“If any one of you is fasting, let him break his fast with dates.” Prophet Muhammed
The moon sighting committee have declared that the Holy Month of Ramadan 2016 has officially begun after sighting the slight crescent moon (hilal) on Sunday evening. This signals a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset for muslims as well as abstaining from smoking, negative thoughts and taking time to reflect on their lives.
Fasting is broken with the post sunset meal Iftar, when people gather to eat together. Traditionally the fast is broken with the eating of dates as the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with three dates, followed by an Iftar buffet or dinner. The high sugar contents in dates make them an ideal food to break the day’s fast as they give energy, decrease hunger and prepare the stomach for a large meal by activating digestive juices.
Most establishments across the capital are offering their own variation of an Iftar feast and some are also offering the pre-dawn meal Suhoor that is usually served in a traditional style tent. The other half and I have been privileged to attend some of the amazing Iftar feast previews available across the city and here are my three favourites.
St Regis Abu Dhabi
We attended the ‘Iftar in the Sky’ at the St Regis Abu Dhabi located at Nation Towers, a sumptuous spread that is served in the huge two-floor ostentatious Abu Dhabi suite located high above the city spanning the 48th and 49th floors of the hotel. Amazing 360 degree sweeping views of the capital are assured from this grand venue which is the world’s highest suspended hotel suite (sitting 200 metres high) and will be available for private Iftar gatherings throughout Ramadan.
Embellished with twenty-four karat gold leaf and Bohemian crystal chandeliers this high-end suite offers one of a kind Iftar celebrations for groups of between 35 and 70 people. Guests will have exclusive use of the suite that has its own private VIP lift, spa and cinema as well as three bedrooms and maid’s room, three bathrooms, two powder rooms, two kitchens and a bar. Quite frankly seeing is believing as no expense has been spared to create a luxurious experience like no other that combines the splendour of the St Regis with Arabic inspired design and sophisticated modern accents.
If you are looking to break your fast in style with a large group of friends or family Iftar in the Sky is the ideal location. We sampled the substantial buffet that will be served throughout the holy month that includes dates, dried fruits and nuts and traditional savoury and sweet dishes along with fresh Ramadan juices. Large silver chafing dishes housed traditional Arabic meat and fish dishes accompanied by Iftar favourites such as Shorba (lentil soup), cheese and spinach konafah, fresh salads such as tabbouleh, mutabel and fattoush, vegetables and a selection of cheeses and breads.
A separate dessert room was a feast for the eyes with tempting hand crafted delicacies such as Kunafa, Qatayef, Umm Ali and my personal favourite miniature baklava accompanied by platters of fresh fruit and international favourites of cheesecake and chocolate cake. A calligraphy artist was on hand to hand scribe guests names in Arabic on embossed cards as keepsakes of the evening.Private ‘Iftar in the Sky’ buffet menus are priced at AED 250* per person (minimum 35 guests). For reservations telephone 02 694 4721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A more modest affair for regular Iftar and suhoor dining will be served in the Terrace on the Corniche restaurant on the ground floor. Iftar will be served from sunset until 9:30pm – AED 175* per person (children under the age of 12 dine for free) and the A la carte Suhoor menu is available from 10:00pm – 2:00am
For more information about the St Regis Abu Dhabi Ramadan celebrations visit www.stregisabudhabi.com/en/forms/ramadan2016. For reservations telephone 02 694 4553 or email email@example.com
Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Sofra Bld was the venue for the Iftar preview at the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri where we were treated to an array of delicious offerings from the immense buffet as well as a sneak peak at the hotel’s exclusive Ramadan signature dessert that’s been created by Emirati YouTube and TV star Chef Bader Najeeb in conjunction with the hotel’s Executive Chef Mansour Memarian.
Throughout the Holy Month Shangri-La’s beachfront Arabesque Ramadan Tent overlooking the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque will be holding both group Iftar and Suhoor dining experiences (accommodating up to 350 people). Chef Badar’s smoky dessert will feature exclusively on the Arabesque Suhoor menu and the man himself will be making visits to the tent on 9th and 16th June to recreate his masterpiece that is presented in a smoking bell jar and served in edible chocolate cups. Shisha, traditional Arabic coffee and live music from an oud player (9pm – 1am) will complement an à la carte menu of mouthwatering Middle Eastern cuisine.
While groups and corporate Iftar bookings are welcomed in the Arabesque tent, a Grand Iftar buffet will be available in Sofra Bld nightly after sunset. Suhoor in the tent is open to everyone and the Euro 2016 football tournament that starts on Friday 11th June will be shown on the big screens placed around the venue from 9pm – 1am.
The grand buffet offers an abundance of international sweet and savoury options for Iftar. Alongside authentic Arabic dishes such as ouzi (braised lamb) there is a wide selection of other varieties of meat and seafood served from multiple live cooking stations as well as salads, vegetables, cheeses and breads. The central dessert island is home to the hotel’s well known white, milk and dark chocolate fountains, crepes made to order, small-scale classics and a variety of ice-creams. Fresh juices are also available to accompany both Iftar and Suhoor meals.
Arabesque Ramadan Tent – Iftar from sunset and Suhoor – weekdays from 8pm to 2am and weekends from 8pm to 3am. Price: AED 85* minimum charge per person for food and beverage. Corporate iftar menus for group bookings of 100 to 350 guests start from AED 195*
Grand Iftar at Sofra bld: AED 205* per person including Ramadan juices, Arabic coffee and local mineral water – available daily from 5th June until 7th July 2016.
For more information about the Shangri La Ramadan celebrations visit www.shangri-la.com/abudhabi/shangrila/dining/offers/details/ramadan-2016
The Emirates Palace custom built Ramadan Pavilion located on the terrace is an expansive and exquisite place to enjoy Iftar and Suhoor as you would expect from a hotel of this calibre. The Iftar buffet devised by Executive Chef Stefan and his team features a selection of hot and cold Arabic mezze and grilled favourites, Middle Eastern and International specialities from the live cooking stations and delicious assorted desserts all beautifully presented in the centre of the restaurant. The warm and friendly hospitality was complemented by extra touches like fresh Jallab, date juice with rosewater and pine nuts and Arabic flatbread both served at the table, the service was professional and attentive throughout the meal.
The attention to detail continues with the array of ornate fixtures and fittings that gives the tent an opulent yet comfortable ambiance. The piece de resistance, a magnificent Arabic design golden patterned chandelier, takes pride of place in the centre of the structure. Large Arabic dallah (coffee pot) statues, colourful lanterns, replica palm trees and chests of premium dates are all displayed against an overall backdrop palette of white and gold, the tent is the perfect location to watch the sunset across the Emirates Palace marina before the Iftar begins. The pavilion has a large open dining area, six private majlises and a lounge area that can accommodate large groups of guests.
Like the Shangri-La the Euro 2016 fixtures will be shown around the tent on various screens ensuing guests can dine in comfort while watching their favourite team play. If you want to experience a luxurious yet serene Ramadan dining experience, the Pavilion at the Emirates Palace.
Iftar: AED 265* Suhoor: served à la carte starting from AED 150*
For more information about Ramadan dining at Emirates Palace and to make a reservation call 02 690 7999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many sumptuous Iftar buffets being served in the majority of hotels across the Emirate this Ramadan, most cafes and restaurants are also serving special Iftar menus for all tastes and budgets. Non-fasting friends may be invited to join those observing the holy month at their homes to enjoy a traditional home cooked Iftar or Suhoor meal, a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the true meaning of Ramadan with a Muslim family.
I was invited to attend these three Iftar previews. All the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. Additional photos used courtesy of the respective venues.
Read more about Ramadan 2016 here
* Prices are in UAE dirhams and subject to 10% service charge, 6% tourism fee and 4% municipality fee.