime Fasting; Nighttime Feasting

It's officially Ramadan here in Abu Dhabi, the holy month of fasting in the Islamic faith.  It requires that Muslims fast (no food, drink or sexual relations) everyday  from sunrise to sunset.  The change in the pace of daily life seemed subtle at first, until I ventured out of my cave and into society after a two day hiatus needed after 1 month of non-stop "moving madness."  The malls are like ghost-towns.  The food courts are completely shut-off: no lights, no personnel, and not a single hamburger wrapper to be found.  Only a few stores are open for business, but almost nobody is there to shop anyhow, so the feeling is somewhat surreal.  Muslims are allowed reduced work hours (from 11-3, I believe) and so even workplaces are radically changed during this time.  

Ramadan, however, does not only affect Muslims in a Muslim society like Abu Dhabi.  For this month it is not allowed to consume food or drink in public at anytime from sunrise to sunset (desperate foreigners have been known to sneak snacks and drinks into public bathrooms).  Children are exempt, as are others in extreme cases, but it's still tough for a food lover like me.  And I know what you're thinking, and yes, you're right - no more Friday brunches! 

It's culturally eye-opening to see Ramadan in full swing for the first time.  While I have always known Muslims and even had Muslim friends, and could even liken the experience to Catholic Lent (on a much grander scale, it seems), it is an altogether different thing to live it.  While the days are somewhat devoid of pleasure in a suddenly quieter, foodless, sweltering hot Abu Dhabi, the nights of Ramadan are really a treat.

When the sun goes down Muslims all over start their feasting during a meal or breaking of the fast called "Iftar."  They set up tents all over the city where giant buffets and traditional feasts are held.  All Muslims traditionally break their fast by having water and dates, and after that any kind of delicious food goes.  It is a giant family affair where much merrymaking and even networking is done, from what I hear.  After the nighttime feast they stay up all night only to have breakfast at 4am before the sun comes up, after which they go to sleep.  It's like they're living at night for a month - very cool!

This year as my anniversary gift, Matt has booked us a table at the Shangri-La hotel Iftar feast, rumored to be one of the more luxurious and exciting in Abu Dhabi.  Still not being entirely clear on what Emirati cuisine is (see this post for my thoughts on the subject), I am excited to dig-in in true Ramadan-feasting-style.  I'll let you know how it goes.   In the meantime, I am going to go feast on some Qatayef, pre-sunset.  Naughty me. :)

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  1. Happy anniversary!!!

  2. Happy Anniversary! What a wonderful and fantastic way to celebrate - of course I'll be raising a glass of vino in yours and Matt's honor when we get to Rome in a few months (any suggestions on where to do that?). What a full life indeed, and what a grand new adventure you are on, I'll look forward to the post on the Ramadan feast.

  3. Happy, happy anniversary! Wishing you and your Best Friend so many more joyous, loving years together (with young master Roman, natch!)

    I remember when my Muslim coworkers had to rearrange their work schedules in order to observe Ramadan properly, but I didn't fully appreciate what it meant until much later. These iftars sound like sights to behold! Have a marvelous anniversary feast (and save some of that scrumptious Qatayef for me!)

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the sweet anniversary wishes!

    5-Star Foodie, hope your trip went swimmingly. I love Greece and can't wait to read your eating adventures!

    Oyster - I am so jealous you are going to Rome! My mom is also taking a trip there for her anniversary next May. Tips and suggestions to come. :)

    Tangled - I ate plenty of qatayef, in your and everyone else's honor. :) Recipe to follow!