June 7th is officially considered World Food Safety Day. The day was commemorated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in order to promote healthier and safer food.
What better way to celebrate this day than by sharing my experience in engaging in iftar – the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan. If you didn’t know, Ramadan is the month when Muslims fast by not eating between sunrise and sunset.
Engaging with new food customs can be challenging, but my experience during Ramadan was not only delicious but very educational.
A week before the fast ended I was lucky enough to join a Muslim family and witness how the breaking of the fast happens.
When the call to prayer, the athaan, is heard, one is allowed to break your fast. The call to prayer is recited every night at sunset.
What’s for dinner?
The table was beautifully laid out and I was offered a seat at the head of the table – I felt really special! My host and his family were so welcoming.
We started off with a date and water. We then had some soup, either butternut or veggie soup. I had some butternut soup and boy was it amazing.
The main course consisted of akhni or butter chicken and rice. I opted for the butter chicken and was even offered some akhni too but I was way too full to continue eating.
There was loads of cake and fruit too, which you could have anytime throughout the dinner.
For Muslims, praying five times a day is a part of their custom and religion. During my time with the family, I was told that every member of the family goes off to pray. This happened right after the starter meal.
To learn more about Ramadan, I asked my host, Ilyaas Stegmann, what it means to her on a personal level.
1. What does fasting mean to you?
Fasting is a spiritual act during the month of Ramadan where we stay away from food, drink and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. It’s an easily-performed obligation; an act of spirituality where one finds himself getting closer to God.
2. For someone fasting for the very first time, what would your advice be to them?
Strengthen the mind with good intentions.
3. Do you have any favourite dishes that you enjoy eating for iftar?
The traditional savoury dishes, like soup, samosas, boeber and daltjies.
4. Since times have changed so much, do you think that many of the youth still participate in Ramadan?
Yes, fasting has remained strong throughout the youth of Cape Town. Times have changed but Islam will never change and neither will the views of Muslims.
Learning more about the Muslim faith and being able to participate in breaking the fast was really a wonderful experience. I urge everyone to learn about different cultures and religions in the hope of better understanding those around us.
Read more here on breaking bread for Africa Day.
Tell us: Did you ever participate in an iftar? If not, have you ever fasted before?