I had a major Ramadan related faux pas last night at Iftar. You would think – 8th Ramadan in the UAE, nothing could go wrong. Culture, tradition, special events, I should’ve covered all the bases in terms of how to behave and act and know the rules during this special time in Islamic world. Last night, I was surprised with myself. WHY did I ever?
We were at a lavish Iftar setting in one of the hotels here. We arrived early, say around 7 pm. Iftar would start at around 7:15, when the sun sets and Muslims break their fast. We were seated in the corner of a very crowded restaurant and I looked at my watch: 7:10. The waiters told us we can get food now. We stood up and went to the buffet stations, filled our plates, sat back and looked at my watch again.
We started eating. The food was really good!
I never even bothered to look at the people around. I knew they have filled their plates too and seated in their respective seats. A woman in abaya looked at me from the table beside us. I continued eating. (With our office Ramadan timing of 8 am – 2 pm and no breaks, I didn’t have lunch, just little nibbles in discreet at the kitchen pantry. In short, I was really hungry.)
My brother and I continued eating and discussing how juicy and tender the lamb ouzi was. A waiter approached us, asking if we would like to order any drinks. Then went away and came back asking how old is my daughter. He hesitated, had a crooked smile and finally said in his trembling voice:
“Erm, madam…Iftar has not started yet. You shouldn’t start eating.”
You know that moment when you wish the earth would open and swallow you whole in a split second? THAT.
It was so embarrassing. No wonder that arab lady was looking at me like she wanted to tell me something. No wonder the waiter was asking many questions – it was to distract us! So we would refrain from eating and answer him. But did we? My golly, no. I continued to munch on and answered every question he asked. I am good at multi-tasking! Fark.
The sound of the call of prayer echoed through the hall. It signaled the end of the fast that day, followed by the booming sound of the canon. It’s time to break the fast and start the eating marathon…but we were already halfway.
So that one very important to remember during Iftar parties: WAIT for the signal. There will be and it’s a loud one. You can’t miss it.