Find out how nearly a quarter of the world observes the month of Ramadan and what you can expect to eat if invited to join an iftar meal.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan begins with the rising of the crescent moon, and is a time for spiritual discipline, charity, generosity, and prayer. During the day, you’ll find Muslims around the world fasting from dawn until dusk, abstaining from eating and drinking any liquids (including water!), and refraining from habits like smoking, gossiping, and arguing.
However, the nights are the real days during Ramadan. And across the Arab world, the festivities start after the iftar (breaking the fast) at dusk, as neighborhoods come to life after a quiet, slow day of food hibernation. An essential part of Ramadan, these meals are at the center of gatherings around the world, giving people another reason to reconnect with friends and family.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to join an iftar gathering, here are some of the most popular dishes from different Arab countries that you can expect to see on the table.
1. Start your meal with Tabbouleh: The Lebanese salad
This parsley and bulgur salad is fresh, light, and packed with fibers and nutrients, making it the perfect side dish to any Ramadan meal.
2. Quench your thirst with Qamar Al-deen: The Syrian juice
Generally forgotten during the rest of the year, this sweet, thick apricot juice is a very popular drink during the month of Ramadan. It's refreshing, delicious, and helps elevate energy levels.
3. Warm up with Harira: The Moroccan soup
Although this Moroccan cuisine staple is eaten throughout the year, it is best-loved during Ramadan. Its complex and fragrant taste comes from the delicious blend of tomato, lamb, lentils, chickpeas, fresh herbs, and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and saffron.
4. Follow up with Mahshi: The Egyptian main dish
Egyptians swear by the comfort of this traditional dish, especially during Ramadan. Mahshi is made by stuffing vegetables like zucchini, peppers, tomato, eggplant, cabbage, or grape leaves with a rice and meat mixture.
5. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kunafa: The Palestinian dessert
Kunafa is the main Ramadan dessert for many Arab families, especially Palestinians. This sweet pastry is made with cheese, and topped with crispy, browned filo pastry and nuts — all soaked in a sugar-based syrup flavored with rose water or orange blossom water.
These traditional dishes are the highlight of Ramadan and enjoying them with friends and family create memories that last a lifetime. If you don't get an invitation to an iftar meal this Ramadan, try hosting your own dinner gathering by making one (or all!) of these traditional dishes for your Muslim friends — and don’t forget to brush up on your Arabic for an extra twist of culture during the dinner conversation.
Pick one of our different Arabic dialect courses (try Levantine, Egyptian, or Iraqi Arabic), or start with the basics in our Modern Standard Arabic course. Click the button below to log into Mango Languages or create a free profile to start learning!
Which Ramadan dish would you most like to try? Share your favorite in the comments below!