An Iftar dinner is a must when visiting Dubai during Ramadan. Iftar is the meal that breaks the day’s fasting between sunrise and sunset. A bountiful meal that showcases the best of Arabic cuisine.
During Ramadan, Muslims will fast between sunrise and sunset. Iftar is the meal that breaks the day’s fasting.
There is a little more involved than ending a day of fasting that just with a meal. It involves tradition, prayer, family, friends and food. Lots and lots of food.
The day of fasting is broken at sunset with something small to eat. This is usually one or three dates (never two) and a small cup of Arabic coffee, juice or water.
After the snack there is a dua for breaking fast, the time for prayer. Muslims normally pray five times a day, and during Ramadan the prayer at sunset marks the end of the day’s fasting.
It's time to enjoy a complete meal, which is called Iftar. Iftar is often a meal made of many dishes eaten with family and friends. It is a communal activity that brings people together.
Remember that the Iftar time today will not be the same as Iftar time tomorrow. That also goes for Suhoor, the meal eaten before sunrise. It all depends on the time of sunrise and sunset. It is best to check a Ramadan calendar.
A typical Iftar dinner in Dubai
A typical Iftar dinner will start with a selection of mezze. The mezze may include dates, crudities, hummus, baba ghanoush, other various dips, olives, flatbread, and pickles.
There is usually soup included in an Iftar menu. This could be a vegetable soup or a traditional Harira soup made from lamb.
This will then be followed by the main event. There will be various salads, meats, and vegetables on offer. The food will be Halal, you will not find pork on the menu.
To finish the meal there is dessert. Expect to see umm ali (an Arabic bread pudding), cream caramel using camel milk, along with various sweets, cakes and biscuits.
Remember to pace yourself. Iftar is more than a meal, it is a feast.
How the dishes are presented will all depend on where you are eating. If you are eating in a restaurant, courses will be brought out in stages. If you are dining in somebody’s home all the dishes would be placed down together to share.
If not eating at a restaurant you may find yourself sitting with other diners on a large carpet. The food will be placed in the middle of all the diners.
I’m not a Muslim, can I still go to Iftar?
Non Muslims are welcome to partake in Iftar. In fact, if you get to know a local while you are visiting, don’t be surprised to be invited to one. Ramadan is a time of generosity and you will find you are welcomed with open arms to Iftar.
Can I drink alcohol when having Iftar?
As a general rule no. If you are dining with a local Muslim family then alcohol will not be present at Iftar. Muslims do not drink alcohol at any time of the year.
Remember that alcohol is only available in licensed premises in Dubai. These are generally hotels or bars and restaurants that are attached to a hotel.
If you are a tourist and enjoying Iftar in your hotel, then yes, you could enjoy an alcoholic drink with your meal.
I personally suggest you enjoy Iftar alcohol free. Dubai excels at mocktails and alcohol free beverages. I say give your liver a break!
Where to enjoy a traditional Iftar in Dubai?
If you are wanting to experience a more traditional Iftar dinner in Dubai, then the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) is the place to do it. The SMCCU offer cultural meals year round and this includes a Ramadan Iftar Program during Ramadan.
You will learn about the holy month of Ramadan, visit Al Farooq mosque and also have the opportunity of asking questions about Islam and life as a Muslim.
Where to experience Iftar in Dubai
You will find numerous establishments offering Iftar in Dubai. Nearly every hotel with a restaurant will have a special Ramadan Iftar menu. Various hotels and restaurants around town will also offer an Iftar menu.
I suggest you look at Time Out Dubai’s website for a good selection of current Iftar offerings. They also print a comprehensive Ramadan guide of Iftar and Suhoor offerings in Dubai.
Take a drive out to the desert and enjoy Iftar amongst the sand dunes. Bab Al Shams offers an incredible experience, with entertainment, at their Al Hadheerah restaurant. It will leave your waddling afterward.
Also, remember to talk to your hotel’s concierge for their suggestions. They will be in the know of what is happening around town and probably have some great suggestions of less touristy Iftar options.
Once you have experienced an Iftar whilst in Dubai, I suggest you also dedicate one evening for a food tour. You will taste a variety of foods, eat where the locals eat and get to experience the city of Dubai come to life after the day of fasting has ended.
Not only is Ramadan a time for reflection and fasting, but it is also a time of celebration and feasting.
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