Alternative iftars: Offbeat ideas for post-fast feasting

1 / 3
There are plenty of lavish buffets and opulent Ramadan tents on offer. (Shutterstock)
2 / 3
3 / 3
Updated 24 May 2018

Alternative iftars: Offbeat ideas for post-fast feasting

  • There are plenty of lavish buffets and opulent Ramadan tents on offer, of course, but Sudeshna Ghosh examines some of the region’s more unusual iftar offerings 

Fusion pop-up
Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai
Open Tent by Chi-Ka in Warehouse 46 at Dubai’s hipster-heavy art district, Al Serkal Avenue, is offering a Japanese-Middle Eastern fusion iftar in a minimalist gallery space showcasing… well, Japanese and Middle Eastern culture. Bonsai gardens, calligraphy murals, and live oud performances set the scene for the unique dishes created by chef Michael Fessler. The menu is complemented by treats from traditional Japanese bakery Yamanote, specialty coffee from Night Jar, and artisanal chocolates from Mirzam, Chi-Ka’s neighbours at Al Serkal. 
This isn’t the only iftar available at the Avenue this month. Culinary events space Inked has brought back its pop-up of Lebanese home-style food in collaboration with Beirut’s Tawlet kitchens. A whole host of other arty activities will also be on offer, from workshops, to art tours to pop-up markets. 

Traditional tastes
Riyadh International Exhibition Center 
Far more than an iftar destination, Ramadan fe Hartna is an annual festival where you can immerse yourself in the heritage of the Arabian Gulf. Traditional décor, popular Ramadan TV series broadcast on large screens, live entertainment including comedy, plus an educational games area make this the ideal evening out for all the family. With expansive buffets for both iftar and suhoor, featuring seasonal delicacies, you’ll be as well-fed as you are entertained. 

A feast of culture 
Sharjah cultural iftar
For iftar served with a side of culture and fun, this walking trail through the heart of Sharjah, curated by Frying Pan Adventures, is a must. With Emirati Fatima Alshuweihi as the guide, the tour starts with a simple but satisfying communal iftar in the neighborhood mosque of the waterfront heritage district that is home to the Sharjah Art Foundation, followed by a community service activity to reinforce the charitable spirit of Ramadan. Next, you’ll discover the historic alleys and souqs of Sharjah on a leisurely walk, with Alshuweihi providing insider insights into local heritage and Ramadan customs, punctuated by traditional street-food snacks, including thin-crust breads, cooling sodas, and luquaimat (fried sweet dumplings, a local staple). Along the way you’ll get to chat with senior community members over a cup of chai, and browse traditional clothing markets, making this one of the most authentic experiences you can have this Ramadan.

A festival of street food 
Al Hussain district, Cairo
This popular spot beside the famous Al Hussain mosque gains a festive veneer during Ramadan with seasonal buntings, fanoos lanterns, and fairy lights. The numerous restaurants in the neighborhood welcome guests with dates and fruit juice at iftar time, when the whole area turns into a vibrant street carnival with feasting crowds spilling out into the streets. The colorful handicrafts and antiques of Khan el-Khalili marketplace provide perfect Ramadan shopping fodder.

Float your boat
Queen Elizabeth 2, Dubai
The Middle East’s first floating iftar definitely takes the cake when it comes to uniqueness. Hosted on board the famous former cruise ship, which has now been converted into a hotel, the QE2 iftar will offer an extensive buffet complete with live cooking stations and authentic Emirati dishes. Spread across a purpose-built majlis on the majestic ship’s largest deck — air-conditioned, thankfully — as well as the all-day-dining restaurant, Lido, this sprawling iftar is ideal for large groups. A smaller suhoor buffet is also offered from 9 p.m. onwards.

Fasting and fitness
Four Seasons Beirut
While the curated Lebanese set menu at elegant restaurant The Grill is definitely worth checking out — think soup, hot and cold mezze, classics such as fish sayadieh, and traditional desserts like Atayef achta — it’s the #MoveThisRamadan campaign that caught our eye. Beirut’s luxury waterfront hotel is offering guided Downtown walks, exercise classes on its rooftop, and jogging along the corniche as complimentary wellness activities for its hotel guests through the Holy Month. Seems like the perfect way to work up an appetite. 

Art Dubai announces new format, appoints Hala Khayat as regional head

Updated 22 September 2020

Art Dubai announces new format, appoints Hala Khayat as regional head

DUBAI: In a year that has become known for its constant stream of cancellations, postponements and transformations, Art Dubai has just announced that its 14th fair, which will take place on March 17-21, 2021 will have a revised format in line with today’s ever shifting possibilities. The fair has also announced that Hala Khayat, a long-time modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art expert and a former specialist in Arab, Iranian and Turkish art at Christie’s Dubai, will be its new regional director. While at Christie’s, Khayat, who comes from Syria, set up an NGO titled SAFIR in 2014 that promotes the work of young Syrian artists.

Portrait of Hala Khayat. Supplied

“Art Dubai will take place next year with an adapted program that takes into account expected social-distancing measures,” Khayat told Arab News. “This will include an adapted fair layout, a more personalized experience orchestrated through a new app and more outdoor experiences provided by the wonderful weather in the UAE during March and the fair’s unique location by the beach.”

For the first time, the fair will take place across multiple venues across the UAE. In addition to its long-time home at Madinat Jumeirah, these include the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai, the Sharjah Art Foundation and Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi, supported by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

By Mohammed Kazem. Supplied

“In addition, we are planning an exciting week-long program of events outside of the fair and throughout the UAE, leveraging on synergies between the fair and the UAE’s main cultural institutions in celebration of the UAE’s 50th anniversary,” she added.

This new way of expressing creative synergies with UAE-based institutions constitutes the silver-lining of this year’s tumultuous changes: It’s time to look outside the traditional setting of an art fair and expand the program locally. With the lack of international travel these days, fairs need to creatively adapt their programs to harness greater local interest.

By Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim. Supplied

On the digital front, Art Dubai has some new additions. These include the new online exhibitions program, Art Dubai Portrait Exhibitions, which will present leading artists from across the Global South in the lead-up to the fair. It will kick off with works by Timo Nasseri, to be followed by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Aya Haidar, Dia Azzawi and Abdul Rahman Katanani.

Abdul Rahman Katanani. Supplied

There will also be a viewing room for all participating galleries, a series of presentations and other digital events planned for the week of the fair.

“The present moment requires a deeper than ever sense of community and engagement,” Khayat said. “I look forward to playing my part in nurturing existing as well as new relationships and engaging in audiences in the region and the broader Global South.”